Industry NEWS

07 May 2020

Two employees at Great Panther’s Tucano mine test positive for coronavirus

Great Panther Mining has reported that two employees that live in the nearby communities of the Tucano Gold Mine in northern Brazil have tested positive for Covid-19. They are currently stable with mild symptoms and remain in isolation at home.

Operations at the mine have not been impacted and the company has continued to operate the mine at full capacity with strict Covid-19 mitigation protocols implemented since mid-March.

The company noted that there were no other confirmed or suspected cases at its Mexican operations or Peru’s Coricancha Mine, and said that these mines are complying with temporary government-mandated restrictions in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a press statement, Great Panther said: “The restart of operations in Mexico and Peru will be a phased approach following health guidelines and government regulations in each jurisdiction with appropriate protocols in place to protect the health and safety of our workforce and communities.

“Great Panther places the safety and wellbeing of its personnel and communities as its highest priority. Consequently, all operations have implemented pandemic plans aligned with local health authorities and the World Health Organization guidelines.

“These plans cover a large number of measures that are reviewed continuously, and some of the steps implemented are listed below.  Additionally, each country management team has set up special committees to rapidly respond to changing conditions in their regions.”

Great Panther said it is planning to resume a safe ramp-up of operations at the Topia mine in Mexico on 18 May, while the Guanajuato mine complex in the country is expected to restart operations from 30 May.

Meanwhile, the Coricancha mine, which is currently under care and maintenance, would be allowed to resume operating activities in July.

Last July, Great Panther approved a positive production decision for Coricancha mine based upon the final results of the mine’s trial stope and bulk sampling programme (BSP).

In March last year, the company acquired gold producer Beadell Resources.

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07 May 2020

Barrick slashes 2020 production guidance over Porgera mine dispute

Barrick Gold has reduced its 2020 production guidance following a conflict with the Papua New Guinea government regarding the Porgera mine last month, concerning the renewal of a 20-year special mining lease.

This year, the miner now expects to generate gold between 4.6 and 5 million ounces (Moz), which is 200,000oz lower than its earlier estimate.

Barrick stated that it did not expect any further impact on production due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has compelled mine closures across the world.

Last month, Papua New Guinea’s government announced it would take control of the Porgera gold mine after refusing to extend Barrick Niugini’s special mining lease (SML) over the facility.

Barrick Niugini, which is jointly owned by Barrick Gold and China-based Zijin Mining, owns a 95% stake in the Porgera Joint Venture that owns the Porgera gold mine.

The Porgera gold mine is located in Enga Province, about 600km north west of Port Moresby.

Barrick previously said that it would contest the move, which it regards as “tantamount to nationalisation”.

Barrick Gold president and CEO Mark Bristow said: “Our sustainability and regional teams have done a great job in taking timely action to introduce comprehensive and carefully considered measures at all our sites and offices to manage and mitigate any impacts of Covid-19 on our employees and contractors.

“In Barrick’s spirit of partnership, we have extended Covid-19 support to our local communities and our host countries and are working closely with their health authorities.

“To date we have donated more than $20m to our host countries, many of whom have limited healthcare facilities, to fund the purchase of medical equipment and PPE.”

Furthermore, Barrick reported net earnings of $400m during the first quarter this year, compared to $111m in the first quarter of last year.

The company’s adjusted net earnings came to $285m in Q1 2020, compared with $184m in the same period last year.

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07 May 2020

Drone specialist COPTRZ promotes ELIOS 2 drone for use in mines

UK-based drone specialist COPTRZ has highlighted the potential safety and productivity benefits associated with the use of the ELIOS 2 drone for industrial sectors, such as mining, as the Covid-19 pandemic disrupts traditional means of working.

In a webinar hosted this morning, the company discussed the merits of the drone, which can see human workers removed from potentially hazardous environments, and dramatically speed up the process of inspection and visual recording. Both of these impacts could be beneficial for the mining industry, with unexplored regions of underground operations posing a threat to workers, and the expansive nature of subterranean operations requiring efficient inspection.

This is particularly important considering the spread of Covd-19, with many employees prevented from going to work or strict measures put in place to limit the movement of workers, and the use of drones instead of human workers can sidestep this issue altogether.

“During the Covid-19 period we’ve had companies looking at the ELIOS 2 for site inspections, when legally and down to insurance [workers] aren’t allowed down on site” said George Burne, a drone strategist who hosted the webinar. “The ELIOS 2 is a perfect candidate for going into these areas where you’re not allowed to step foot in.”

The drone is developed by Swiss engineering firm Flyability, which boasts over 1,000 drones sold and in operation currently, and a number of awards in recent years; the firm was awarded the Drones for Good award in 2015, and the Best Swiss Startup prize last year. The ELIOS 2 was also the world’s first drone to be approved for industrial inspection by RoNik Inspectioneering and the American Petroleum Institute, achieving the accreditation last December.

Flyability team manager Junio Valerio Palomba noted that recent advancements in drone sophistication have dramatically spurred on the development of drone technology, which is particularly important at this time.

“[Our] mantra or mission statement, if you will, is that we believe that robots have achieved a level of sophistication,” said Valerio Palomba. “This sophistication is high enough for them to replace humans in the most dangerous environments.”

The drone is primarily designed for use in confined spaces and enclosed environments, rather than large, open areas, so the technology is mostly suited to underground operations, rather than open-pit mines. However, Flyability has made it a priority to build on older technologies in the past, and so there is hope that the drone could be adapted for use in other environments; for instance, the ELIOS 2 builds on the work of its predecessor, the ELIOS.

