Meandu coal mine implements new fleet management systems

The Meandu coal mine has implemented the Wenco Fleet Management System at its operation.

The system is the same that Roy Hill has implemented for its fleet management.

It is part of the site’s wider automation push, and its agreement with Hitachi for the manufacturer’s first trials of its Autonomous Haulage System globally.

Hitachi has created its automated system in collaboration with Wenco, which consists of a variety of advanced drive and traffic control systems components and onboard machines.

It works by integrating a GPS that controls the speed and direction of the automated vehicles, identifying haul roads, intersections and other areas such as stockpiles and crushers.

The trucks then combine that information with a control system that allows precise speed control, helping them to safely negotiate slopes and traffic at the mine.

Wenco says this new fleet management system will be installed on 44 vehicles, including dozers, drill, excavators, shovels, graders, scrapers, haul trucks, and water trucks.

Brookfield states on Roy Hill’s non-processing infrastructure

Brookfield Multiplex has started work on the Roy Hill iron ore mine’s non-processing infrastructure.

The work is valued at around $73 million.

It follows the contractor finishing its work on the $200 million accommodation village late last year.

According to Brookfield this new contract includes the design and construction of both a heavy and light vehicle workshop, washdown facilities, tyre change areas, and a lube farm.

It also includes services such as power wash and waste water treatment infrastructure and distribution, as well as administration buildings.

Brookfield’s subsidiary Engineering and Infrastructure (E+I) will undertake the work over three states, with all buildings and facilities due to be completed early next year.

The NPI will be located ten kilometres from the mine’s process plant, and close to its 2000 dwelling village.

It will be able to service a fleet of up to 142 pieces of equipment vehicles, and house around 250 staff.

Chris Palandri, Brookfield’s WA managing director, described the NPI area as the “engine room” of the mine.

“The NPI is a critical component of the Roy Hill project. Because the mine is situated in such a remote region – about 100km from the nearest town – it’s imperative that provisions for the maintenance of vehicles and the administration and care of staff is readily available on site,” Palandri said.

“The fleet service and repair facilities will ensure efficient transport of product and personnel across the mine, while the administration buildings will include training rooms, medical services and storage, to assist staff to safely complete their work.

“This is the second E+I contract for the Roy Hill project for Brookfield Multiplex, following the completion late last year of the mine accommodation village. We aim to exceed expectations and to ensure that the NPI facility will mirror the success of that project, which was delivered on time, on budget and of excellent standard.

Let’s dump Great Barrier Reef – debunking dredging myths: authority chief

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s recent decision to allow 3 million cubic metres of dredge material to be disposed of 25 kilometres off Abbot Point in north Queensland has attracted passionate commentary around the world.

An aerial shot of coral reef.

Millions of people from Australia and overseas have a fierce desire to protect one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders. As the independent body managing the Great Barrier Reef for future generations, all of us at the Authority understand and share that desire: it’s what makes us want to come to work every day.

But the debate about Abbot Point has been marked by considerable misinformation, including claims about “toxic sludge”, dumping coal on the reef and even mining the reef. Late last week, it was confirmed that our decision to allow the dredge disposal will be challenged in court.

So what’s true, and what’s not? I hope with this article, I can clear up some of those misunderstandings on behalf of the Authority, particularly about our role, the nature and scale of the dredge disposal activity, and its likely environmental impacts.

If you still have questions at the end of this article, I and others from our team at the Authority will be reading your comments below and we’ll do our best to reply to further questions on The Conversation.

A sizeable challenge

At 344,400 square kilometres, the Marine Park is roughly the same area as Japan or Italy.

The Great Barrier Reef, relative to other parts of the world.

Of this vast and richly diverse expanse, one-third is highly protected; some places are near pristine, while others are feeling the effects of centuries of human uses.

But rather than locking the entire area away, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s (GBRMPA) role — as set out under Australian law — is to protect the region’s ecosystem, while also ensuring it remains a multiple-use marine park open to sustainable use. This includes tourism, commercial fishing, shipping and other operations.

While there are five major ports in the region, to this day only 1% of the World Heritage Area is set aside for ports. Most of the region’s 12 ports existed long before the Marine Park was created in 1975, and nearly all fall inside the World Heritage Area, but outside the park itself.

Responding to “toxic” claims

Among the many claims made about the Abbot Point decision is the assertion that the “Reef will be dredged” and that “toxic sludge” will be dumped in marine waters.

Both of those claims are simply wrong, as are suggestions that coal waste will be unloaded into the Reef, that this natural wonder is about to be mined, or that Abbot Point is a new coal port.

The Abbot Point port, looking out to the terminal and beyond.

The reality is that disposal of dredge material of this type in the Marine Park is not new. It has occurred off nearly all major regional centres along the reef’s coastline before now.

It is a highly regulated activity and does not allow material to be placed on coral, seagrass or sensitive marine environments.

