Canadian student discovers new mineral inside a diamond

A PhD student at the University of Alberta discovered a new mineral inside a diamond recovered from a mine in South Africa. 

The mineral is named goldschmidtite in honour of Victor Moritz Goldschmidt, the founder of modern geochemistry. According to Nicole Meyer, the graduate student in the Diamond Exploration Research and Training School that discovered the rock, it has an unusual chemical signature for a mineral from Earth’s mantle.

Before this discovery, previous attempts to name new minerals after Goldschmidt failed

“Goldschmidtite has high concentrations of niobium, potassium and the rare earth elements lanthanum and cerium, whereas the rest of the mantle is dominated by other elements, such as magnesium and iron,” Meyer said in a university press release.

According to the researcher, for potassium and niobium to constitute a big part of this mineral, it must have formed under exceptional processes.

She estimates that the diamond containing the goldschmidtite formed about 170 kilometres beneath Earth’s surface, at temperatures reaching nearly 1,200 Celsius.

“(The discovery) gives us a snapshot of fluid processes that affect the deep roots of continents during diamond formation,” said Graham Pearson, who is Meyer’s co-supervisor in her doctorate degree.

Seabridge joins study of metals on fish

Metal pollution from mines, mills and smelters is a hotly contested issue, especially when water passing through contaminated sites leaches metals into local waterways. The issue has become a major aggravation between miners and Indigenous peoples along many Canadian lakes and rivers.

Now Seabridge Gold of Toronto and the Gitanyow Fisheries Authority (GFA) are collaborating on a project applying ‘omic’ approaches to learn more about the impact of heavy metals on aquatic ecosystems. This method will apply environmental DNA (eDNA) to the potential effects of Seabridge’s proposed KSM copper-gold mine 65 km northwest of Stewart, British Columbia.

The project is funded by Genome BC and GFA, under the leadership of Dr. Vicki Marlatt at Simon Fraser University. The team will develop and implement eDNA methods to detect the presence or absence of fish species in the Nass watershed. They will also examine the costs of using eDNA compared to traditional, labour intensive visual or fish trapping surveys.

The project is also expected to contribute to a more thorough characterization of the baseline environmental and biological attributes of affected surface water before mining begins.

Seabridge has proposed development of its KSM project, where a preliminary feasibility study has suggested recovering 38.8 million oz. of gold and 10.2 billion lb. of copper. The project carries a hefty price tag and the company is seeking partners.

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)

BHP boss’ pay cut by almost 25% after worker’s death, runaway train

BHP’s chief executive, Andrew Mackenzie, saw his annual pay shrink by almost a quarter after an unexplained death at one of the company’s Queensland mines and a runaway iron ore train cost him a portion of his short-term bonus.

Mackenzie, 62, had his short-term bonus reduced by more than $1 million from 2018 to $1.3 million. His base salary was kept at $1.7 million, taking his total earnings, including other benefits, to $3.5 million, from $4.6 million in 2018.

According to BHP’s 2019 annual report, the death of a 49-year-old worker at its Saraji coal mine on New Year’s Eve last year, the cause of which it was unable to determine, was the main reason for the pay-cut. It was the first time in more than 15 years that the company had failed to pinpoint the cause of a fatal accident, BHP said. 

While BHP returned a record dividend to shareholders, Andrew Mackenzie received no long-term bonus payment in the financial year ended in June 2019.

The forced derailment of a fully-laden iron ore train in the Pilbara, which destroyed two locomotives, 245 cars and 2 km (1.2 miles) of track, also weighed on Mackenzie’s bonus size. 

Other issues mentioned in the report were equipment failures at BHP’s Olympic Dam in South Australia and Escondida mines in Chile. 

While BHP returned a record dividend to shareholders, Mackenzie — at helm of the world’s largest mining company since 2013 — received no long-term bonus payment in the financial year ended in June 2019.

The news come as the Melbourne, Australia-based mining giant is mulling a change to the CEO’s  remuneration policy.

Changes proposed by the company, the world’s biggest miner by market value, include a reduction in Mackenzie’s long-term incentive plan as a proportion of his base salary and a cash award with a longer-term focus than current short term incentives, BHP said. Those changes would result in a 12% cut to maximum annual remuneration, it said.

Other modifications planned include a cut to the CEO’s pension contribution rate and the introduction of a two-year post-retirement shareholding requirement.

BHP plans to present the remuneration policy changes to investors at annual shareholder meetings in the U.K. and Australia later this year.

Short on female target

The diversified miner fell short of its target of boosting female employees 3% a year, which is part of an ambitious goal of achieving gender equality within its ranks by 2025.

BHP increased its proportion of female employees 2.1% in the 2018-19 financial year, which resulted in the company having 1,156 more women employees on July 1 than at the same time last year.

The hiring efforts bring the female proportion of the company’s total workforce to 24.5%t, up from 22.4% last year.

In its sustainability report, released in conjunction with the annual and economic contribution reports, BHP said 37.7% of the people hired this year were women. The figure represents an improvement from the 10.4% it welcomed on board in 2015, yet is lower than the 39.8% it registered last year.

