Resources Challenges: Automation pilot takes off

Article courtesy of CME


Pannawonica Primary School were just one of 26 primary schools in the Pilbara who this past term have been taught robotics, coding and automation skills as part of the rollout of the Resources Challenges: Automation Pilot.

Year 5 and 6 students across the region learnt how to code their robots which represented either autonomous haul trucks, drills and underwater vehicles or drones across maps that represent scenarios that are faced by the State’s resources sector.

Industry representatives assisted teaching the concepts and shared their career journeys through short online videos set in the challenges.

CME CEO, Paul Everingham said, “the resources sector is at the forefront of innovation and technology and with both moving so quickly it’s important to ensure that today’s students are equipped with the skills for the jobs of tomorrow”.

The Resources Challenges: Automation Pilot was funded and developed through the Pilbara Collaboration Charter, signed by the Premier, CME and members BHP, Chevron Australia, CITIC Pacific Mining, Fortescue Metals Group, Rio Tinto Ore, Roy Hill, Woodside and Yara Pilbara.

If the Pilot is successful, it could then be rolled-out to students from pre-primary to year 10 across WA, as well as other Digital Technology courses in automation and data analysis.


Article courtesy of Australian Mining



The Roy Hill iron ore project in the Pilbara might seem like a strange place to see Hiroshi Harashima, vice president of Bridgestone’s diversified products development and production technology.

However, a visit to the Roy Hill Pilbara iron ore site has given Harashima-san an in-depth understanding of whether conveyors are operating at optimum efficiency in Pilbara conditions and how Bridgestone’s research and development (R&D) department can contribute to continual improvement.

“Part of Bridgestone’s foundation is to practice ‘Genbutsu-Genba’ decision-making based on verified onsite observations,” Bridgestone conveyor belt senior specialist Brian Farwell says.

“We then use these observations to make informed decisions. It’s about not being satisfied with the current situation and making informed decisions that will lead us ever closer to ideal products and solutions.

“We also practice ‘Kaizen’. This refers to activities that continuously improve all functions of our business and involves everyone.” Harashima-san’s trip down under exemplifies the personal commitment to product development, creative pioneering, improving processes, integrity and teamwork.

It forms part of the company’s strategy to work literally alongside customers to ramp up innovation and boost the productivity of conveyors by providing strong service and support.

The development of a closed-loop communication cycle is allowing information onsite to be fed directly back to the global R&D and product development teams, allowing Bridgestone to tailor continual improvement.

“We have major contracts with our customers, so our focus is to actively engage with them to understand their pain points and work together to produce positive outcomes in all operational aspects of conveying,” Farwell says.

Bridgestone’s ultimate aim at Roy Hill is to increase the life and reliability of the conveyor belts, which are imperative in delivering a site that produces 55 million tonnes per annum, and beyond to 60 million tonnes.

“The success of our business is directly proportional to how consistently we are able to improve our products. There are some conveyor belts that require frequent changes, so if we can extend the life of our belts there are huge operational benefits to our customers,” Farwell says.

While Bridgestone products have been used on the Roy Hill sites since inception in 2014, a recent contract has solidified the relationship, with Bridgestone to supply products and services to the ports and mines.

Bridgestone’s manager of its Pilbara Mining Solution Centre in Port Hedland (PMSC), Michael Guilfoyle, says the close relationship with Roy Hill has benefited both parties.

The PMSC that opened in 2017 is in convenient proximity to the Roy Hill site, again emphasising the company’s increased focus on working with its customers.

“We are able to help Roy Hill’s strategic supply and growth over the next few years so that they can not only secure a supply of equipment, but also have the knowledge and safety of a factory facility like we have in Port Hedland,” Guilfoyle says.

Guilfoyle emphasises that this sentiment is captured by a visit that the company’s Japanese executives made to the Roy Hill site.

“The objective was to figure out how we can align factory services to suit the site,” he says. “The secondary goal was to take recommendations back to the factory to enhance our tailor-made solutions on offer specifically for Roy Hill.”

The ultimate goal is what Guilfoyle describes as a “direct line” to Japan, ridding Bridgestone of any miscommunication that can occur in the process.

This provides Bridgestone’s engineers with a direct line of communication with its customers,
therefore feeding the company’s factories with principal information.

“Our engineers have a total understanding of any issue and can review their model to suit where possible, so the customer receives an outcome that meets expectations this process eliminates any possibility of issues lost in translation and misconceptions,” Guilfoyle says.

Bridgestone is proactively being challenged within the company to drive innovation through its R&D to achieve peak efficiency for Roy Hill’s conveyors.

