BHP awards $171.54m maintenance services contract to Monadelphous

BHP Billiton Iron Ore has awarded a A$240m ($171.54m) contract to engineering company Monadelphous Group to provide general maintenance services at its mine sites, located in the Pilbara region of Western Australia (WA).

Valid for three years, the contract requires Monadelphous to provide services for shutdowns, outages and minor capital works at BHP’s Mt Whaleback, Jimblebar, Eastern Ridge, Mining Area C and Yandi mine sites. The company also has an option to secure two one-year extensions.

The contract is set to enhance the relationship between the parties. Over the past two decades, Monadelphous has served BHP on both construction and maintenance projects.

Monadelphous Group managing director Rob Velletri said: “The award of this contract is a testament to our reputation for delivering customer-focused engineering solutions and maintaining a high standard of safety and quality.

“We look forward to further developing our relationship with BHP over coming years, growing our operational footprint in the Pilbara and continuing to strengthen our long-term commitment to the region and the communities in which we operate.”

Monadelphous operates under two divisions, Engineering Construction, and Maintenance and Industrial Services.




Great Boulder signs deal for 75% stake in Yamarna nickel project

Gold exploration firm Great Boulder Resources has signed an option agreement with Ausgold to earn 75% interest in the latter’s wholly owned Yamarna nickel project, located 125km northeast of Laverton in Western Australia (WA).

Under the terms of the agreement, once Great Boulder elects to exercise the option, it will acquire the aforementioned interest in the project by issuing 1.5 million shares and incurring an expenditure of at least $500,000 over a period of four years.

After Great Boulder satisfies the minimum expenditure requirement, Ausgold will retain a 25% free-carried interest in the project through a decision to mine.

Ausgold managing director Matthew Greentree said: “The farm-in agreement with Great Boulder over the Yamarna project ensures the asset will be advanced by a committed explorer in the region through a well-funded exploration programme.”

The Perth-based company believes that this agreement will allow it to focus on its Katanning gold project, which is advancing towards mine development.

The Yamarna project, which is situated 40km north of Great Boulder’s Mt Venn Project, is made up of two exploration licences, namely E38/2129 and ELA 38/3311. The licences cover nearly 300km² of the northern Mt Venn Greenstone Belt.

Great Boulder Resources managing director Stefan Murphy said: “We have established extensive mineralisation across Mt Venn and the Eastern Mafic and while our exploration programme is ongoing and still in its early phase, it is clear that this is a large mineralised province.

“The results at the Yamarna nickel project show that this area is also mineralised and has the potential to host higher-grade nickel which could blend with that at Mt Venn and the Eastern Mafic.”

Great Boulder is set to begin drilling on two electromagnetic targets at the Winchester prospect at the Yamarna project.

According to the company, significant copper and nickel mineralisation was intercepted during the initial drilling carried out by Ausgold at the Winchester prospect.




Rio Tinto and partners to invest $1.55bn in two WA projects

Rio Tinto and its Japanese joint venture partners will invest $1.55bn to maintain production capacity at two projects in the Pilbara region of Western Australia (WA).

The projects form part of the Robe River joint venture (JV), in which Rio Tinto holds a 53% stake, while Mitsui (33%) and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal (14%) hold the remaining interest.

Rio Tinto’s total contribution to the investment programme stands at $820m.

The investment includes $967m for the development of the Mesa B, C and H deposits at Robe Valley, and $579m towards the development of Deposits C and D at the existing West Angelas operation.

It will be used to maintain production of Rio Tinto’s Pilbara Blend, as well as its Robe Valley lump and fines products.

The JV partners expect to begin construction of both projects next year and achieve first ore in 2021.

During the construction phase, employment will be provided to 1,200 workers.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said: “The development at West Angelas will help sustain production of the Pilbara Blend, the industry’s benchmark premium iron ore product, while the additional Robe Valley deposits will enable us to continue to provide a highly valued product to our long-term customers across Asia.

“The approval of these two projects highlights the strong pipeline of development options within our portfolio as we remain focused on our value-over-volume strategy.”

Once the projects are brought on stream, they will have 34 haul trucks retrofitted with Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) technology, which is a fleet management system for mines.




Western Australia records increases in mineral prices and employment

The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety in Western Australia has released statistics showing increases in the quantity and value of minerals produced in the state over the last year.

