Aug 24, 2020

Widespread 5G in mining years away - Fitch Solutions report

Jonathan Campion
2 min
A Fitch Solutions Country Risk & Industry Research report concludes that the new technology will take years to surpass 4G and other technologies
A Fitch Solutions Country Risk & Industry Research report concludes that the new technology will take years to surpass 4G and other technologies...

When implemented at a mining enterprise, 5G’s high drive density and low latency bring several operational advantages, such as simplified automation, and the ability to deploy drones and sensors. As mining joins the heavy industries striving to implement wireless connectivity, mining companies are already studying the possibility of introducing 5G in the future. However, most miners are still at the stage of rolling out fourth-generation (4G) technologies; these systems are adequate for the majority of current mining operations. 

The Fitch report concludes: “Other forms of connectivity, particularly through a combination of 4G and WiFi, have shown to be sufficient for the sector's current needs so far”.

5G is likely to become more of a necessity in a few years’ time, when mining companies may reach the stage where they can focus on full-scale automation. If this happens, then enterprises will look to 5G to operate their sensors. The report continues: “Our core view regarding 5G is that it will be an evolution first, then a revolution, as more and more industries will use the technology in combination with others as part of an overall trend towards digitalisation.

“The mining sector will eventually use 5G services, especially as more autonomous vehicles and sensors are integrated into an operation, but this will not happen just yet as miners currently focus on testing the technologies value add first,” it said.

The existing new-generation technology used in mines is already wireless, making it more flexible than wired technologies, and also more secure. 5G offers still faster speeds, in the gigabit per second range, and also allows for networks to be ‘sliced’, meaning that parts of a network can be customised for separate tasks.

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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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