Teck named to 2019 Dow Jones Sustainability World Index

For the 10th straight year, Teck Resources (NYSE: TECK) has been named to the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index (DJSI), indicating that Teck’s sustainability practices are in the top 10% of the 2,500 largest companies in the S&P Global Broad Market Index (BMI). 

Teck was the top-ranked mining company on both the World and North American Index based on an in-depth analysis of economic, social and environmental performance. Teck scored the highest in the industry in supply chain management, biodiversity, environment policy and management systems, operational eco-efficiency, corporate citizenship and philanthropy, human capital development, and social reporting.    

“Sustainability is an important factor in every decision we make because being socially and environmentally responsible is foundational to our success and a part of who we are,” said CEO Don Lindsay. “Our commitment to sustainability is led by our employees, who are focused on strengthening communities, protecting the environment, and contributing to a better world.” 

MIT engineers ‘hide’ $2m-diamond under world’s blackest black material

MIT engineers created a material that is 10 times blacker than anything that has previously been reported.

To showcase how dark the material is, they have coated a $2-million,16.78-carat natural yellow diamond with the substance. The result is that the gem, which is normally very brilliant, appears as a flat, black void.

The researchers didn’t intend to engineer an ultrablack material. Instead, they were experimenting with ways to grow carbon nanotubes on electrically conducting materials such as aluminum, to boost their electrical and thermal properties

The experiment has been turned into an art installation titled “The Redemption of Vanity,” a collaboration between Brian Wardle, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, and his group, MIT Center for Art, Science, and Technology artist-in-residence Diemut Strebe, and LJ West Diamonds.

The ultra-black material is made from vertically aligned carbon nanotubes, or CNTs — microscopic filaments of carbon, like a fuzzy forest of tiny trees, that the team grew on a surface of chlorine-etched aluminum foil. The foil captures at least 99.995% of any incoming light, which means that it reflects 10 times less light than all other superblack materials, including Vantablack. 

According to Wardle, the CNT material, aside from making an artistic statement, may also be of practical use, for instance in optical blinders that reduce unwanted glare, to help space telescopes spot orbiting exoplanets.

In fact, astrophysicist and Nobel laureate John Mather, who was not involved in the research, is exploring the possibility of using the superblack material as the basis for a star-shade — a massive black shade that would shield a space telescope from stray light.

“Optical instruments like cameras and telescopes have to get rid of unwanted glare, so you can see what you want to see,” he said in a media statement. “Would you like to see Earth orbiting another star? We need something very black. … And this black has to be tough to withstand a rocket launch. Old versions were fragile forests of fur, but these are more like pot scrubbers — built to take abuse.”

Scientists uncover the origin of Bronze Age tin

Researchers from Heidelberg University and the Curt Engelhorn Centre for Archaeometry in Mannheim discovered that ancient tin ingots from the Bronze Age found in Greece, Israel, and Turkey did not come from Central Asia, as previously assumed, but from tin deposits in Europe.

Using lead and tin isotope data as well as trace element analysis, they were able to get to the origin of the objects. “The tin artifacts from Israel, for example, largely match tin from Cornwall and Devon in Great Britain,” they said in a media statement.

The researchers used methods of the natural sciences to uncover the geographic origin of archaeological tin artifacts from the Mediterranean

Early tin exploitation appears to have been taken place on placer deposits of cassiterite.

In the experts’ view, these findings solve a question that archaeologists have had for decades, given that the Eastern Mediterranean region -where the ingots were found- had practically none of its own tin deposits. The raw material was already being alloyed with copper to create bronze in the second millennium BCE. 

“Bronze was used to make weapons, jewellery, and all types of daily objects,” Ernst Pernicka, a retired professor at the Institute for Earth Sciences of Heidelberg University, said in the press brief. “[But] the origin of tin has long been an enigma in archaeological research.” 

Pernicka believes that the new study helps solve the enigma and shows that an early international trade network existed in the Bronze Age between Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Scientists to drill the ‘most valuable mineral province on Earth’

South African and German researchers are about to conduct scientific drilling at the Bushveld Complex, regarded as the most valuable mineral province on Earth. Their goal is to clarify several unresolved scientific questions related to the genesis of the unique body of rocks and its associated mineral deposits.

According to Freddie Roelofse, Associate Professor in the Department of Geology at the University of the Free State, two boreholes will be drilled as part of the project, including a 600-metre deep hole to the north of Mokopane and a 3-kilometre deep hole northwest of Burgersfort.

The researchers working on the project belong to the University of the Free State, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, the University of the Witwatersrand, and the Friedrich-Alexander University. They’ve got $1,5 million in funding for the project 

Located in the Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North-West and Gauteng provinces of South Africa, the Bushveld Complex hosts the majority of the global platinum-group element, chromium, and vanadium resources, as well as major deposits of copper, nickel, gold, tin, iron, fluorite, and dimension stone. 