As Guilfoyle points out, conveyors specifically require improvements to be tailored towards a customer’s individual preference.
“Our R&D team is constantly working to improve our products.

Our aim is to increase the operational productivity at Roy Hill,” he says.

“Unlike other products that are made to suit a vast number of machines, conveyor belts are made specifically for customers, therefore, customer’s input is vital.” The logic is emblematic of Bridgestone’s approach to forming close relationships with its customers and partnering with them to innovate and optimise products onsite.

Response to Media Article: The Surprising Place Where Australia’s Richest Woman Recruits Mine Workers, Bloomberg 27 March 2017

Roy Hill Provides Clarification

Roy Hill knows that the driving force behind our success are our people, and we’re committed to attracting and retaining those who have the right mix of skills, knowledge, leadership and motivation.  Roy Hill isn’t just focussed on hiring people with mining experience – we’re on the lookout for people whose values and attributes align with ours, and the goals of the organisation.

As an equal opportunity employer and in a bid to seek out and attract people with these qualities, Roy Hill has sought unique ways in which to reach out and highlight the job opportunities that are available to members of the community who perhaps have never considered a career in mining.  We respect and value the diversity of our people and believe our differences strengthen our business. Roy Hill is committed to providing an inclusive work environment, where everyone is treated fairly and with respect.

Cutting red tape will drive growth

Article by Daniel Wild courtesy of the West Australian

Momentum is building for bi-partisan reform between the WA State Labor Government and the Federal Coalition Government to cut red tape and boost economic growth.

As reported in these pages on November 27, the McGowan Government has reached out to the Federal Government to establish a “one-stop shop” for environment approvals.

This means that WA would be able to conduct the environmental assessment on major projects in the State, such as gas, gold, and iron ore developments, removing the need for assessment at the Federal level as well.

This is a very important development which could reduce the approval time of major projects by up to six months. The fast-tracking would not alter environmental standards because it is the duplication between State and Federal regulations that is to be removed, rather than reducing underlying regulatory obligations.

In announcing the initiative, Premier Mark McGowan said “industry has been crying out for bilateral approvals and we are responding to these calls.

This plan ensures we maintain the highest environmental standards, but don’t get bogged down in bureaucracy.” This is an example of Team WA working across party lines to achieve sensible economic reform. At the Federal level, red tape reduction is being led by the highly capable Ben Morton, who is the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and the Federal Liberal member for Tangney.

The bipartisan initiative comes at an important time. Across the nation business investment is just 10.9 per cent of GDP, which is lower than it was during the Whitlam years and is slightly above the recessionary lows of the early 1990s.

New private sector business investment in WA is 54 per cent below the 2013 peak which is holding back productivity, employment, and wages growth.

While there are non-policy reasons for this decline, it is red tape which has caused the decline to business investment to be deeper, wider, and more protracted than it otherwise would be.

Recent research by the Institute of Public Affairs estimated there are 107,817 regulatory restrictions contained in WA legislation alone.

To put this in context, New South Wales has a population around three times that of WA, yet has slightly fewer regulatory restrictions on the books.

Regulatory restrictions refer to instances in legislation which restrict or compel behaviour, including words such as “should”, “must”, and “shall not”. Importantly, IPA research found that the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety was responsible for imposing the most regulation on the West Australian economy with 17,097.

This was followed by the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation with 16,272 regulatory restrictions, and the Department of Justice with 15,226 restrictions.

It is a big problem that the two departments which have primary oversight of the WA resources sector and job creation, respectively, are also responsible for imposing the most regulation. This will undermine the ability of the McGowan Government to achieve its ambitious objective of overseeing the creation of 150,000 new jobs in WA over the next five years, which includes some 30,000 new regional jobs.

To understand the problem of red tape in the resource sector, consider the Roy Hill iron ore project in the Pilbara. The Roy Hill project required some 4967 licences, permits, and approvals for the pre-construction phase alone, approximately 79 per cent of which were imposed by the State Government.

And while Roy Hill has been able to successfully navigate the reams of red tape, many other projects, particularly those being undertaken by smaller businesses, cannot.

To further build on the encouraging bipartisan effort to cut red tape, the WA and Federal Governments should also introduce a one-in, two-out approach where two regulations must be repealed for every new one introduced.

This will place a binding constraint on bureaucracy to ensure there is a steady decline in regulation.

