Industry NEWS

13 January 2020

Rio Tinto awards contract for Western Australia’s WTS2 iron ore mine

Rio Tinto has awarded an A$400m ($275m) contract towards the design and construction of the Western Turner Syncline phase two (WTS2) iron ore mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

The contract was awarded to Mondium, a joint venture (JV) comprising two Perth-based companies in Monadelphous and Lycopodium.

The company will design, engineer, procure and handle site construction works associated with the WTS2 development.

The contract scope also includes designing and constructing the process plant, overland conveyor and other associated non-process infrastructure.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore CEO Chris Salisbury said: “We’re committed to supporting Western Australian businesses, buying locally and supporting our communities through the creation of jobs. We’re pleased to award this contract to Mondium who share those values.

“We’re continuing to invest in Western Australia and have a number of development projects in the pipeline that will continue to provide opportunities for local companies.”

Rio Tinto noted that the contractual work is expected to generate 450 jobs starting in the first quarter of this year.

The work is expected to be completed next year. Under the contract, Mondium and Rio Tinto will also collaborate to ensure local and indigenous employment and business opportunities across the region. The WTS2 mine is part of the company’s Greater Tom Price operations.

In November 2019, Rio Tinto approved an A$1bn ($749m) investment towards the WTS2 mine. Under this investment, the company will be able to mine existing and new deposits, as well as construct a new crusher and a 13km conveyor.

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10 January 2020

Canada and US finalise critical minerals collaboration deal

The US and Canada have finalised the Canada-US Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration on minerals such as uranium and rare earth elements.

The collaboration is aimed at advancing the countries’ mutual interest in obtaining supply chains for the critical minerals needed for aerospace and defence, clean technology and other manufacturing sectors.

Supplying 13 of the 35 minerals that the US has identified as critical, Canada is the largest provider of potash, indium, aluminium and tellurium to the US.

It is also the second-largest supplier of niobium, tungsten and magnesium to the US.

Canada Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan said: “With $2.6bn worth of goods and services moving between Canada and the US every day, both of our economies are better off when we work together.

“By finalising the Canada–US Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration, we are advancing secure access to the critical minerals that are key to our economic growth and security, including uranium and rare earth elements, while bolstering our competitiveness in global markets and creating jobs for Canadians.”

The newly finalised Action Plan will guide cooperation in areas such as industry engagement and efforts to secure critical minerals supply chains for strategic industries.

It also improves information sharing on mineral resources and potential, as well as cooperation in multilateral fora and with other countries.

Both the countries’ experts will shortly reveal plans to advance joint initiatives in order to address concerns of shared mineral security. This ensures continued economic growth and national security in both nations.

Last month, Canada joined the US-led, multi-country energy resource governance initiative, which is aimed at promoting secure and resilient supply chains for critical energy minerals.

In February 2018, the US Government revealed plans to boost production of 35 important minerals, including uranium, cobalt, and lithium, to reduce the nationwide dependence on overseas suppliers.

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10 January 2020

Sudan’s new policy allows private traders to export gold

Sudan has passed a new regulation that allows private traders to export 70% of their gold, raising revenue by attracting foreign investment.

The new policy has been designed to address smuggling and attract foreign currency into the country’s treasury and fund government programmes, which help the country shift to democracy, reported Reuters.

Under the new law, the miners convert the foreign currency they earned into Sudanese pounds at the official exchange rate through the country’s central ban and then deposit the proceeds in local banks.

Previously, only Sudan’s central bank could export gold. It was the only body that was legally allowed to buy and export gold, as well as establish centres to purchase the precious metal from small-scale miners.

Acting central bank governor Badr al-Din Abdel Rahim Ibrahim was quoted by the news agency as saying that the bank would now completely end its gold purchases.

The current exchange rate values 45 Sudanese pounds to one dollar.

According to The Media Line, the local miners noted that the official exchange rate is barely half of the black market rate, which means they will end up receiving fewer Sudanese pounds than they would if allowed to sell the remaining 30% of their production to the state, thereby, exchanging the currency on their own.

In 2018, an estimated 93t of gold was produced in Sudan, making it Africa’s third-largest gold-producing nation.

After South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011, the government lost its main source of foreign earning potential.

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10 January 2020

Australasian mines use the most technology: GlobalData report

Australasian mines have seen the highest penetration of technologies in 2019, a GlobalData survey on the adoption of technologies in mine sites shows. According to the report – which was conducted between October and November 2019 in 179 mining sites across the world – not only do Australasian mines use more technologies on-site but mining companies are more willing to invest.

