Pioneering [email protected] project will bring ‘small deposit’ mining revolution
An ethical and sustainable international project, one that is claimed to bring about a ‘mining revolution’, has received a multi-million pound funding boost.
The [email protected] project, led by geology experts from the Camborne School of Mines, based at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall, aims to tap into a significant number of small, international metal deposits.
[email protected] will look to establish an innovative method of mining, in what is being called a “switch on-switch off’ mining. The purpose this will be to excavate raw materials that play a crucial role in the production of many household and technological goods.
This “switch on-switch off” mining will also enable miners to respond rapidly to market demands, and excavate materials that are desired most in any given period.
The project features 10 partner organisations from the UK, France, Germany and Finland is funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
Dr Kathryn Moore, a lecturer in Critical and Green Technology Metals at the Camborne School of Mines and project lead explained: ‘This research is exciting because it has the potential to unlock many small deposits globally, which would ultimately improve the security of supply of materials for manufacturers.
“The project connects the companies creating the necessary technological innovations with academia and a national survey, who will investigate and model the broader step-changes required to roll out the new mining system in a sustainable way.’
At present, mining methods revolve around extracting materials from substantial ‘world-class’ ore deposits - such as the Lisheen zinc mine in Ireland, which closed in January 2016.
Furthermore, production of metals from world-class mines is concentrated in certain countries, such as the antimony mines in China that produced more than 75% of global supplies in 2014.
The closure of mines, coupled with increasing prices from metal-producing countries, helps creates market demand and opportunities for mining companies.
To set up new world-class mines, companies have to develop innovative mining techniques to deal with potentially low grade deposits, invest in large-scale infrastructure to meet demand for quantities, and conduct expensive feasibility studies to prove long-term commercial viability for potential sites.
However, the global economic downturn over the last decade has meant that large-scale investment in these areas is limited – which has had a devastating effect on the raw materials sector.
The [email protected] project’s ‘switch on-switch off’ (SOSO) method to mine many critical metal and other small complex deposits will look to develop targeted, technological innovations in mining equipment design, as well as mine planning. The innovations will not only reduce the feasibility studies required, but also improve the quality of the extracted material, infrastructure, land use, resource consumption and waste. The team believe that this model can be adopted by European and national policy makers, as well as the wider mining industry in general.
Dana Finch, also from the Camborne School of Mines and the Project Manager added: ‘Ethical issues are at the heart of the project. One of our partners will be conducting a social survey in the Balkans, in the region of the first test mine for the project, and we have involved experts in the fields of geo-ethics and social and environmental sustainability from the outset, to inform the way the technology might be implemented in the future.’
The March 2017 issue of Mining Global is now live!
Get in touch with our editor Dale Benton at [email protected]
Gerald Group resolves iron ore dispute with Sierra Leone
Gerald Group, the US commodity trader, will pay Sierra Leone $20mn and cede a 10% stake in an iron ore project as part of the resolution to a nearly two-year dispute that led to the shutdown of production, the two sides revealed.
Gerald's wholly-owned subsidiary SL Mining filed for arbitration in August 2019 over a royalty payment dispute and suspended the Marampa mine the following month. Sierra Leone's government responded by cancelling its mining licence.
As part of the agreement signed on Friday, Sierra Leone will take a non-dilutable 10% stake in a new company that will replace SL Mining and resume operations at Marampa by June 1, Gerald said in a statement.
Gerald will make two $10mn payments this year and will have the immediate right to ship its current stockpile of about 707,000 tonnes of iron ore, it said.
Both sides will withdraw their legal claims before the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), the statement added.
Gerald’s chairman and CEO Craig Dean commented: "I am delighted that we have been able to resolve our differences and have a fresh start and new beginning with the government of Sierra Leone."
Sierra Leone's Mines Minister Timothy Kabba told a news conference on Tuesday that the agreement was a milestone for the country.
"Whatever the pain we may have borne or dreaded throughout these two years ... this outcome justifies our action," he said.
Gerald estimates that Marampa holds about 1 billion tonnes of iron ore with a potential lifespan of 30 years.
Back in 2019, Dean spoke with Mining about the development of Marampa and commented: "SL Mining offers a substantial opportunity for Gerald Group as our Marampa mine in Sierra Leone is set to deliver six million tonnes of high-grade iron ore during its operational life. If you analyse the iron ore market it has transformed, even from a couple of years ago when prices were very low. Now prices have stabilised we’re in a favourable position with our first shipments leaving for China.
"Our goal is to make ‘Marampa Blue’ an internationally recognised premium grade iron ore brand. We intend to expand the delivery of high-grade 65% iron ore concentrate to markets in Europe and Africa.”