Saudi Arabia to inaugurate $22.7bn mining project

Saudi Arabia is set to inaugurate a SAR85bn ($22.7bn) mining project in the country’s northern region as part of its plans to diversify the country’s economy away from hydrocarbons.

The inauguration ceremony will be attended by King Salman, Reuters reported, citing energy minister Khalid al-Falih’s statement to Al Arabiya TV.

The proposed Waad Al-Shamaal project is a 440km² city for mining industries in the region.

Falih added that the project will create 10,000 jobs.

Saudi Arabia is undertaking the mining project as part of an industrial scheme aimed at developing its northern region.

The kingdom is keen on developing the mining industry and intends to more than triple the sector’s contribution to the nation’s economic output by 2030.

The region is estimated to contain 500 million tonnes of phosphate ore, which represents around 7% of global proven reserves. According to authorities, the reserves are mainly located in the Al Jalamid and Umm Wu’al areas between Arar and Turaif.

Based on the energy ministry’s estimates, Saudi Arabia’s unused mineral resources are valued at around SAR5tn ($1.33tn).

As part of the economic diversification plans, the country intends to shift towards mining untapped reserves of bauxite, phosphate, gold, copper and uranium.

Falih told Al Arabiya that the kingdom will introduce a new law to encourage foreign investment in the mining sector.

The Saudi Arabian Mining Company, which is also known as Ma’aden and is 65% owned by the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, is currently the only mining company in the kingdom, producing gold and copper. The company has expanded into the production of aluminium and phosphates in recent years.




Barrick Gold to acquire more copper assets in DRC

Mining giant Barrick Gold is looking to acquire more copper assets in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to strengthen its portfolio.

The company is looking to buy a world-class deposit in the DRC, Reuters reported, citing Barrick Gold Africa and the Middle East chief operating officer Willem Jacobs.

Speaking in an investor presentation, Jacobs said: “Barrick has one of the best competitive advantages in the DRC, should a world-class opportunity present itself in the region.

“Exploiting [our] already substantial footprint and presence in the DRC to acquire a world-class deposit is certainly an opportunity which we will pursue.”

At the investor day in London, the company outlined plans for exploration, expansion, streamlining and asset sales.

The plans come ahead of the completion of the planned closure of Barrick’s $6.1bn acquisition of Randgold Resources in January next year. The merger received clearance from the South African Competition Tribunal earlier this month.

Randgold projects and evaluation head Rod Quick stated that Barrick is open to copper assets “as long as that copper is a component or co-product to the gold, or, unless that copper project will enhance our strategic partner network.”

Barrick also noted that it is planning to undertake exploration outside its operating base.

In Africa, the company’s focus will be on engaging with the governments of the DRC and Zambia on reforming the country’s Mining Code, negotiating a settlement with the Tanzanian Government regarding Acacia assets, and to increase its project footprint in the DRC.

The company has started negotiations to sell its Lagunas Norte gold mine in Peru. The mine, which has proven reserves of 1.8Moz and probable reserves of 2.2Moz, produced 195Koz in the third quarter.




Antofagasta board approves $1.3bn Los Pelambres mine expansion

UK-headquartered mining firm Antofagasta’s board of directors has given the go-ahead for a $1.3bn expansion of the Los Pelambres copper mine in Chile.

The expansion will allow the company to increase production from the mine by around 60,000t of copper per year over the first 15 years of operation.

With construction planned for early next year, Antofagasta is targeting production start-up in the second half of 2021.

The company noted that the expansion will raise the throughput at the plant from the existing capacity of 175,000t of ore per day to an average of 190,000t.

Expansion work involves building an additional SAG mill, ball mill and the corresponding flotation circuit with 24 additional cells.

Antofagasta CEO Ivan Arriagada said: “The expansion of our world-class Los Pelambres mine is an important step forward in the advancement of the group’s organic growth pipeline.

“The expansion project will add 60,000t a year of low-cost copper production at this long-life operation and will ensure that it remains a first quartile producer for many years to come.

“The project includes the construction of a desalination plant and water pipeline which will also benefit the existing operation in cases of prolonged or severe drought, and for a potential further phase of expansion.”

Annual copper production from the project is anticipated to increase from 40,000t in the first year at the expanded throughput to 70,000t towards the end of a 15-year period.

Antofagasta stated that around $500m would be spent on constructing a desalination plant and water pipeline.

The desalination plant is expected to supply the expansion and a potential further growth phase.

The plant will also serve as a back-up for the existing operation in case of extreme dry conditions.