Daniel Wild is Director of Research with the Institute of Public Affairs

Pink plant to power Roy Hill expansion

Article by Vanessa Zhou courtesy of Australian Mining

Roy Hill is on the verge of commissioning a processing plant that will help boost shipping of iron ore from the Pilbara site to 60 million tonnes a year.

The bright pink wet high intensity magnetic separator (WHIMS) plant will be a key contributor to Roy Hill’s production target once it is operational.

Roy Hill received approval last year to increase its shipping capacity.

The plant will use two types of magnets to capture the high-grade ultrafine iron ore that is not captured when it travels through Roy Hill’s current process plant.

This ultrafine ore will no longer end up in Roy Hill’s tailings dam, but instead be redirected via its existing processing plant to the fines stockpile.

Roy Hill chief executive Barry Fitzgerald said the project was the first of its kind to be used in a hematite environment by an Australian iron ore company the size and scale of Roy Hill.

“The WHIMS plant will reduce our environmental impacts by decreasing our tailings waste by approximately four million tonnes a year, as well as provide that four million tonnes a year as additional iron ore without increasing the amount of material mined (because it’s already part of the material that has been mined,” Fitzgerald said.

The plant is painted pink in accordance with Roy Hill chairman Gina Rinehart’s desire to raise breast cancer awareness among the staff.

“(It is) Mrs Gina Rinehart’s desire to encourage our staff to be supportive of breast cancer patients, and in honour of our many female staff on the Roy Hill team,” Fitzgerald said.

“Our staff continue to raise money to help breast cancer patients and or research. It is the first pink WHIMS plant in the world.”

Roy Hill expects to start commissioning this month and deliver first ore by December.

Rinehart prepares for Roy Hill ore boost

Article by Nick Evans courtesy of the Australian

The biggest privately owned mine in Australia is about to pull the trigger on a significant expansion as Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill iron ore operations prepare to switch on a magnetic separation plant.

Roy Hill has spent the past 14 months building a high-intensity magnetic separation plant at the back end of its processing facility, designed to strip the last and smallest particles of iron from the wet tailings it deposits at the mine’s dam.

When fully built, the wet high-intensity magnetic separation plant (WHIMS) will deliver another four to five million tonnes of high-grade iron ore to Roy Hill, taking the mine’s export capacity to about 60 million tonnes.

It is understood the new product will grade between 61 per cent and 64 per cent iron, and will be used as a blending stock to upgrade product from lower-grade parts of the 22km-long deposit, and extend the life of the mine.

Before the WHIMS plant was built, the ultrafine iron ore particles it separates from waste were deposited in Roy Hill’s tailings dams and it is understood the company is considering feasibility studies to test the viability of reprocessing some of that ­material to recover iron ore previously lost into the dams.

Roy Hill says the WHIMS plant is the first of its type in the Pilbara’s iron ore industry.

It is believed the success of the plant is being closely watched by other miners in the area, particularly Fortescue Metals Group, which operates a similar wet beneficiation plant to Roy Hill at its nearby Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak mines.

Commissioning of the first stage of Roy Hill’s WHIMS plant is due to begin this month, and the plant is not expected to be fully operational until about the middle of next year.

The plant will help hold up the profitability of Roy Hill amid an expected softening of iron ore ­prices next year, as Vale’s Brazilian mines — curtailed after tailings dam disasters early this year — slowly return to full capacity.

Roy Hill chief executive Barry Fitzgerald said the WHIMS facility, painted bright pink as part of Mrs Rinehart’s “desire to encourage our staff to be supportive of breast cancer patients”, was the first separation plant to be used by a large-scale Australian iron ore miner at a hematite iron ore ­operation.

“The WHIMS plant will reduce our environmental impacts by decreasing our tailings waste by approximately four million tonnes per annum, as well as provide that four million tonnes per annum as additional iron ore without increasing the amount of material mined (because it’s already part of the material that has been mined),” he said.

“Commissioning began this month and we are targeting first ore in December.”

Despite teething troubles early in its life, Roy Hill is expected to hit 55 million tonnes a year nameplate exports in the 2019-20 financial year.

Spurred by surging iron ore prices early this year, Roy Hill booked a $1.4bn after-tax profit in 2018-19 — only its third full financial year of operations after shipments from the mine first began in December 2015.

Roy Hill is 70 per cent-owned by Mrs Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting, with Japanese trading giant Marubeni holding 15 per cent, Korea’s POSCO 12.5 per cent and China Steel Corporation owning 2.5 per cent.

The reporter travelled to the Pilbara as a guest of the Chamber of Minerals and Energy.


