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1 June | Corporate affairs

BHP admits to underpaying workers for 13 years

A BHP iron ore facility. Credit: Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Mining giant BHP has admitted to underpaying workers nearly A$430m ($280m) after miscalculating public holidays for 13 years.   

Nearly 30,000 current and former employees in Australia have had leave incorrectly deducted from their pay since 2010.   

In a statement, BHP Australia president Geraldine Slattery said: “We are sorry to all current and former employees impacted by these errors. This is not good enough and falls short of the standards we expect at BHP. 

“We are working to rectify and remediate these issues, with interest, as quickly as possible.”  

The company has said that employees of Oz Minerals, which was acquired by BHP in May, could also have been affected by the same leave deduction problem.   

According to BHP, there are “approximately 28,500 affected current and former employees with an average of six leave days in total that have been incorrectly deducted from affected employees over this 13-year period”.  

8 June | Copper

Metals Acquisition Corp shareholders approve Cobar purchase 

Shareholders of Metals Acquisition Corp (MAC) have voted to approve the company’s purchase of Glencore’s Cornish, Scottish and Australian copper mine (CSA mine), alongside the 100% purchase of the mine’s operator, Cobar. 

The purchase will cost $1.1bn, with an additional 1.5% copper net smelter royalty, with $775m of this provided in cash upon close of the deal. 

MAC stated that the “vast majority” of shareholders voted to approve both the mine’s purchase and the operator’s merger. The company alluded to the fact that there are opportunities to expand the mine life following the purchase. 

Cobar Management, an Australian subsidiary of Glencore, has operated the CSA mine in Cobar, New South Wales, since its purchase in 1999. The copper and silver project produces around 40,000 tonnes per annum (tpa), with 40,530t produced in 2021. 

The transaction will be supported by Osisko Gold Royalties. Osisko have made an agreement with MAC for the purchase of silver and copper from the site in order to fund MAC’s acquisition. 

2 June | Indonesia

UK consortium to invest $9bn into Indonesian mining and EV battery industries 

A consortium of companies, including mining giant Glencore, is planning to invest $9bn into mining and electric vehicle (EV) battery production in Indonesia, the country’s minister for investment Bahlil Lahadalia told reporters this week. The mineral-rich nation is increasingly attracting interest as demand for energy transition minerals mounts. 

The funds will be in part dedicated to an industrial park in the Bantaeng region on Sulawesi Island that will be powered by wind energy, the minister said. The park is due for completion in September. Lahadalia did not give a complete breakdown of how the $9bn would be spent. 

Indonesia is the world’s largest nickel producer, accounting for 39% of global production, according to Mining Technology’s parent company GlobalData. The country’s nickel production increased from almost zero in 2013 to 862 kilotonnes (kt) per year in 2021, its analysis shows. 

Since 2020, Indonesia has banned the export of nickel ore, in a bid to win downstream investment and retain the resource for its own use. 

30 May | AI

BHP and Microsoft collaborate on AI in copper extraction 

The BHP Group and Microsoft have collaborated to improve copper recovery from the Escondida mine in Chile’s Atacama Desert.  

Producing more than one million tonnes of copper in 2022, Escondida is the world’s biggest copper mine and will use using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to improve operations. Microsoft’s Azure platform will optimise concentrator performance and retrieve better ore grades. The mine is jointly owned by BHP, Rio Tinto and Japan’s JECO. 

BHP’s chief technical officer Laura Tyler said: “As grades decline at existing copper mines and fewer new economic discoveries are made, next-generation technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics will need to be used to unlock more production and value from our existing mines.”  

BHP will use AI to further offset operational variables that affect the ore processing and extraction. As a result of green technology development, the company estimates the world needs to double the amount of copper produced in the next 30 years, compared to the past 30.   

23 May | Technology

Austmine partners with Vedanta to improve ore transportation 

Australia’s Austmine has partnered with India-based mining company Vedanta to improve ore transportation from two underground mines in India.  

In August 2022, Austmine and Vedanta signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to solve open innovation challenges in the mining industry.  

“[The MoU] paves the way for great synergy between our two entities, combining the mining equipment, technology and services network of Austmine in Australia and Vedanta’s drive for technology excellence and innovation,” said Austmine’s director of international business, Robert Trzebski.  

The companies are currently seeking solutions to transport ore from two underground mines: Rampura Agucha Mine (RAM) and Sindesar Khurd Mine (SKM).  

According to Austmine, the solutions would need to improve the operations of underground conveyor systems, transfer chutes, hoppers and winder systems.