March’s top stories: Robotic subsea mining prototype, Rio Tinto automated trains

31 March 2015 (Last Updated March 31st, 2015 18:30)

Damen Shipyards launched a research and development project to design and build a robotic underwater mining prototype, US lunar mining company Shackleton Energy (SEC) and Zaptec signed a MoU to explore the potential for developing lunar drilling tools, while Rio Tinto's fully autonomous AutoHaul railway system completed the initial journey in the Pilbara hauling its iron ore to port. Mining-technology.com wraps-up the key headlines from March 2015.

March’s top stories: Robotic subsea mining prototype, Rio Tinto automated trains

Mining Truck

New project launched in Europe to design and build robotic underwater mining prototype

Underwater Mining

Damen Shipyards Group launched a new 42-month research and development project to design and build a robotic underwater mining prototype, along with related launch and recovery equipment.

Launched as part of the Horizon 2020 programme, the Viable Alternative Mine Operating System (VAMOS) project looks to mine unexploited mineral resources.

According to Damen, the estimated cost of the project is approximately €12.6m.

The robotic, underwater mining prototype will be used to perform field tests at four EU mine sites and will provide a better option for extracting currently unreachable and/or uneconomic mineral deposits.

Atlas Copco and Anglo American to trial new underground mining technology

Mining cooperation

Swedish mining equipment manufacturer Atlas Copco and UK-based mining firm Anglo American prepared to test a new type of underground mining technology.

The project team aims to develop a new mining technology that would transform the process of extracting ore from underground hard rock mines.

The companies have been cooperating in a research and development partnership focusing on mechanical excavation technology since 2012, and have reached the proof-of-concept testing stage, which is scheduled to begin later this year.

Shackelton and Zaptec to develop lunar technology for drilling on the moon

Lunar mining

US lunar mining company signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to explore the potential for developing lunar drilling tools.

The companies will investigate how Zaptec's existing techology could be repurposed to create lightweight power infrastructure to extract water and minerals from the moon.

SEC COO Jim Keravala said: "Zaptec's miniature electronic transformer technology can enable significant mass reduction for space infrastructure.

"We are constantly looking for technologies that reduce size and power requirements for energy-efficient operations in free space and on the moon. It will also be able to power high­voltage, plasma drilling technology, adding to Shackleton's water and mineral extraction equipment.

Chile court rejects glacier damage claims against Barrick Gold's Pascua-Lama project

Chile's Environmental Court rejected claims that Barrick Gold's Pascua-Lama project has damaged glaciers in the complex's area of influence.

Pascua-Lama is a $8.5bn development located in the Andes Mountains, on the Chilean-Argentine border.

The Chilean court ruled in favour of Barrick Gold after hearing a lawsuit filed by a group of farming communities in the Alto del Carmen area, Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales (OLCA).

GE delivers trains to transport iron ore from Roy Hill mine in Australia

GE Trains

GE Transportation has been working with Roy Hill mine in Australia's remote Pilbara region to help the mining company haul iron ore in the extreme condition, where temperatures reach 55°C.

Roy Hill recently bought 21 Pilbara-ready, heavy-haul GE locomotives and moves 55 million tonnes of ore every year over more than 200 miles of private track, from the mine to a custom-built port stockyard south of Port Headland.

Fraser Borden from GE Transportation said: "We don't run a locomotive anywhere in the world that's hotter than here."

Each 232-car train is powered by four 4,400hp locomotives and will zip down the mine's track at 50 miles per hour with more than 30,000t of ore.

Rio Tinto trials automated trains in Pilbara

Rio Tinto's fully autonomous AutoHaul automated railway system completed the initial journey in the Pilbara hauling its iron ore to port.

The $518m train plan has been under development in the Pilbara for the past three years, and follows the introduction of 57 autonomous trucks at the company's iron ore mines in Australia.

According to the company, successful implementation of the system will result in the loss of jobs for those who currently operate the iron ore trains.

Pan Pacific copper mine in Chile fined for environmental breaches

Caserones copper mine in northern Chile was fined $11.9m for breaking environmental rules.

According to Chile's environmental regulator Superintendencia del Medio Ambiente (SMA), a fine has been levied as the mine failed to implement mitigation measures to avoid contamination of underground water supplies.

Authorities said the mine has violated 17 rules, including the construction of unauthorised transmission lines.

Caserones mine is 77.37%-owned by Japanese company Pan Pacific Copper. The operation was set-up in 2012 and began commercial operations in 2014.

Rolls-Royce to supply six diesel generators to seabed mining vessel

Rolls-Royce announced plans to supply six of its new diesel generator sets to a seabed mining vessel, which is being built to extract copper, gold and silver and ore off the coast of Papua New Guinea.

According to the company, the mining vessel is being built at China's Fuijan Mawei shipyard for Dubai's Marine Assets (MAC) and has been designed by Singapore's SeaTech Solutions.

A landmark agreement will see the UK engineering company power the 227m-long, 40m-wide seabed mining ship with its new B33:45 medium-speed diesel generator sets.

Southern Copper cancels work at $1.4bn Tia Maria copper mine in Peru

Southern Copper scrapped plans for further development of its $1.4bn Tia Maria copper mine project in southern Peru.

The company said it will not continue to build the copper mine due to ongoing protests and a lack of government support.

Last week, protestors in Peru's Arequipa region clashed with police while demonstrating against the project.

Rio Tinto unveils analytics centre in Pune, India

Rio Tinto unveiled its Analytics Excellence Centre in Pune, India, in a bid to improve equipment productivity across its global operations.

The company has joined forces with IGATE to develop the new centre, which is its latest phase of 'Mine of the Future' programme.

The company will begin mining big data from the new centre, which would assess bulk volumes of data captured by the array of sensors attached to its fixed and mobile equipment.

This will allow experts to predict and prevent engine breakdowns and other downtime events, which further helps to increase productivity and safety.