The material itself in Abbot Bay is about 60% sand and 40% silt and clay, which is similar to what you would see if you dug up the site where the material is to be relocated.

In addition, testing by accredited laboratories shows the material is not toxic, and is therefore suitable for ocean disposal.

Limiting new port development

As Queensland’s population has grown over the past 150 years, so too have the size and number of ports along the Great Barrier Reef coastline.

Abbot Point’s location on Queensland’s coast, with the boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park marked in red.

We recognise the potential environmental risks posed at a local level by this growth, which is why we have strongly advocated limiting port development to existing major ports — such as Abbot Point — as opposed to developing new sites.

This will produce a far better outcome than a proliferation of many, albeit smaller, ports along the coastline. And that’s not just our view: it’s a view shared by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which oversees the Great Barrier Reef’s listing as one of Australia’s 19 World Heritage sites.

Given Abbot Point has been a major port for the past 30 years, our approval of the dredge disposal permit application from North Queensland Bulk Ports is entirely consistent with this position.

The added benefit of the port is its access to naturally deep waters, meaning it requires less capital dredging than other ports. It also has a much lower need for maintenance dredging.

What’s being done to protect the reef?

With this as our backdrop, we analysed the potential impacts and risks to the Great Barrier Reef from disposing dredge spoil off Abbot Point within the Marine Park.

In this case, we reached the conclusion that with 47 stringent conditions in place, it could be done in a way that makes us confident there will be no significant impact on the reef’s world heritage values.

These safeguards are designed specifically to ensure potential impacts are avoided, mitigated or offset, and to prevent harm to the environmental, cultural or heritage values associated with the nearby Holbourne Island fringing reef, Nares Rock, and the Catalina World War II wreck.

Our conditions are in addition to those already imposed by the federal government in prior approvals.

Holbourne Island.

Is “dumping on the reef” allowed?

Again, just to clear up any confusion: the dredge material will not be “dumped on the reef”.

Instead, we are looking at an area within the Marine Park that is about 25 kilometres east-northeast of the port at Abbot Point, and about 40 kilometres from the nearest offshore reef.

When the dredge disposal occurs, the material will only be allowed to be placed in a defined 4 square kilometre site free of hard corals, seagrass beds and other sensitive habitats.

If oceanographic conditions such as tides, winds, waves and currents are likely to produce adverse impacts, the disposal will not be allowed to proceed.

As an added precaution, the activity can only happen between March and June, as this falls outside the coral spawning and seagrass growth periods. As the sand, silt and clay itself will be dredged in stages over three years, the annual disposal volume will be capped at 1.3 million cubic metres.

Compared with other sites in this region, it is much less than has been done in the past. For example, in 2006 there were 8.6 million cubic metres of similar sediments excavated and relocated in one year at Hay Point, near Mackay. Scientific monitoring showed no significant effects on the ecosystem.

The dredge disposal from Abbot Point will be a highly managed activity — and it will not, as some headlines have suggested, mean the Great Barrier Reef will become a sludge repository or that tonnes of mud will be dumped on coral reefs.

This is not Gladstone Harbour all over again

I have often heard during this debate that Abbot Point will become “another Gladstone”.

I can assure you that GBRMPA understands strongly the need to learn the lessons from past port developments, including ones like Gladstone that fall outside of the Marine Park. This is why the recommendations from an independent review into Gladstone Harbour have been factored into our conditions.

Much of the criticism of the development at Gladstone Harbour centred on monitoring and who was doing it. This is why one the most common questions we’ve heard at GBRMPA about Abbot Point is “Who is going to make sure this is all done properly?”

The answer is: there will be multiple layers of independent oversight. Indeed, past authors on The Conversation have used Townsville’s port as a good example of how local impacts can be managed safely through transparent, independent monitoring and reporting, and active on-site management.

The Port of Townsville.

This is why we will have a full-time staff member from GBRMPA located at the port to oversee and enforce compliance during dredge disposal operations. This supervisor has the power to stop, suspend or modify works to ensure conditions are met.

In addition, an independent technical advice panel and an independent management response group will be formed. Membership of both these bodies will need the approval of GBRMPA.

Importantly, the management response group will include expert scientists as well as representatives from the tourism and fishing industries, and conservation groups. Together, GBRMPA and those other independent scrutineers will be overseeing the disposal, and will have the final say — not North Queensland Bulk Ports, which operates Abbot Point, or the coal companies that use the port.

Water quality monitoring will take place in real-time to measure factors such as suspended solids, turbidity and light availability. This is in addition to a long-term water quality monitoring program that will run for five years — much longer than what is normally required.

It’s vital that there is utmost transparency and scrutiny of what happens. We believe that with our staff on the job, plus independent oversight that includes the community, it will be a highly transparent process.

What are limits of the Authority’s powers?

