Monday, January 30, 2017

The Latest Mining Industry Trends: An Analysis for 2017

‘Mining will not recover; it will evolve’

Being cyclical, the revival of the mining industry was never a question of ‘if’, but rather of ‘when’ and, more importantly, of ‘what’. When will the industry emerge from the downturn in the face of lengthening cycle times? What kind of mining industry will resurface from the ruins of the recession? In an exclusive interview, Majid Zahid, Group President of the Zahid Group's Energy Division, under which is temporary power provider Altaaqa Global, discusses the crucial role that electricity and technology played in the industry’s observed gradual resurgence.

The mining industry is enduring a period of great uncertainty. In the face of extreme market volatility, stagnant commodity prices, weak demand for products, and suppressed levels of economic growth in established markets, many mining companies around the world are striving to remain buoyant.

In their quest to victoriously emerge from the recession, many miners have implemented cost-cutting initiatives aimed at maximizing customer value with fewer resources. Others have chosen to be cautiously proactive and embarked on exploration programs in a bid to boost long-term profitability. Some have turned to technology to optimize processes and facilitate existing methods.

Part 1: Streamlining operations

Going lean has now become one of the central trends in the industry, as mining companies seek to concurrently reduce manpower, capital, and energy intensity; exploit growth opportunities and maximize the value of their products and services.

“In a highly volatile market”, says Majid Zahid, Group President of the Zahid Group's Energy Division, under which is leading global temporary power provider Altaaqa Global Caterpillar Rental Power, “it is essential for mining companies to strike a balance between controlling costs and capitalizing on growth prospects and profitable opportunities. It is, therefore, imperative for them to ensure the efficient utilization of their working capital.”

Majid Zahid, Group President, Energy Division, Zahid Group
Zahid is of the view that power generation and supply represents an area where mining operations can make significant adjustments to their capital expenditure. “Electricity,” he says, “remains to be the life-blood of mine sites anywhere in the world. However, with the present economic situation, mine operators cannot afford to devote, rather strap, a large portion of their scarce capital to a major expenditure, like a permanent power plant. Considering this, mine operators can instead choose to hire multi-megawatt temporary power solutions.”

A consistent, dependable and sufficient supply of electricity is vital throughout the life-cycle of a mine operation. “Temporary power plants,” says Zahid, “can adequately provide for the electricity needs of a mine site. They can power camp sites during pre-feasibility, feasibility and exploratory stages, and support the establishment of the mine operation after a successful exploration. They can provide power to the machinery and the processing plants, and also to the temperature-control equipment. Obviously, they can also provide the necessary power for expansion.”

“Multi-megawatt temporary power plants could not be more relevant to the mining industry than in these times,” says Zahid, and adds that renting power is a logical decision for any miner looking to effectively streamline its operations.

“For instance, in this economic climate, one cannot overstate the importance of precise allocation of funds and of better management of financial resources. A key benefit of renting power is that payment schedules are fixed and regular over a contracted term. This can help mine operators formulate accurate financial forecasts.”

“Along this line, mining companies should also be mindful of associated costs that come with building or purchasing a permanent power plant.” He calls to mind the cost of spare parts and ancillary, which, he says, are indispensable to the continuous operation of a permanent power plant. “When a mine operator goes for the rental option, all spares and ancillary will be provided by the temporary power company.”

Zahid says that renting multi-megawatt power plants can also prove beneficial for mining companies seeking to optimize their manpower resources. “Mine operators will be happy to know that in hiring power plants, they will no longer need to employ new operators or allocate or re-train existing staff members to manage the plant. Temporary power providers will provide the necessary expert engineering services to ensure the faultless operation of the power station.”

Temporary power plants can also assist in reducing the energy intensity of mine operations. “Hiring power plants will preclude the chances of generators being under-utilized because the capacity of rental power generation equipment can be increased or decreased with respect to the demand of specific mine processes.”

Zahid says that as conventional power plants are usually specified to meet the peak demand of a particular site, they are left under-utilised when the power requirement decreases. “When a power plant is running at part-load, it consumes fuel less efficiently. This will no longer be the case with rental power plants on board, thanks to their flexibility and scalability.”

Part 2: Refocusing on exploration

At the peak of the industry recession, many mining companies dramatically slashed their exploration budgets in the interest of making quick cost savings. SNL Metals and Mining, a global provider of mining information and analysis, supports this observation as it reports that global exploration expenditure declined by 26% in 2014, while exploration budgets nosedived to USD 11.4 billion from USD 22 billion in 2012.