The report shows that 63% of respondents wanted to invest in mine communications systems, compared with 37% and 44% found in Asia and Europe-Middle East, respectively. As for investments in drone technology, Australasia stands out with 56%, compared with Asia’s 34%.

In the last three years, Australian mines have doubled in their investment in drone technology, going from 40% of respondents in 2016 to more than 80% in 2019.

The technological advances in the Australasian mining industry are not a coincidence; according to the Reserve Bank of Australia, the country’s central bank, mining constitutes 10% of Australia’s industrial sector, making it one of the biggest contributors to the economy. According to Reuters, the industry’s revenue for the 2019/2020 financial year stands at around $282bn.

GlobalData director of mining and construction David Kurtz said that productivity and safety are at the core of Australian companies’ use and investment in technology.

“The scale of many operations, particularly iron ore, suit investments in areas such as autonomous vehicles. As commodity prices have fallen, miners have looked at autonomous mining and technologies such as drones to minimise costs,” Kurtz told Mining Technology.

“At the same time, with safety paramount, Australian miners are taking advantage of innovations in wearable technology, collision avoidance and fatigue detection to minimise accidents and fatalities on the mine site.

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08 January 2020

BMW joins the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance

The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA), a certification programme which ensures ecologically and socially responsible mining products, has partnered with BMW, its first member in the auto sector.

IRMA works with industrial-scale mine sites and as a member, BMW will be participating in responsible mining programmes.

Member of BMW management board Dr. Andreas Wendt said: “Sustainability is an important aspect of our corporate strategy and we are fully aware of our responsibility in mineral value chains.

“For the BMW Group and its stakeholders, it is of the utmost importance that environmental and social standards are adhered to throughout the entire value chain,” he added.

IRMA measures performance of mine sites against their Standard for Responsible Mining which defines good practices for what responsible mining should look like at a industrial-scale. The standard recognises different levels of performance and encourages continuous improvement. It also seeks to emulate for industrial-scale mine sites what has been done with certification programs in organic agriculture, responsible forestry and sustainable fisheries.

IRMA Executive Director Aimee Boulanger said: “The auto sector is a powerful purchaser of materials that come from mines.

“We are happy to have the BMW Group join IRMA and we look forward to supporting their commitment to increasing environmental and social responsibility in their supply chains,” she added.

The Standard for Responsible Mining’s best practice requirements for mining include: health and safety for workers, human rights, community engagement, pollution control, mining in conflict-affected areas, rights of indigenous peoples, transparency in revenue payments from companies to governments, and land reclamation once mining is done.

The standard is intended to complement strong laws and regulations without replacing them. However, the IRMA Standard can fill gaps where policy or regulation is lacking and in some cases it strengthens government regulations, helping to increase transparency in the mining sector.

Members in IRMA include stakeholders in the mining supply chain or people affected by mining, such as purchasers of mined materials – Microsoft and Tiffany & Co. and labour unions such as IndustriALL Global Union (that represents more than 50 million workers in mining and manufacturing in 140 countries).

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07 January 2020

Rio Tinto extends Argyle diamond mine contract with Sodexo

Rio Tinto has extended its contract with quality life services provider Sodexo at the Argyle diamond mine in Western Australia for a further two years.

The renewed contract, valued at A$15.4m ($10.6m), also furthers Sodexo’s commitment to Rio Tinto, which also includes providing services to the latter’s Pilbara operations.

Rio Tinto plans to shift the diamond mine from a production site into rehabilitation, as it is close to ending its life by the end of this year.

Signed in November, the Argyle contract’s renewed period started retrospectively in February the same year, with Sodexo to be engaged in the project until January next year.

Sodexo will continue to deliver services in the remote East Kimberley region of Western Australia.

These activities include managing aerodrome operations, industrial cleaning, village catering, bus services, accommodation management, onsite industrial laundry operations, as well as handyman services.

Sodexo Asia-Pacific energy & resources CEO Darren Hedley said: “We are looking forward to continuing our work at Rio Tinto’s Argyle Diamond Mine as we provide high-quality services to enhance quality of life for residents, while also supporting the company’s operational excellence.

“The renewed contract is a great result for Sodexo, and thanks must go to our dedicated team for their commitment to building a strong relationship with our client after we acquired Morris Corporation that had previously held the contract for three years.”

To support this transition, Sodexo is working in collaboration with Rio Tinto and will engage with all the company’s stakeholders on operational consolidation.

The renewed contract will enable the company to provide additional employment opportunities to local communities.

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