The earlier drone provided a similar function, but with a number of key improvements. Ana Gamara, a project engineer at Raptoruas, a firm founded in 2017 to aid companies with visual asset management using drones and AI, noted that a system enabling the newer model to maintain distance from obstacles is of particular benefit. The mechanism helps ensure the drone can operate effectively, and helping it to avoid collisions with objects.

“It was a great improvement from the ELIOS 1, because it has a feature of locking the distance from the assets” said Gamara. “It will never get any closer; if you set your distance to 300 millimetres [for example], it will follow that inspection without actually getting in touch with any surface or any equipment.”

Gamara went on to highlight cost reductions of up to 60% when using the ELIOS 2 drone compared to traditional means of inspecting equipment, such as the construction of scaffolding to allow human workers to inspect hard-to-reach places, and that the use of the drone could see inspection times reduced from weeks to mere days.

Valerio Palomba noted that the adoption of drone technology could fundamentally change working practices in the long-term, with particular regard to safety.

“The only remedy that people have [against] falling objects from a railing or from scaffolding is to use personal protective equipment, but that’s just not enough in terms of the duty of care of the employer, considering the technological alternatives that are out there,” he said.

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07 May 2020

Anglo American suspends operations after explosion injures five

Multinational mining company Anglo American has halted operations at the Grosvenor coal mine in central Queensland after an explosion injured five people.

Grosvenor Coal Mine is located in the Moranbah region of Queensland, Australia.

The mine has been evacuated as Anglo American is engaged in working with the local authorities to ensure it is safe to return underground.

The reason for the explosion has not yet been determined and the company has started an investigation into the incident.

Anglo American metallurgical coal business CEO Tyler Mitchelson said: “Our focus right now is on supporting our injured colleagues and their families, and our team is doing everything they can to provide support.

“We are all devastated and we don’t yet understand what caused this incident. Once it is safe to return underground, we will commence an expert technical investigation to ensure we understand what has happened.

“We will then work with our regulators and other stakeholders to ensure this type of incident never happens again.”

The Grosvenor mine is a longwall metallurgical coal operation that was commissioned in 2016.

Australia Resources, Water and Northern Australia Minister Keith Pitt said: “This is a distressing time for the Queensland mining community, particularly the workmates of the injured workers at the mine site.

“I have spoken with Queensland Minister Anthony Lynham who informed me an official investigation is now underway to determine the cause of the accident.”

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06 May 2020

Kinross doubles net earnings in Q1 2020

Canadian mining firm Kinross Gold has reported that its net earnings almost doubled to $122.7m for the first quarter this year, compared with net earnings of $64.7m during the same period last year.

The company noted that the increase was mainly due to higher margins, which outpaced the increase in average realised gold price, and lowered other operating expenses.

During the first quarter this year, Kinross produced 567,327 attributable gold equivalent ounces, compared with 606,031 in Q1 2019.

The decrease in production during this quarter was mainly due to lower production at Brazil’s Paracatu mine, Russia’s Kupol and Ghana’s Chirano mines, and the end of production at Chile’s Maricunga, partially offset by higher production at Fort Knox mine in Alaska, US.

Meanwhile, revenue from metal sales increased to $879.8m in Q1 2020, compared with $786.2m during Q1 2019.

Kinross Gold President and CEO Paul Rollinson said: “During the quarter, we focused on protecting the health and well-being of our employees and communities against the spread of Covid-19 while maintaining the continuity of our operations in a safe manner.

“The company generated strong free cash flow and increased earnings year-over-year, ending the quarter with excellent liquidity, low net debt, and with investment grade credit ratings from all three major rating agencies.

“During the quarter, our margins increased by 33%, outpacing the 21% increase in average realised gold price.

In January this year, Kinross Gold completed its previously announced acquisition of heap leach development project Chulbatkan in Russia from N-Mining for $283m.

In June 2018, Kinross continued with the initial Gilmore expansion project at its Fort Knox mine, located in Alaska, US.

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06 May 2020

BHP allocates half its Vital Resources Fund to local communities

Multinational commodities giant BHP has allocated A$25m from its A$50m Vital Resources Fund over the past six weeks to support regional communities during coronavirus pandemic.

In March this year, BHP announced the A$50m ($28.7m) Vital Resources Fund to support regional Australian communities in its areas of production in response to the significant challenges to those communities caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, the company supported 46 projects across Australia and also provided in-kind support to a number of smaller projects.

BHP noted that the spending was focussed on critical areas for Australia’s Covid-19 response, including local healthcare, essential services, mental health services, education, and indigenous communities.

BHP Minerals Australia Operations acting president Edgar Basto said: “We established the BHP Vital Resources Fund to support our regional communities during Covid-19. In just six weeks we have committed half the funding to 46 projects across Australia.”

“This funding is being delivered to the people and communities who need it the most, through the organisations and initiatives who are working hard to provide vital support through this difficult time.

“We are determined to play our part and the BHP Vital Resources Fund provides critical financial support to help regional communities across the country.”

Recently, BHP announced an A$300m ($194m) investment over a five-year period to improve air quality and reduce dust emissions across its Pilbara operations.

Last month, BHP established a $25m fund to aid its contractors in Chile.

In the same month, BHP confirmed that a small number of its global workforce have tested positive for coronavirus and noted that all of them are recovering well.

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