It is true to say that despite all these safeguards, placing dredge material on land rather than in the Marine Park remains our preferred choice, providing it does not mean transferring environmental impact to sensitive wetlands connected to the reef ecosystem.

Indeed, land-based disposal is an option that must always be examined under national dredging guidelines.

But we recognise onshore disposal is not always immediately practical. Some of the challenges include finding suitable land, the need for dredge settlement ponds and delivery pipelines, and potential impacts on surrounding environments.

Ultimately, what occurs on land is outside of GBRMPA’s jurisdiction. We do not make decisions about mines, railways and loading facilities, and have never had the power to compel a port authority to place dredged material onshore or to build an extension to existing jetties.

Nor do we have the ability to stop dredge disposal from occurring in port limits that fall inside the World Heritage Area, but outside of the Marine Park.

Our legislative powers simply enable us to approve or reject a permit application for an action in the Marine Park, or to approve it with conditions.

Based on the considerable scientific evidence before us, we approved the application for Abbot Point with conditions, on the basis that potential impacts from offshore disposal were manageable and that there would be no significant or lasting impacts on the reef’s world heritage values.

Improving protection for the reef

Our recent assessments show the dominant risks to the health of the reef are the effects of climate change, excess sediment and nutrient run-off (such as from widespread floods), outbreaks of coral-eating starfish, extreme weather, and some types of fishing.

Coastal development such as ports are assessed as significant but local in their effects. However, many small impacts can accumulate and we take the risks posed by local developments very seriously. Each proposal is assessed on its merits and an approval at Abbot Point does not mean the same action would be approved elsewhere.

It is GBRMPA’s strong view that the current situation where governments and agencies make decisions on individual parts of individual projects – in the absence of a larger strategic plan – needs to change.

Assessing development applications on a case-by-case basis creates unnecessary uncertainty for local communities as well as the ports sector. But it also heightens environmental risks. As a previous Conversation article explained, when we only consider development applications in isolation, we increase the danger of potential cumulative environmental impacts on the reef over a wide geographic area not being properly assessed.

This was highlighted in our strategic assessment and can be readily addressed through master planning of port infrastructure and operations, as proposed by the Australian Government’s National Ports Strategy 2011.

We support the intention of the Queensland Government’s draft Ports Strategy to keep future port development within existing designated port areas. However, the next step should be to incorporate consistent reef protection measures into the master plans for each port, as part of a much-needed strategy that considers cumulative impacts for the entire Great Barrier Reef region.

Russell Reichelt does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

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New mining and resources industry expo to hit Townsville

With less than a month to go before the inaugural North Queensland Industry & Resources (NQ) Expo, there’s still enough time to plan a visit to Townsville for what promises to be a huge trade event

NQ event director Bob Carroll said the many new developments in the region, including confirmation of the Abbot Point expansion, bring even more significance to the NQ Expo.

“The event presents a great number of businesses the opportunity to take advantage of these developments,” Carroll said.

“It puts them in a prime position to network and build relationships, market and generate sales, and also gather and share information on local industry activity.”

Dozens of exhibitors are registered to showcase their products and services at NQ Expo covering almost 40 sectors, from equipment and automotive to portable and demountable accommodation, earthmoving and exploration, safety and workplace health, technology and automation, warehousing and transportation, and security, to employment services and training, water treatment, and more.

“This is the first industry-based event of this type to be staged in North Queensland and already businesses have indicated a great willingness to exhibit at the event or participate as a delegate,” Carroll said.

“It’s a one-stop shop for the industry and resources sector, and really does mean that you’ll find everything you need in one place with plenty of opportunity for networking and developing better business connections.”

Mr Carroll expects that the NQ Expo will follow in the footsteps of other successful expositions in Central Queensland and the Surat Basin, which are in their 3rd and 4th year respectively, and establish itself as a key date on calendars of the industry and resources sector.

The NQ Expo which will run from March 27 to 28 at the Townsville Entertainment & Convention Centre. 

Viento win Rio Tinto Nammuldi contract

Viento’s joint venture group KVG has won the Rio Tinto Below Water Table road maintenance contract.

The contract, which also includes miscellaneous works, is worth around $5 million.

It is part of Rio Tinto’s wider expansion of the project, and will see the company provide access road maintenance grading,irrigation pivot clearing ,and road construction.

The KVG joint venture is an operation between Vieto and Indigenous company Koodaideeri, which is run by the Banyjima and Kariyarra people of the central Pilbara.

Clough JV wins Fortescue iron ore port contract

The BAM Clough joint venture has won the contract to design and build Fortescue fifth loading berth at Port Hedland.

According to the company the work at the Anderson Point Facility includes a 306 metre long wharf extension, seven berthing dolphins, and the supply and installation of the wharf conveyor modules.

Fortescue announced plans to build its fifth berth in 2012.

