First Iron Ore Output at Gina Rinehart's Roy Hill: What Lies Ahead?
Gina Rinehart's Roy Hill project has hit a milestone achievement: on Wednesday this week, the industry heiress’s Pilbara, Western Australia-based mine yielded its first output of high-grade iron ore.
It would be a cause for celebration for any mining project, but Roy Hill is a particularly big deal. With the aim to produce 55 million tons of iron ore per year, Roy Hill is currently the biggest mining project underway in Australia. Mining projects of that size require a lot of pre-planning – getting to this stage required pouring millions of dollars into development and two years of forging partnerships and financing deals to fund the project and put it in a position to move forward. Now, this full-on commencement of mining in earnest sets a positive tone that those investments are well on their way to being recouped.
The opportunities that stand to flow in from the progress of the Roy Hill project don’t end with its owners, either – there are jobs to be had at Roy Hill. In fact, as ABC reports, Roy Hill is one of only a few mining companies in Australia hiring on such a large scale and those jobs are well needed:
In an interview with the ABC, Roy Hill chief executive Barry Fitzgerald said there had been a lot of interest.
"We've had 600 applications for one particular class of job," he said. "We've had over 5,500 expressions of interest or direct applications since Christmas."
While Roy Hill already boasts 3,000 employees currently on board, the site aims to increase that to 4,000 construction workers along with 2,000 operational staff once the structure of the mine is in place.
This primary excavation doesn’t mean that all the challenges are over, especially for mining expansions:
Mr Fitzgerald said predictions that no more large resources projects would be built in Australia were premature. However, he said big, integrated mining projects may face problems getting approved.
"I think there will be significant difficulties in having projects as independent as ours and the size of ours," he said.
Fitzgerald also speculated that federal budget cuts could also make it difficult to approve large scale mines in the future. But for now at least, when it comes to Roy Hill, things are looking good. The first railway tracks are expected to be laid as soon as next month.
Codelco partners with Microsoft to extend digitisation
Chile's Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, has announced a deal with tech giant Microsoft to fast-track the digitisation of its sprawling mining operations, helping it extend automation and improve analytics.
The joint project with Microsoft will beef up the company's capacity to make its production processes more efficient and promote "sustainability" within its operations, Codelco said in a statement.
Codelco, like many Chilean miners, has fought in recent years to adopt new technologies to boost efficiency and keep down costs at its aging deposits, many of which suffer from declining ore grades.
"We are promoting profound changes so that different areas operate in a completely remote and automated way, reducing risks, improving productivity, safety and reliability of our operation," said company executive Alvaro Garcia.
Mining companies worldwide are pushing forward with plans to operate mines remotely, reducing the risk of accidents and boosting efficiency.
Codelco’s move towards automation however has led to confrontations with unions, who see it as a threat to their livelihoods. The company said the project with Microsoft will include a training component for the its workers.
The state-run miner has recently ramped up its use of technology to ensure its copper is 100% traceable, a vital step in reducing its carbon footprint and boosting sustainability within its operations.
Codelco’s CEO Octavio Araneda said that tracing copper through its mines would help the company more precisely measure progress on its social and environmental goals while providing proof to increasingly demanding customers of those efforts.
“We can now say that 100% of our products are traced…which will allow us to have a very strong transparency regarding our resource use footprint,” Araneda said.
The announcement comes amid a broader push by the company to reduce water consumption, recycle industrial waste and scale back carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.
Codelco said in a webinar that the tool it has developed to assure traceability will help assure those sustainability targets are met.
Soaring demand for electric vehicles, a key component in the global fight against climate change, has increased attention on the carbon footprint and sustainability of inputs such as copper, cobalt and lithium.