However, industry insiders, like Deloitte, a global provider of financial advisory services, caution that huge cuts in growth CapEx and exploration budgets may have extensive adverse consequences for the miners and the industry at large. Sustained exploration, they say, position mining companies for growth once the market turns. Thus, they warn that foregoing the opportunity to stake early claims may be counter-productive to long-term profitability.

And the industry appears to have heeded their advice, as mining companies and governments have gradually re-focused on exploration activities and identification of new potential assets.
“Exploration”, says Zahid, “is the growth stimulus of the resources sector. Hence, having sufficient power to sustain this crucial activity is fundamental.”

Zahid says that renting power during the exploration stage of a mining operation yields myriad advantages. “By hiring temporary power plants, mining companies will have the freedom to start with a small power plant, and then grow as operations expand. When the long-term prospect of a project is still uncertain, it may not make sense to invest in permanent facilities. Renting power, therefore, protects companies from the uncertain future of mining projects at the exploration stage.”

He also speaks about the latest temporary power technologies which make rental power plants operable anywhere in the world.  “Rental power plants are highly suitable for exploration activities in remote areas because they are containerized and modular, so they are easily transported and installed. The latest-generation temporary power plants have state-of-the-art switching and transformation systems that give them the ability to connect to any location’s grid, regardless of its age, quality or condition. This is possible even without a sub-station, as the same systems allow the power plants to assume the role of a sub-station and connect to available overhead lines or transformers.”

“Temporary power plants also have cutting-edge electric power control and protection systems, which allow them to switch operational mode, from grid to island, to base load or to standby at a push of a button in mere minutes. This is particularly useful for mining companies whose exploration activities take place in areas unconnected to the grid.”

Part 3: Embracing Innovation

In recent years, the mining industry has seen a slew of technological innovations. Technologies once regarded as tangential to the industry are now being tailored to respond to the needs of mining companies. Many of these innovations revolve around automation and the technological optimisation of established processes, primarily in response to the industry’s need to reduce costs and ramp up operational efficiency. And while some mining companies have opted to remain conservative in terms of uptake, many miners are gradually embracing the available technologies in a bid to future-proof their operations.

In a recent interaction with GineersNow, a global engineering magazine, Jean Savage, Chief Technology Officer and Vice President for Innovation and Technology Development at Caterpillar, affirms the crucial role that equipment manufacturers play in shaping the future of mining operations: “Caterpillar has spent over 90 years committed to innovation and technology that help our customers succeed. Most of this innovation has been “in the iron”. Now, our focus has to be on making the iron ‘smart’.”

“Making the iron ‘smart’ means bringing digital solutions designed to improve productivity, efficiency, safety and profitability to our customers. This is not technology for technology’s sake. It is technology that’s focused on solving, and even anticipating, customer problems. We are taking the machines, locomotives, engines and parts we’re so well known for and making them smarter, while also equipping the people who operate them with data that makes them more productive, enhances their safety and improves sustainability.”

Zahid concurs: “Caterpillar believes that be an innovator, a company must be working directly in the service of its customers. As part of the Caterpillar family, we at Altaaqa Global are proud to be well positioned to offer our clients in the mining industry the latest technologies in temporary power generation.”

“For example, it is now possible for our engineers to monitor the status and performance of our engines from any location through Cat Connect. This gives us, temporary power providers, relevant insights on the go, so we can better manage our equipment, optimize their performance or perform preventive maintenance, if necessary.”

“There is also the Cat MicroGrid Solutions, which now allows renewable solar and wind power systems of any size to be delivered to and installed in literally any location on earth. In tandem with our temporary power plants, the solution guarantees a reliable, sufficient and sustainable power supply to any mining operation anywhere in the world.”

“There are also allied technologies gaining traction within the industry. Among these are drones, which can now be used to survey mining sites before breaking ground; 3-D printers, which can now print replacement parts; and augmented reality, which can now be used by technicians to simulate repair cycles. As these technologies are developed in the coming years, we at Altaaqa Global will definitely look into possible ways of integrating them into our systems and processes to further improve our products and enhance the service we deliver to our customers.”

“The list of technologies on offer goes on. And as equipment manufacturers and service providers continue to closely work with their customers to learn more about what they need to drive the growth of their businesses, the number of available technologies will continuously increase.”

