Industry NEWS

09 March 2020

AngloGold halts production at Mponeng mine following three fatalities

South African miner AngloGold Ashanti has halted production at Mponeng underground gold mine following a collapse at the site that claimed the lives of three miners.

The company has found the bodies of three mine workers after a two-magnitude seismic event at the mine resulted in a fall of ground in a work area about 3.5km below the surface. A total of seven mine workers were present at the site when the seismic event occurred. Four were rescued with non-life-threatening injuries.

The Mponeng mine, which is the world’s deepest gold mine, is located in Gauteng province in South Africa. It is 76km from Johannesburg. The mine is currently in the process of changing ownership after AngloGold Ashanti sold the mine to Harmony Gold.

According to AngloGold Ashanti, only essential services remain ongoing at the mine site.

In 2019, the Mponeng mine produced around 244,000oz of gold. Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Reuters quoted an AngloGold Ashanti spokesman as saying: “Two bodies are being brought to the surface, and one is being recovered from the rubble. Everyone else is present and accounted for.”

The spokesman further added: “We have spent a huge amount of time and effort improving safety.”

Last month, AngloGold Ashanti signed an agreement to sell its remaining producing assets and related liabilities in South Africa to gold Harmony Gold for $300m.

In May last year, AngloGold Ashanti unveiled plans to sell all its remaining assets in South Africa, primarily comprising the Mponeng mine.

In September 2009, AngloGold halted production at a part of Mponeng underground mine following a fatality at the site after a subsidence event at the site.

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06 March 2020

Anglo American’s Rustenburg converter plant shuts down after explosion

South African firm Anglo American Platinum has announced a temporary shutdown of the entire Anglo Converter Plant (ACP) in Rustenburg, following an explosion last month.

Anglo noted the ACP Phase A converter plant was damaged due to the explosion. However, were no injuries were reported due to the explosion.

Work has already started for the repair of ACP phase A and is expected to be completed by the second quarter of next year.

In a press statement Anglo American said: “As per normal business procedure, the phase B unit was commissioned to take over from the phase A plant and was in the process of ramping up to a steady state when water was detected in the furnace.

“Notwithstanding extensive testing being conducted to determine the source of the water, and a number of circuits being isolated, water continued to be observed in the furnace.”

In order to ensure the safety of all employees, the company has also decided to declare a shut down on the Phase B unit of ACP to avoid a catastrophic event.

The duration to fix the Phase B repair works will be around 80 days.

With the temporary closure of the entire ACP, the company had to declare force majeure to customers, suppliers of third-party purchase of concentrate, as well as tolling material suppliers.

The company noted that production from own mines will not be affected.

Meanwhile, the smelting process of concentrate produced from the company’s mines will be continued at one of the four smelter complexes.

In January 2018, Anglo American Platinum announced that it met all required criteria regarding the sale of its interest in Union Mine and MASA Chrome Company to a subsidiary of Siyanda Resources.

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05 March 2020

Potassium could rival lithium for batteries

Potassium could provide a cheaper, more readily available material to use in place of lithium in metal batteries, according to researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

The research demonstrated that the problem of dendrites – needle-like structures that plague metal batteries and can cause short circuits, failures or even fires – can be overcome to create a battery that performs almost as well as a lithium-ion battery.

Demand for lithium is expected to reach 820,000 tons of lithium carbonate equivalent by 2025, largely due to increases in battery demand for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage. Lithium-ion batteries have traditionally been affected by the accumulation of dendrites on the anode.

In the paper, a team led by Rensselaer professor Nikhil Koratkar proposed that by using a potassium metal anode in place of a graphite anode, and a potassium cobalt oxide cathode in place of a lithium cobalt cathode, could create a battery that rivals the performance of a traditional lithium-ion battery.

By operating the battery at a relatively high charge and discharge rate, the researchers said they can raise the temperature inside the battery in a controlled manner and encourage the dendrites to “self-heal” off the anode, preventing short circuits and failures.

While the temperature increase in the battery does not melt the potassium metal, it does help to activate surface diffusion so the potassium atoms move laterally off the dendritic structure. This effectively smoothes out the dendrite and prevents it from piercing the insulating membrane separator that keeps electrodes from touching one another.

“With this approach, the idea is that at night or whenever you’re not using the battery, you would have a battery management system that would apply this local heat that would cause the dendrites to self-heal,” Koratkar said.

Koratkar and his team previously demonstrated a similar method of self-healing with lithium batteries, but they found that a potassium metal battery required much less heat to complete the self-healing process. According to Koratkar, that means a potassium metal battery could be more safe and efficient.