Leveraging Technology Partnerships to Drive Innovation

Interview with Roy Hill CEO Barry Fitzgerald, courtesy of Mining Technology.



Mining magnate Gina Rinehart digging deep for mega profits

Article by John Stensholt, courtesy of The Australian


What a year it has been for Gina Rinehart.

With iron ore prices surging for much of the year and an improvement in its production, Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting doubled its net profit to a whopping $2.6bn for the 12 months to June 30.

That result showed just how quickly Hancock has grown in only a few years. The company, of which Hancock owns about 76.55 per cent directly, achieved revenue of $1.6bn in 2016 – or about $1bn less than its profit this year – and a net profit of $443m that year.

It means Hancock’s net profit has leapt about six times in only about 36 months. Revenue has jumped to $8.4bn in the same time.

But an analysis of several of the subsidiaries of Hancock that form part of the company’s overall balance sheet shows Rinehart has made several canny deals and acquisitions in recent years.

Rinehart’s wealth was estimated at $13.12bn when The List – Australia’s Richest 250 was published by The Australian at the end of March, based in part on Hancock’s financial results last year.

Her after tax profit compares with the $4.7bn result for the listed Fortescue Metals Group, chaired by fellow billionaire Andrew Forrest. FMG currently has market capitalisation of about $28bn, meaning’s Rinehart’s wealth valuation is on the way up if it was calculated on a comparative basis.

There was a time when Hancock made most of its money via payments that flow through its Hope Downs iron ore joint venture with the listed Rio Tinto, but Rinehart’s cherished $US10bn ($160bn) Roy Hill iron ore mining operation is now well and truly up and running and making good money.

Now 70 per cent owned by Hancock, Roy Hill made a $1.38bn profit for the 2019 financial year – or about the level of profit the overall Hancock group made a year earlier – from revenue of $5.16bn. Roy Hill also has about $5.6bn assets on its balance sheet.

Rinehart secured a massive debt funding package worth more than $US7bn back in 2014, the largest mainland resource debt funding deal in the world, and Roy Hill made its first shipment of iron ore from Port Hedland in December 2015.

Deal breaker

Separate accounts for many of the other companies owned by Hancock also show how good her timing has been.

Take last year’s acquisition of the formerly ASX-listed Atlas Iron, which has port capacity at Port Hedland. Hancock paid $418m in a deal that was finalised in November last year.

At the time, Atlas was coming off a 2018 year for which it had posted a $166m net loss that included an impairment of $92m due to challenging market conditions.

But the 2019 Atlas accounts show just how well it has performed. Net profit was $142m and revenue rose from $546m to $702m, while operating costs fell from $586m to $513m.

A month after Hancock bought Atlas Iron, in December 2018, Japan’s Marubeni Corporation – which owns 15 per cent of Roy Hill – bought 1 per cent of it for $4.5m to give Atlas a valuation of $450m, but it could be worth more than $850m now based on its 2019 financial result.

In May, Hancock secured Canadian coking coal prospect Riversdale in a $744m deal. Riversdale already has more than $150m in net assets on its balance sheet.

Hancock said it has about $259m in listed equities. One good share investment has been ASX-listed gold explorer Catalyst Metals. Rinehart paid $13m for an 11 per cent stake in March, which is now worth more than $21m.

Rinehart is also one of the biggest agricultural land holders in Australia, both via the Outback Beef cattle business, two-thirds owned by Hancock and the minority stake held by China’s Shanghai CRED, and Hancock Prospecting itself.

According to AgJournal, Hancock owns at least 2.22 million hectares across more than 14 properties in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and NSW and is the nation’s second-largest producer of beef.

Hancock’s balance sheet shows almost $300m worth of livestock across both current and non-current assets and $137m in agriculture revenue in 2019.

Outback Beef cut its losses from $20m to $15m, according to its 2019 financial report, and it has net assets of $352m.

Mining’s digital ‘sweet spot’

Article courtesy of Australian Mining

23 October 2019


As mining companies face increased pressure to optimise operations, industrial software company AVEVA is perfectly placed to provide the next wave of innovative solutions.

The next leap in productivity at mine sites is set to stem from advances in the dynamic technology market, as operators figure out new ways to optimise output from assets.

While mining companies are already beginning to introduce a broad range of innovative solutions to maximise productivity, reduce costs, and improve safety, including artificial intelligence (AI), mixed reality (XR) and the Internet of Things (IoT), there is a race of sorts in the tech industry to constantly provide the next advancement.

AVEVA, which has built a strong reputation in the mining industry with its software platforms, is leading the way in providing digital technology that spans companies’ global portfolio across operations and asset lifecycles.