Clough says project engineering has already begun, with procurement and planning work scheduled for this month.

Construction is slated to begin in May, with completion expected early next year.

Kevin Gallagher, Clough’s CEO, said this contract is a major milestone for the JV.

“As the recognised market leader in near shore marine project delivery for the Australian oil and gas sector, this is a great opportunity for  BAM Clough to participate in Fortescue’s growth journey for the first time and bring our full suite of design and construction services to the Australian mining and minerals sector,” Gallagher said.

“We will draw on BAM Clough’s extensive local and international resources and 50-year track record in local project delivery to ensure this important project is safely delivered to Fortescue’s cost, schedule and quality requirements.”

The award comes as the BAM Clough joint venture celebrates its 50th year.

Tox Free wins Rio Tinto mining waste management contract renewal

Tox Free has renewed its waste management contract for Rio Tinto’s Pilbara iron ore operations.

According to Tox Free the scope of the work includes waste management services for all of its iron ore operations, including Cape Lambert, Mesa J, Dampier, 7-Mile, Parker Point, Pannawonica, Paraburdoo, Tom Price, West Angeles, Hop Downs, Yandicoogina, Namuldi, Marandoo, Eastern Range, and Channar.

It is a renewal of the existing four year contract Tox Free has with the miner, and is effective from the first of February.

Roy Hill to implement Wenco fleet management system

Wenco International Mining Systems has won the contract to supply Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill iron ore mine’s fleet management system.

Commenting on the implementation, Wenco regional director Jayson Bebek said “the Roy Hill project is not only a rich iron ore deposit, but will also be a great example of integration of new technologies in surface mining”.

“We are very excited that Roy Hill chose the Wenco Fleet Management System as the solution to meet their needs for remote dispatching and comprehensive fleet management.”

It will install 34 Wenco units across Roy Hill’s shovel, truck, and dozer fleet, with additional units likely to be installed as the mine’s production increases.

It comes as Wenco partners with Hitachi to develop a joint proof of concept project to test the efficiency of mining fleet management systems on the cloud.

“Wenco is very excited about the associated benefits our industry partners can leverage with the combination of fleet management and cloud computing. Minimizing learning curves on hardware and software, expanding accessibility, and reducing capital costs will increase system longevity and effectiveness for our clients,” Phil Walshe, President and CEO of Wenco ,said.

The cloud based service will differ from existing systems, which are maintained and operated on individual mines, and move to a cloud, making it easier for remote operations and management. 

Mining manufacturing forecast for growth

Mining equipment manufacturers are predicted to do an about-face and grow following a period of decline.

Last year major mining machinery manufacturers Joy Global and Caterpillar saw massive drops in revenue due to a difficult market.

Joy Global’s net sales fell from USD $1.594 billion to USD $1.181 billion in the October quarter year on year.

Cash from its operations have also fallen 7% down to $195 million.

Joy also recorded a huge $155 million pretax non-cash intangible asset impairment charge as part of its global branding initiative.

Caterpillar also cut its 2013 profit forecast.

It followed a 43.5 per cent drop in the company’s second-quarter earnings. It coincides with weak demand in its operating segments, particularly mining.

Caterpillar’s net income came was $US960 million on revenues of $US14.6 billion. This compared with last year’s profit of $US1.7 billion on revenues of $US16.7 billion.

Given these results, the company lowered its 2013 global economic growth outlook to just over 2 per cent. Previously it had forecasted 2.5 per cent

However this trend is set to reverse according to a new report.

A study by research company Freedonia Group has predicted growth in the sector.

It predicts that “global demand for mining machinery is forecast to expand 8.6 per cent per year through 2017 to USD $135 billion”.

It went on to highlight the Asia Pacific region and both Central and South America as the fastest growing markets for mining equipment.

This is supported by the change in Joy Global’s international focus, explaining in a recent company statement that it is “accelerating the application of Joy technology and operational excellence programs into our local China product groups, and believe these new products will generate incremental sales growth in 2014″, adding that it will “continue to shift our production capability eastward close to our demand growth potential”.

However many of the major manufacturers may see competition coming from these markets as miners look to Chinese and Indian made machinery more and more.

Speaking at an investor conference last year Rio Tinto CEO Sam Walsh explained the miner’s positive stance to equipment made in this region and the increasing quality of the machinery.

“It tends to be sophisticated purchases, which sort of is a little bit intriguing,” Walsh said.

He explained that these included haul trucks, ship loading technology, and rail cars.

Pointing to the examples of a rise in quality, Walsh said: “Funnily enough, when the original ore cars came in and we evaluated those against the traditional supplier, the quality was actually much higher”.

“Instead of spot welds, for example, on the sheet metal they were actually continuous welds.”

Caterpillar has already shifted some production overseas, with companies like Sandvik manufacturing mining machinery specifically for operations in the region.

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