11 questions with TOMRA Sorting Mining on sustainability, health & safety, and the mining industry
TS: I am an experienced senior leader with more than 35 years’ experience working for lea...
Who are you and what is your role with TOMRA Sorting Mining?
TS: I am an experienced senior leader with more than 35 years’ experience working for leading global providers of mining equipment, solutions and all relevant services. I have worked for companies such as Metso Minerals OY and prior to that Svedala Industri AB. Since 2012 I have been head of TOMRA Sorting Mining.
Describe in your own words what TOMRA Sorting Mining is and how does it serve the mining industry?
TS: TOMRA is a company driven by innovations exploring the possibilities of using new, or established, technology already used for other purposes in several sectors such as recycling, food and the mining industry just to list a few. Our offering to the mining industry enables it to perform in a more efficient, sustainable and profitable way than the traditional methods of extracting minerals allowed for.
TOMRA Sorting Mining designs and manufactures sensor-based sorting technologies for the global mining industry. Our systems deliver dry material separation of various ores and minerals, including diamonds and industrial minerals, in addition to enabling metal recovery from slag. Numerous TOMRA Sorting Mining systems have been installed worldwide, each contributing to extending the lifetime of mining operations and increasing the value derived from deposits.
TOMRA Sorting is owned by Norwegian company TOMRA Systems ASA, which is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange. Founded in 1972, TOMRA Systems ASA has a turnover around €650m and employs over 2,600 people.
Sustainability has always been a hot topic across the industry, and in the last few years one could say that there has been a sharper focus on it, based on your experience, do you agree with this?
TS: Yes, I very much do. I think it is pretty obvious for most of us that mankind can simply not continue to do things in the way we have been during the last 150 years or so. A change is urgently needed.
How has this shifting focus affected the way TOMRA works in the industry, has there been more companies/customers approaching you for solutions?
TS: Clearly more funding has been made available to explore and invest in new enabling technologies such as TOMRA´s sensor-based sorting solutions. We have seen significantly increased interest, not only within the mining industry, but also from universities, the academic world, the financial community, public authorities and non-profit organizations.
How important a role does health and safety play in the sustainability conversation?
TS: Health and safety always comes first. Health and safety applies on several levels not only to directly affected people, such as operators and maintenance staff, but also to the local communities where the equipment is operated. This can be expanded out to national and international levels.
The industry is suffering from a decline in productivity, is this something that has been evident in your engagement in the industry?
TS: Declining grades is maybe one of the main drivers behind our technology. Sorting can help a mine to treat lower grades of ores without increasing consumption of power, water and chemicals and still remaining profitable. These factors invariably help to manage
Why is sustainability an important point of discussion for mining operators, from top level down to the people out in the field? At the end of the day, it is all about what world we want to pass on to the future generations to come. Everything we do, we need to do cleverer and more sustainably. It applies everywhere and always, whether we run a mining operation or we talk about household waste. It affects us in all our lives from the cradle to the grave.
What are some of the trends across the industry with regards to sustainability and looking for more environmentally sound operations?
TS: Increase recovery of valuables, reduce consumption of power, water and chemicals.
How can TOMRA solutions play a key role in cost efficiency? And lowering the overall cost of operations?
TS: By using TOMRA technology and equipment, the operator will be able to increase recovery and reduce consumption of power, water and chemicals. This is possible without expanding an already existing operation or – if we look at a green field projects – produce the same amount of final product with a clearly smaller plant and footprint.
Where do you see the industry heading? Where do you see the increased focus on sustainable and environmentally responsible operations taking the industry?
TS: We do see clearly that reduction of water and electricity is very high on the agenda. Data collection to operate the equipment more efficiently and run a plant under constant full load is also important. Other areas are retreatment of old stock piles/waste piles that do contain valuables, but it was not possible to extract the minerals in an economically feasible way before. Automation in more general terms being a further area of importance. TOMRA´s ore sorting technology addresses all three areas.
Do you have examples of the way in which TOMRA has successfully worked with clients in the mining industry?
TS: Minsur in Peru treats waste piles of low grade tin, pre-concentrate material. It has enabled the client to increase production significantly without expanding their plant or increase their consumption of power and water.
Lucara Diamonds, Karowe Mine Botswana had a new plant built based on TOMRA´s X-ray transmission technology. The current water and power consumption is 70% less than what a conventional plant would have been with a compact footprint.
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BHP deliberates ditching fossil fuels for greener mining
The world’s biggest miner, Australian-based BHP, is supposedly considering withdrawing from a multi-billion dollar contract, which would see the company generate more than US$2bn due to mounting pressure over aligning its business with ongoing climate concerns and ESG-compliance measures.
Exiting the agreement would mean BHP escalate its distancing from oil and gas and subsequently cut down on the amount of fossil fuels used by the company when mining.
It’s estimated that the petroleum business being debated upon could actually be worth around US$15bn but is still under talks to be put up for sale.
Global Mining Giant Considers Greener Future
BHP has made itself clear that it wants to avoid becoming unable to sell its assets. As competition within the market increases following higher numbers of oil giants wrestling with investors to deal with climate pressure, so too are the number of mining rivals looking to make environmental changes for the future.
However, BHP currently has the upper hand as a stalwart mining company that established itself back in the 1960s, allowing it the time to grow and dominate over other fast-appearing mining competition.
Mike Henry, BHP Chief Executive, has an optimistic outlook for the future of oil and gas despite worries over rising demand to align his business with the Paris Climate Agreement. Henry argues that prices remain promising due to a lack of industry-wide investment.
BHP’s petroleum business won’t be easy to say goodbye to. Forecasted to generate around 6% of profits during the ongoing financial year (US$2bn), and around US$1.6bn revenue produced by BHP petroleum in the six months leading to December 2020, BHP is due to take a hit no matter what agreement they choose.
On the other hand, distancing itself from thermal coal and petroleum would arguably aid the company’s case to possible - and valuable - investors who may be required to fund BHP’s increased output to places such as Australia and Mexico in the near future.
BHP considers cutting billion-dollar contract to aid climate
An exit away from petroleum has the potential to be “a powerful corporate catalyst,” says Dominic Kane, Analyst at JP Morgan.
“We believe an exit would likely ring-fence BHP’s exceptional cash flows for non-fossil fuel organic growth, mergers and acquisitions and generous shareholder distributions since BHP could avoid a major new capital investment phase this decade in petroleum.”
BHP is also set to sanction a giant US$5.7bn Canadian potash mine in August of this year, already seeing potash as a long-term substitute for gas and oil going into the future. The company has also previously announced plans to abandon its 80% share in its joint endeavour with Mitsui, owner of two lower-quality mines in Queensland, Australia.
BHP is scheduled to report its annual results on August 17, after which it may become clearer on whether the company will choose to focus its shift to a low-carbon economy or whether it will stay with its current contract into the coming year.