The state’s production of iron ore, gold, alumina and bauxite, and nickel all increased, with iron ore remaining the most-produced mineral in the state, with a total of 825m tonnes sold in 2017-18.

While the value of iron ore dropped from A$63.8bn to $61.7bn, the value of the other three minerals increased, from $10.8bn to $11.4bn for gold, $5.1bn to $6.6bn for alumina and bauxite, and $2.1bn to $2.6bn for nickel.

The performance of nickel is particularly encouraging, as the value of the metal had fallen year-on-year from 2010 to 2017.

Sales figures for more specialised minerals were also positive. Spodumene sales reached $1.6bn, an improvement of 164% over the previous year’s figures, while sales of cobalt increased 115% to $514m.

The largest decrease in sales was for diamonds, which recorded a 7% drop, putting total sales at $250m. The mineral and petroleum industry reported total sales of $114.9bn.

“The amount was the second highest financial year sales value on record,” said the department in a statement. “Behind only the $123bn achieved in 2013-14, with a number of commodities reaching record production levels including gold, iron ore, liquefied natural gas and lithium.”

The number of individuals employed in mining in Western Australia also increased from the previous financial year, with 89,819 full-time employees at mining sites in 2017-18, compared to 84,580 over the prior 12 months.

Employment at tin, tantalum and lithium operations in the state saw the most dramatic change, with the number of employees increasing from 1,253 to 3,320, as did employment at manganese ore mines, which rose from 74 to 380.

Despite nickel’s improved value in 2017-18, employment figures associated with the metal reflected its decade-long decline. The number of full-time employees at nickel operations dropped from 5,831 to 5,579 over the year.




Glencore-owned Mangoola mine to pay over $460,000 following accident

The operators of the Glencore-owned Mangoola mine in New South Wales, Australia, have agreed to pay $464,719 following an accident in October 2016 that injured an excavator operator.

The coal mine’s operators will also be obligated to commit at least $371,210 of the sum to initiatives to improve safety at the mine, and prevent a similar accident from happening again. The operators will also be required to fund community projects in the nearby town of Denman.

“The undertaking will provide training to all Mangoola maintenance workers and staff in human organisational factors in maintenance,” said the state’s Resources Regulator, which produced a report on the accident. “Resources developed during the undertaking will also be made available to the broader mining industry to share the lessons learned and enhance industry safety.”

The accident occurred when the cabin and cabin riser of an excavator became detached from the body, falling to the ground and trapping the operator within.

The Resources Regulator concluded that the accident was the result of operational negligence, rather than human error. The report found that the victim was an experienced machine operator who had worked at the mine for six years prior to the incident. It was also discovered that there were four broken bolts on the vehicle between May and August 2016.

The regulator found that the original equipment manufacturer was not involved in the repair or replacement of the damaged bolts, and that the repair of the third and fourth bolts was conducted without a documented assessment or a qualified engineer, respectively.

The report concludes with strong recommendations to the mine’s operators to improve their conduct.

“The integrity of structural components on plant and machinery (including structures) is paramount for the safety of people on the plant or in the vicinity of the plant,” said the regulator in the report. “Mine operators must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the provision and maintenance of safe plant and structures.

The Mangoola project has been in production since 1999, and produces around 13.5 million tonnes per annum of coal from reserves of around 180 million tonnes.

The mine employs 450 people and its owner, Glencore, has pledged to improve safety conditions at the operation.

“We have worked with the Resources Regulator on their investigation into this incident while implementing changes on site that aim to prevent such an accident happening again,” said Glencore in a statement. “The undertaking will result in delivery of health and safety projects that benefit workers, wider industry and the community.”




Great Boulder secures option to acquire Mt Carlon project

Great Boulder Resources has agreed to acquire 100% of the prospective Mt Carlon nickel-copper project located in Western Australia (WA) from Gold Road Resources.

Located 60km south of Great Boulder’s Mt Venn copper-nickel-cobalt project, Mt Carlon exhibits a strong magnetic and gravity response over several kilometres, pointing to prospective for nickel-copper-cobalt sulphide mineralisation.

Great Boulder noted that the project (Exploration Licence E38/2902) is located west of the Yamarna shear zone and adjacent to the Eastern Mafic copper-nickel-cobalt discovery.

In its future exploration programmes, the company will assess elevated levels of nickel and copper identified during historical aircore drilling.

