May 17, 2020

How-To: Utilize 3D Mapping in Evaluating Profitability

Rio Tinto
3D Mapping software
2 min
How-To: Utilize 3-D Mapping to Evaluate Profitability
The name of the game in the mining industry is profitability and the ability to get more out of the resources a company controls is vital for its succes...

The name of the game in the mining industry is profitability and the ability to get more out of the resources a company controls is vital for its success.

The use of 3-D mapping is on the rise with companies such as Rio Tinto implementing the innovative software at its West Angelas iron-ore mine in Western Australia.

Rio is banking on the three-dimensional mapping technology to improve the way it digs up commodities as well as helping it cut costs.

“This technology allows us to quickly and easily view, compare and evaluate data to paint a picture of what’s under the ground. It’s like an ultrasound image of the deposit delivered in real time, something that we could never do before,” says head of innovation John McGagh.

The use of 3D mapping has allowed Rio Tinto to mine 250,000 tons more of iron ore at its Pilbara operations than it would have otherwise. The company has produced a record 139.5 million tons of iron ore in 2014, up 10 percent from a year earlier.

How it work

For Rio Tinto, the 3D mapping incorporates the company’s use of autonomous vehicles and drills rigs to utilize data sent from sensors on the trucks and drills. Based on the data received, the company can analyze the size, location and quality of its ore as it’s mined, therefore helping Rio recover more minerals from deposits.

The use of 3D mapping also provides higher accuracy for miners when it comes to digging. The software has the ability to tell diggers where they're most likely to find high-grade ore and what low-grade material they should dump.

“Ultimately the source of our wealth is the ore body, and you can never know too much,” said Mr. McGagh. “Armed with this detailed information, our operations to recover the ore bodies will be significantly more efficient and effective.”

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Jun 16, 2021

Rio Tinto partners with ARENA for green hydrogen research

Rio Tinto
Green Energy
3 min
Rio Tinto and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will study using hydrogen to reduce carbon emissions in alumina refining

Rio Tinto has partnered with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to study whether hydrogen can replace natural gas in alumina refineries to reduce emissions.

Rio Tinto and ARENA partnering for green energy push

Rio Tinto will conduct a $1.2mn feasibility study, equally funded with ARENA through a $580,000 grant, into using clean hydrogen to replace natural gas in the calcination process of refining at the Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone.

The study program includes work to be done at Rio Tinto’s Bundoora Technical Development Centre in Melbourne, where Rio Tinto’s in-house development capability has now been extended to hydrogen.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller commented: “If we can replace fossil fuels with clean hydrogen in the refining process for alumina, this will reduce emissions in the energy and emissions intensive refining stage of the aluminium supply chain. Exploring these new clean energy technologies and methods is a crucial step towards producing green aluminium.

“This study will investigate a potential technology that can contribute to the decarbonisation of the Australian alumina industry. If successful, the technical and commercial lessons from Rio Tinto’s study could lead to the implementation of hydrogen calcination technology, not only in Australia, but also internationally.”

Rio Tinto Aluminium Pacific Operations acting managing director Daniel van der Westhuizen added: “We see the ARENA and Rio Tinto-funded study as a step towards reducing refinery emissions and one that has the potential to play an important part in Rio Tinto’s commitment to decarbonisation.

“We’re investing in work that needs to be done, not only to decarbonise one of our sites, but also to help provide a lower-emissions pathway for Rio Tinto and the global aluminium industry.

“We recognise we are on a long road towards reducing emissions across our operations and there is clearly more work to be done. But projects such as this are an important part of helping us get there.”

Can hydrogen replace natural gas in alumina refineries?

The study comprises two distinct work packages:

  • Preliminary engineering and design study conducted to understand the construction and operational requirements of a potential demonstration project at the Yarwun alumina refinery.
  • Simulating the calcination process using a lab scale reactor at the Bundoora Technical Development Centre.

Once complete, the study will inform the viability of a potential demonstration project. Rio Tinto has lodged patents for the hydrogen calcination process.

Rio Tinto aiming for net zero by 2050

Rio Tinto is aiming to reach net zero emissions across its operations by 2050. Across the company, it is targeting a 15% reduction in absolute emissions and a 30% reduction in emissions intensity by 2030, from a 2018 baseline.

Aluminium is found in everything from cars to phones. But one of the challenges of producing this essential material responsibly is finding ways to decarbonise the process.

Part of the reason is creating alumina – the main ingredient in aluminium – takes a lot of energy, which in turn creates greenhouse gas emissions. New technologies will be essential to helping reduce emissions, but many haven’t been proven. And some not yet even discovered. Rio Tinto's transformation is being driven by innovation and its partnership with ARENA is a positive step towards these goals.


Rio Tinto Yarwun aerial



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