“As of 2006, more than 200 million ounces of platinum have already been mined from the Bushveld Complex and, between the depths of 1 kilometre and 5 kilometres, an estimated 6.8 billion ounces still remain,” a university press release states. “At current rates of extraction, the complex will likely not be mined out within the next 700 years, with much of the ore deeper than 1 kilometre still left intact.”

Besides the South African mining industry, surrounding communities are expected to benefit from this endeavour as one of the focus areas of the research relates to the potential for groundwater extraction from rocks to improve access to the resource. 

The drilling team will also be able to measure the temperature of the water in the boreholes in order to determine the geothermal energy potential of the complex.

Brazil adopts MAC’s Towards Sustainable Mining initiative

The national mining association in Brazil – Instituto Brasileiro de Mineracao (IBRAM) – has adopted the Towards Sustainable Mining initiative developed by Ottawa-based Mining Association of Canada. TSM is a program aimed at improving environmental and social practices in the mining industry.

IBRAM joins six other mining associations around the globe that have adopted TSM. The initiative covers tailings management, engagement with civil society, safety and health, environmental standards, and enhanced transparency and accountability.

TSM will be tailored to the specific needs of the Brazilian industry with the help of MAC. Implementation will occur over the next five years.

Flavio Ottoni Penido, president of IBRAM, says, “”By adopting TSM, we are committing to raise the standards of our industry. TSM will help our mining sector become more transparent, earn the confidence of Brazilian society and achieve its full potential.”

To ensure TSM reflects the expectations of civil society and industry stakeholders, it was designed and continues to be shaped by an independent, multi-interest advisory panel. As part of its implementation, IBRAM will implement a similar advisory body to provide valuable oversight.

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)

Precious metals may be locked below moon’s surface – study

Researchers from Canada’s Dalhousie University and Carleton University, together with colleagues from the Geophysical Laboratory in Washington were able to draw parallels between mineral deposits found on Earth and the moon.

In a study published in Nature Geoscience, the experts suggest that a repository of precious metals may be locked deep below the moon’s surface.

In order to find out anything about the interior of the moon, researchers have to reverse engineer the composition of the lavas that come onto the surface

“We have been able to link the sulfur content of lunar volcanic rocks to the presence of iron sulfide deep inside the moon,” said James Brenan, the study’s lead author, in a media statement. “Examination of mineral deposits on Earth suggests that iron sulfide is a great place to store precious metals, like platinum and palladium.”

Brenan and his team ran a series of experiments to recreate the extreme pressure and temperature of the lunar interior to determine how much iron sulfide would form.

Then, they measured the composition of the resulting rock and iron sulfide and confirmed that precious metals would be bound up by the iron sulfide, making them unavailable to the magmas that flowed out onto the lunar surface when the satellite was formed moon was formed 4.5 billion years ago.

According to Brenan, there was likely not enough iron sulfide to form an ore deposit but certainly enough to explain its (low) presence in the lunar lavas.

In summary, the scientists’ results show that sulfur in lunar volcanic rocks is a fingerprint for the presence of iron sulfide in the rocky interior of the moon, which is where precious metals were left behind when the lavas were created.

Now, they will require samples from the deep, rocky part of the moon where the lunar lavas originated in order to confirm their findings.

Mining and IIoT groups join forces

A graphic from a GMG Group document on interoperability in mining. Credit: Global Mining Standards Group

The Global Mining Guidelines Group (GMG) and the Industrial Internet Consortium have agreed to work together to maximize interoperability, portability, security and privacy for the industrial Internet.

The two organizations will work together:

  • Identifying and sharing IIoT best practices
  • Collaborating on standardization
  • Collaborating on interoperability in mining through the two organizations respective committees, working groups and task groups
  • Collaborating in IIoT adoption by co-creating reference architectures, methodologies and guidelines
  • Participating in a joint workshop to exchange ideas and information

“Emerging technologies are changing the way centuries-old industries operate,” said Mark Dunn, IIC liaison officer and principal research engineer, coal mining research program, CSIRO Energy. “In the mining domain, adding sensors and internet connectivity to vehicles, machinery and people is increasing mine safety, enhancing productivity and improving our use of global natural resources.”

Heather Ednie, GMG managing director noted that by working together with other organizations, the pool of expertise is widened, redundancies can be eliminated, and the mining industry can speed up its rate of innovation.

“GMG members contribute to shaping robust standards and tools for the global mining industry,” she said. “A partnership with IIC will harness IIoT expertise that exists outside of mining and help drive the future of our industry.”

Wael William Diab, chair of the IIC Liaison Working Group and secretary of the IIC Steering Committee, said that through the liaison program, the IIC is building the IIoT ecosystem to enable digital transformation across different industry verticals.

“Working with the global mining community is an opportunity to create new IIoT solutions, generate operational efficiencies and develop business model innovations,” he said.

The IIC Liaison Working Group is the gateway for formal relationships with standards and open-source organizations, consortia, alliances, certification and testing bodies and government entities/agencies. The agreement with Global Mining Guidelines Group is one of a number of agreements made by the IIC’s Liaison Working Group.

GMG is also working on other initiatives to standardize mining technology, such as battery electric vehicles and implementation of automation.

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)

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