Its solutions unify data from first engineering designs to operations, analysing and managing engineering information, processes and supply chain, so that companies can maximise productivity, reduce downtime using predictive analytics, and bring new projects online faster and more cheaply.

Against the backdrop of global uncertainty and a volatile commodity market, AVEVA is in a “sweet spot” as mining companies become increasingly demanding for innovation in digital technology, according to head of Pacific Zone, Damien McDade.

“At AVEVA, we encompass industrial Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, alternative realities and virtual reality all together within a unified operational lifecycle platform that can help companies maximise profitability, minimise risk and enhance automation and control,” McDade explains.

“You only have to look at a world-leading mining company like Roy Hill, based in Perth. They have embraced AVEVA’s solutions to create a remote operating centre that spans the entire mining value chain.

“Not only does this enable their team to optimise their efficiency from pit to port, but it also dovetails perfectly with their global supply chain, ensuring that they can pinpoint revenue opportunities before they arise, and scale their operations to fit. This innovative approach is adapted from a concept first developed in the oil and gas industry, but it’s a flexible model which all mining operators can benefit from.

“This is our sweet spot and opportunity. Typically, across the board, the mining industry is trying to squeeze more out of assets and empowering its workforce through digitisation. This is where we come into play.

“Our technology can help companies increase operational efficiency and give their teams better data on which to base their day-to-day and strategic decision making. Those two things together can transform return on investment and sharpen operational focus.”

McDade and the team will be at AVEVA’s World Conference in Brisbane (at Howard Smith Wharves) on November 19-20.

With leading practitioners from around the globe and subject matter experts as speakers, the AVEVA team will offer Australian users a snapshot of the technology future, showing customers and industry peers what the company is working on.

Some of the company’s top partners will also be able to showcase their capabilities, including Stratus Technologies and Callisto.

“We believe we have some of the best industrial software and we want people to see the very latest, relevant content,” McDade says.

Much of the discussion will revolve around digital engineering, operations centres, asset predictivity, and cloud operations, which is the next leap in information storage and analytics.

While cloud-based analytics are available today, mining companies are only using it for what McDade describes as “non-critical infrastructure”, to be put simply – information that, if lost, wouldn’t be catastrophic.

The big question AVEVA challenges the mining industry with is “are you truly ready for cloud?

Embracing the full potential of cloud-based operations will require a reorganisation of how many traditional mining companies operate, but AVEVA has numerous concrete examples of the benefits this can bring, including at Roy Hill’s base in Perth.

AVEVA will also showcase its hybrid model, which allows mining companies to take noncritical performance information to the cloud and leave critical infrastructure on its current systems.

This progression is just one of the company’s bold plans for how digital technology can benefit Australian mining companies. These are available today, capitalising on Australia’s track record of leading the way in innovative technology, according to McDade.

“It comes down to what it takes to make a business stand up in Australia in terms of cost of doing business – other countries would argue that the competitive cost base we have here is due to technology, which Australian companies are often the first to introduce,” McDade says.

While AVEVA works across a range of industries, mining accounts for a significant proportion of business, which justifies its recent announcement that Brisbane will be the new base for its Pacific region headquarters.

The city offers a central location and is described by McDade as an emerging “tech hub”, making the decision a logical one.

From its Brisbane base, AVEVA intends to ramp up a focus that spans across a broad range of mining and other industrial companies’ operations, such as value chain optimisation, which allows for visibility across the entire value chain, from planning to scheduling to inventory.

Optimisation also extends to mining companies’ production data, which AVEVA turns into insights with downtime analysis, delay accounting and process optimisation.

Critical to companies maximising productivity is also the management of asset performance, with AVEVA offering tools that predict potential equipment failures so they can be planned for and averted, alongside digitising operating procedures and maintenance activities as part of a holistic approach to engineering, operations and maintenance, all based on unified, accurate and up-to-the minute data.

This provides a glimpse into the potential offered by digital mining at a time where companies are under increasing pressure to maximise productivity amidst volatile market conditions.

AVEVA is in the perfect position to capitalise on Australia’s dynamic mining market, with the nation’s reputation as the epicentre of resources technology only continuing to grow.

Roy Hill continues to champion the need to cut red tape

Roy Hill continues to champion the need to cut red tape in order to reduce the regulatory burden on business.

The Institute of Public Affairs has released a video highlighting just how enormous the issue is, identifying not only red tape that’s created through the legislative process as a problem, but the implications of government delegating power to make regulations to regulatory bodies.  Watch the video here.