“I want to see a paradigm shift to metal batteries,” Koratkar said. “Metal batteries are the most efficient way to construct a battery; however, because of this dendrite problem, they have not been feasible. With potassium, I’m more hopeful.”

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05 March 2020

MCA encourages call for uranium exploration ban repeal in NSW

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) has welcomed a recommendation that the uranium mining ban in New South Wales (NSW) be revoked.

The recommendation was made by the NSW Legislative Council’s report into the ‘Uranium Mining and Nuclear Facilities (Prohibitions) Repeal Bill’.

The report highlighted the need for uranium exploration in the state.

MCA CEO Tania Constable said in a statement: “In calling for a better understanding of nuclear energy in a New South Wales context, along with the workforce and regulatory requirements, the report is proposing a series of sensible steps, similar to those proposed by Federal House of Representatives nuclear inquiry.

“Federal and state bans on nuclear energy deny Australians the opportunity to consider the world’s most proven, deployable, zero emissions electricity source.”

Australia is the world’s third largest producer of uranium.

Tania further added that NSW must work on improving its knowledge and understanding about potential uranium resources as it will strengthen Australia’s position in the global energy markets.

“While the Labor members of the Committee provided a dissenting statement expressing their opposition to nuclear energy, they still welcomed the debate around nuclear energy and supported recommendations that would see the government monitor new developments in energy technology. We urge Federal Labor to do the same,” added Tania.

In May last year, the Kyrgyzstan parliament was reportedly considering plans to introduce new legislation regarding a long-term ban on uranium mining in the country.

In November 2018, the US Supreme Court considered repealing the existing uranium mining ban in the state of Virginia, as the state and federal government lawyers argued that they each have jurisdiction over the largest uranium deposit in the US.

In June 2017, the Government of West Australia (WA) declared a ban on uranium mining for all future leases.

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05 March 2020

Coronavirus hits De Beers rough diamond sales

Anglo American has reported that rough diamond sales at its majority-owned subsidiary De Beers declined 28% during the second sales cycle of 2020 due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The company sold $355m of rough diamonds in the second cycle of the year, compared with $496m for the same period in 2019.

Proceeds from the second sales cycle of 2020 were 36% lower than January’s $551m.

De Beers Group CEO Bruce Cleaver said: “Following an improvement in demand for rough diamonds during the first sales cycle of 2020, we recognised the impact of Covid-19 Coronavirus on customers focused on supplying the Chinese market and put in place additional targeted flexibility to enable customers to defer allocations of the relevant rough diamonds.”

Data from De Beers shows that China accounts for about 14% of worldwide consumption of polished gems, making it the largest market outside the US.

The worldwide outbreak of Covid-19 has spread to several countries since its emergence in China in December 2019.

De Beers has reported sales of $906m so far this year for the two first two cycles combined.

De Beers, which holds 12 sales cycles a year for its rough diamonds, last month said that rough diamond production decreased by 13% to 30.8 million carats in 2019, compared to 35.3 million carats in 2018, primarily driven by a reduction in South Africa.

The company said that while trading conditions have improved since the third quarter of 2019, production was lower in response to softer rough diamond demand conditions compared with 2018.

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04 March 2020

Vale partners with NORCAT for VR and AR training programme

Brazilian mining company Vale has partnered with NORCAT to develop and deploy a “blended learning programme” for the training and education of workers in the global mining industry. The training will use virtual reality (VR) as well as augmented reality (AR) software.

In a statement, NORCAT said the aim is to create interactive and experiential technology training tools, which allow for new methods of delivering equipment operator and maintenance training. The programme will use VR technology for pre-operational circle check training, as well as virtual training exercises for mining equipment such as forklifts and utility vehicles.

NORCAT technology director Ed Wisniewski said: “Experiential learning technologies, including virtual reality, represent the future of training and engaged learning and our work with leading mining companies has demonstrated that, when applied correctly, these integrated technologies create an immersive learning experience that drives meaningful learning outcomes and enhances knowledge retention.”

NORCAT says that the technology-based approach to training could improve safety, efficiency and productivity in mine training operations.

“Safety and operational excellence is a top priority for Vale, and we are pleased to announce the partnership with NORCAT to advance and augment our virtual reality training capabilities,” said Vale’s Manager of Learning and Development North Atlantic Operations Chris Bamberger.

“We look forward to increased collaboration and innovation around this critical space to transform the future of work and learning in the global mining industry.”

NORCAT was an early adopter of VR software, previously using the technology to create an immersive mine rescue simulation, and in 2018 the company unveiled a firefighting training simulator using AR technology.

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