Subject to the receipt of relevant regulatory approvals, the company expects to undertake a subsequent phase of expansion, which will further increase output and extend the mine life of Los Pelambres.

Antofagasta owns a 60% stake in the Los Pelambres project, while consortiums led by JX Nippon and Mitsubishi hold the remaining 40%.




Vale in talks with officials for S11D iron ore mine expansion

Vale is reportedly engaged in discussions with the Brazilian authorities in relation to a proposed expansion of the $14bn S11D iron ore project, located in the Amazon rainforest.

At a discussion with regulators, Vale talked about the possibility of expanding ore processing infrastructure and the railway used to transport iron ore to port, Bloomberg reported, citing Brazilian federal environmental agency Ibama.

The multinational miner is pursuing the expansion to cater to growing Chinese demand for low-cost, high-grade ore from the mine.

In September, Reuters reported that Vale was considering the project expansion, citing a statement from the company’s executive director Peter Poppinga at an industry conference in China.

With a capacity of 90 million tonnes, S11D is said to be the world’s largest open-pit mine producing iron ore, a key ingredient used in the manufacturing of steel.

The project is expected to reach capacity by 2020.

The Chinese Government is imposing stringent environmental restrictions on domestic mineral production, which is forcing steel manufacturers in the country to focus on improving efficiency and lowering emissions.

Vale is therefore looking to strengthen its position as a leading producer of high-quality ore.

Initially, the company planned to reach and maintain production at the mine’s peak capacity, but has reconsidered its stance to meet Chinese demand for S11D’s ore.

Vale has not yet submitted a formal request to the regulators to approve the expansion plan.

The S11D mine, which is located in Canaã dos Carajás in the state of Para, was inaugurated in December 2016. The project produced around 22 million tonnes in its first year.




Epiroc introduces battery-operated vehicles to lower mining costs

Swedish firm Epiroc has unveiled its second generation of battery-operated machines that promote sustainability in the mining industry.

The new machines comprise battery-driven 14t and 18t underground loaders, and 42t trucks and drill rigs, and have been designed to reduce mining customers’ operating costs and improve health and safety at mine operations.

They are also expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Epiroc president and CEO Per Lindberg said: “We at Epiroc want to help our customers boost productivity, enhance safety and cut emissions – all while lowering the total cost of operation.

“Our second generation battery vehicles take us towards a sustainable future with less dependency on fossil fuels. We are proud to lead the charge toward sustainability in mining.”

The company launched the battery-powered products at a customer event in Örebro, Sweden. The drilling range launched by Epiroc includes face drilling, production drilling and rock reinforcement rigs.

Epiroc’s first-generation battery-driven machines were introduced in 2016. The company’s existing clientele includes Brazilian mining company Nexa Resources, which deployed the Scooptram ST7 Battery in Peru.

Meanwhile, mining company LKAB is planning to use Epiroc’s zero-emission vehicles as part of a sustainable expansion of its mining operation in northern Sweden.

Epiroc told Bloomberg that the 42t truck is the largest battery-powered vehicle for underground mining. The truck is capable of hauling blasted rock through narrow tunnels.

Lowering the consumption of diesel fuel could have significant cost benefits for the mining industry, according to Bloomberg. It is said that ventilation systems, installed to remove pollutants from tunnels, account for around 40% of an underground mine’s energy outlay.

In October, the International Council on Mining and Metals revealed plans to minimise the impact of underground diesel exhaust by 2025.

In addition, the industry lobby aims to push towards using greenhouse gas-free vehicles for surface mining by 2040.




New Zealand finalises plans for Pike River mine re-entry

The New Zealand Government has finalised plans to re-enter the Pike River mine, located on the west coast of the country’s South Island, to recover the bodies of 29 miners who were killed in an explosion in 2010.

Following their victory in the 2017 general election, the Labour party pledged to re-enter the coal mine, which had remained sealed since the accident. A new office, the Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry, was created and its incumbent, Andrew Little, announced the re-entry plans earlier today.

“Re-entry of the Pike River Mine will proceed,” said Little. “To the Pike River families, to New Zealand, we are returning.”

“I’ve been considering the re-entry recommendations, risk assessments and information provided by the Pike River Recovery Agency, along with input from independent advisor, Rob Fyfe. The re-entry method I have approved is the simplest and safest plan.”

Little said that rescue workers would use the mine’s existing access tunnel to reach the bodies of the workers.