Great Boulder expects to find additional mineralised intrusions in the area following the discovery of primary copper-nickel-cobalt mineralisation at Mt Venn and the Eastern Mafic.

So far, Mt Carlon has been subjected to only shallow drilling and soil sampling. The company plans to complete an EM survey over prospective targets in the coming months.

The company will have until 10 August 2019 to exercise the option.

Under the terms of the option deal, Great Boulder is required to meet all statutory expenditure commitments for the 2019 financial year. Once the option is exercised, Gold Road is entitled to receive a 2% net smelter royalty on production from the licence.

The transaction also offers Gold Road the right to acquire any gold discovery for three times the attributable expenditure. However, this right is subject to a minimum JORC compliant resource of 50,000oz.

Simultaneously, Great Boulder revealed that it now owns a 75% interest in the Mt Venn project after satisfying a minimum expenditure condition under the Yamarna joint venture agreement.




Poseidon signs MoUs for ore tolling at Black Swan project

Poseidon Nickel has signed memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with SulphideX and Estrella Resources for ore tolling at the Black Swan Concentrator north of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.

Under the terms of the MoUs, Poseidon will process ore from SulphideX’s Mt Venn project and Estrella’s Carr Boyd nickel project.

The 2.2 million tpa concentrator is located with the Poseidon-owned Black Swan Operations, which is situated 55km from Kalgoorlie.

Alongside the processing plant, the operations include the Silver Swan mine and Black Swan open pit nickel mine.

Both Mt Venn and Carr Boyd projects are located in proximity to the Black Swan operations.

Poseidon will work with both companies to evaluate toll treating nickel ore mined from both Mt Venn and Carr Boyd under ore tolling and concentrate purchasing agreements (OTCPA).

As part of the agreements, Poseidon will toll treat the ore to produce a nickel concentrate that would be purchased at rates agreed with SulphideX and Estrella.

Additionally, Poseidon will exclusively manage the sales and marketing of the concentrate.

The company intends to enhance production of the concentrator with ore from its own mines and through OTPCAs with local nickel miners.

It is looking to capitalise on the recent closure of the BHP Billiton Nickel West Kambalda concentrator and emerge as a strong alternative for nickel miners in the region.

Furthermore, Poseidon noted that it has garnered enough funds to restart the Black Swan project, which was placed on care and maintenance in February 2009 due to low nickel prices.




Pike River re-entry options are all ‘technically feasible’

A panel of 24 experts has concluded that every option for re-entering the Pike River coal mine in New Zealand must be considered, following a summit that found all proposed solutions to be “technically feasible”.

The panel, which included technical experts, police officers, representatives from WorkSafe, members of the department of conservation, mine rescue specialists and families of those who died in the mine, met to discuss possible means of re-entering the mine, where 29 miners were killed in an explosion in 2010.

Their bodies have yet to be recovered, despite the work of the Pike River Recovery Agency (PRRA), which was established following the disaster to carry out the recovery.

“It’s been two weeks of hard work,” said Jim Knowles, who is authoring a report on potential re-entry. “I’m confident [the PRRA] can move forward with what we’ve done. Any one of these options is feasible and can be done safely.”

Three options were considered at the summit: entering through the mine’s original entrance, which has been closed since the accident; building a new 250m-long tunnel to reach the miners’ remains and provide ventilation and a second escape route; and entering the main entrance, but drilling a new borehole to provide an emergency escape route.

The construction of a second tunnel was proposed in June, when the PRRA announced that the tunnelling project would be within the government’s budget of NZ$23m allocated for the re-entry project.

The panel identified risks associated with each approach, and considered how they could be minimised. A second team of experts will then independently review the first panel’s risk assessments at the start of October, ahead of a third and final review on 16 October.

The mine, located on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, began operations in 2008, but was quickly plagued by technical problems. A major ventilation shaft collapsed twice in late 2008 and 2009, prompting the construction of a new shaft that was more vulnerable to power failure and fire. Additionally, a planned methane detection system was never installed or calibrated.

These failures contributed to the 31 casualties in 2010, with the explosion believed to have been triggered by a build-up of methane. Both survivors were found to have suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning.

“I’m confident,” said PRRA chief executive Dave Gawn. “There’s nothing I’ve heard that would mean re-entry is impossible. All three options have been shown to be technically feasible.

“Those [re-entry hazards] are all standard hazards within any mining industry, so that’s why the experts are quite confident they can be managed as we go forward.”

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