The decision comes after months of consideration, including the work of a 24-person panel in September, which concluded that three different entry methods all had merit.

One alternative method required the drilling of a new tunnel to provide access to the mine and ventilation to rescue workers, while another involved rescuers using the mine’s original tunnel, but alongside a narrower parallel tunnel that could function as an escape route in an emergency.

The panel, which featured members from New Zealand’s police departments, representatives from WorkSafe, mine rescue specialists, government ministers and the families of the 29 victims, ultimately decided to use the existing tunnel.

A nitrogen plant has been built alongside the mine to vent methane gas from the mine, and will begin operation ahead of the rescue, which is scheduled to begin in February 2019.

The operation is expected to cost NZD36m, slightly more than the NZD23m allocated for the project in the government’s budget.

“Work to prepare the mine drift for re-entry is underway, and includes venting methane from the mine, pumping nitrogen into the mine, and then filling the drift with fresh air,” said Little. “Additional boreholes have to be drilled and this work will get under way immediately.”




Diamond industry urged to improve human rights record

A group of civil society organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch has called on the diamond industry to unveil relevant clean-up measures to address its track record related to human rights abuses and other trade practices.

Other participants in the coalition include Enough Project, Global Witness and IMPACT.

Members of the international community, comprising participating countries, industry representatives and civil societies, will meet in Brussels for the Kimberley Process Plenary.

The annual meeting involves discussions regarding the implementation of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), which is used by governments to certify rough diamonds as conflict-free.

The coalition has noted that rebel groups are cashing in on loopholes in the Kimberley Process’ existing definition of a conflict diamond.

IMPACT executive director Joanne Lebert said: “Time is up for the diamond industry. Image is everything to the value of diamonds, yet the industry continues to be tainted by association with human rights abuses like child labour and forced labour, as well as conflict, environmental damage, and corruption.

“If the diamond industry genuinely wants to address these issues, it needs to clean-up its act and no longer approach respect for human rights and responsible business as an optional exercise.”

The civil society group has also urged the industry to live up to the promise of ensuring the diamonds purchased by customers are sourced, traded, and processed responsibly.

Last month, World Diamond Council (WDC) members approved a new set of reforms to the existing self-regulation instrument, known as the System of Warranties.

Under the new reforms, the diamond industry is focused on enhancing customers’ trust on the way diamonds are sourced, processed and traded.

However, Amnesty and its coalition partners are not convinced of the effectiveness of the latest reforms.

Global Witness campaign leader Sophia Pickles said: “This so-called upgrade by the WDC to its self-regulation guidelines appears to be more of a token attempt to appease criticism of the diamond industry’s failings than a real step towards ensuring that the diamond trade does not continue to fuel human rights abuses.”

The partners highlighted the need to align the System of Warranties with international standards on business and human rights, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas.




Caterpillar unveils two new electric-drive mining trucks

US equipment and machinery maker Caterpillar has unveiled two new trucks to expand its portfolio in the mining industry.

Designed to deliver efficient production, the new Cat 798 AC and 796 AC ultra-class trucks are expected to be made available in the second quarter of 2019.

According to the company, the electric-drive 798 AC, which features a 372t payload, joins the mechanical-drive Cat 797F in the 400-short-ton size class.

Meanwhile, the electric-drive 796 AC delivers a 326t payload and is set to replace the Cat 795 AC in regions where stringent regulations are in place to control engine emissions.

Caterpillar noted that the trucks were designed to provide class-leading payload, high reliability and simple serviceability.

The AC powertrain of each truck draws from the Cat 795 AC and Cat 794 AC. The company manufactures the Cat AC electric drive, which serves as a source for the powertrain.

The new trucks are both powered by the Cat C175-16 diesel engine that can be configured to meet US EPA Tier 4 emissions regulations.

Customers are also offered a choice of 2610kW or 2312kW engines to meet the mine’s needs.

According to the company, software changes can be made to adjust system power so that production targets can be met or to enable smooth operation in mixed fleets.

In a statement, Caterpillar said: “Both truck models are designed to minimise empty machine weight, as configured in the field. The design enables the 798 AC to carry its class-leading payload of 372 tonnes and to haul more material each cycle on 59/80R63 tires.

“Both new trucks feature four-corner, oil-cooled disc brakes as well as dynamic braking for stable handling and fast stopping. Superior retarding capability, blended braking and the Cat Traction Control System help boost productivity and enhance safety.”

Furthermore, open engine access and service platforms enable simplified maintenance tasks, while the modular design supports easy removal and installation of components.

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