The Bigger Picture

Just as the industry went tumbling down on the heels of the boom, industry insiders believe that it is poised for a gradual recovery in the coming months. The green shoots are emerging: Commodity prices are strengthening across the board, commodities has returned to a bull market, and many mining companies are seeing a consistent recovery in value. While the market remains cautious, it welcomes the early signs of the industry’s revival.

But perhaps, ‘recovery’ does not aptly define mining’s next cycle. The recent downturn pushed the industry to redefine itself. In the face of adversity, many mining companies adopted a fresh take on how they operate, allocate resources, engage with technology and seize growth opportunities. What were originally corporate strategies implemented to survive the so-called winter have disrupted the industry and, to a large extent catalyzed its transformation. With miners rising from the downturn stronger and smarter, the next cycle of the mining industry will not only be a recovery – it will be an evolution.


Sources consulted:
1. “Top 10 Trends for Mining in 2016”. 17 August 2016.
2. “Caterpillar: More than Just a Business”. GineersNow. Issue 9. November 2016.
3. “Big Data for All”.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Why Do Mines Consume Enormous Amounts of Electricity?

Mines require copious amounts of electricity to support various functions. In fact, owing to the huge amount of work and processing that go into production, mining is one of the most energy-intensive industries in the world, accounting for approximately 5% of the global electricity consumption.

To further illustrate, in Chile, considered as the world’s largest copper producer, mining is responsible for more than 20% of the country’s total power consumption. In Zambia, mining accounts for a whopping 50% of the country’s power utilization.

Obviously, no mine can operate without electricity. And without mining, the world will see no houses, skyscrapers, vehicles, airplanes, mobile phones, laptops, computers and a gazillion other things. But, have you ever wondered just how much electricity is required to power a mine throughout its lifetime?

Let’s have a quick look at some of the energy-intensive work that takes place in a mine. There is blasting open the earth, crushing and grounding millions of tons of ore, and chemically processing the ore prior to export. Round-the-clock. Throughout the year.

Then, there are the electricity-gobbling pieces of machinery, like rope shovels. Rope shovels alone are said to require an average of 11,000 KW throughout its 20-hour operation.

There are also additional energy-consuming factors which vary from mine to mine. Let us say, the presence of underground water. Do you know that pumping out millions of liters of water every day consumes an amount of electricity so huge that it is reported by some mining companies as the largest component of their energy costs?

Electricity is vital to almost every function of a mine that having sufficient power at the site is non-negotiable. Unfortunately, many mine sites across the globe have to cut back on power consumption because of power shortages, load shedding or a limited access to a reliable power supply. Though it should be possible to reduce power consumption in some of the perceived “non-essential” areas, this can only be done for so long before it begins to affect the entire operation and, thus, the production levels.

In response to this risk, many mining companies are deciding to invest multi-millions in building their own power generation or transmission facilities. But obviously, building one’s own energy infrastructure is tremendously expensive, and this can easily jack up the capital cost for a new project. And given the current volatile market condition, and the uncertain future of nascent mines, making such a huge non-core investment may not make sense altogether.

Here, then, lies the conundrum for mine operators: Do they build their own power facility to potentially provide ample electricity to their sites but, in doing so, make a huge capital investment; or be content in reducing electricity consumption in their sites and save money, but miss out on maximizing the site’s production levels?

The truth is, mine operators are not limited to just these two choices.

For example, they can choose to rent power plants instead of building their own. In doing so, they will not have to devote, rather strap, a huge part of their working capital on a non-core investment.

During the feasibility and exploration stages, renting power plants will give them the freedom to start with a small power plant, which they can grow as their operations expand.

Can temporary power plants support mine operations even in remote areas? Sure.

Rental power plants are easily transported from and to anywhere in the world and can function in any site no matter where on Earth it is situated. Temporary power plants can directly connect to any site’s grid even without a sub-station. They can also switch operational modes from grid to island, to base load or to standby at a push of a button in mere minutes, so they can function in mine sites either as the sole source of power or in sync with the grid.

Bottom line, going for the rental option will significantly reduce a mining project’s estimated capital cost and will cushion mining companies from the impact of making a huge non-core investment in this highly volatile mining market.

So, mines consume colossal amounts of electricity because of the number of energy-intensive functions that go into their operations. And, even as the industry faces risks relating to electricity supply and access to reliable energy sources, there are power generation technologies available, like temporary power plants, which can help mine operations sustain profitable levels of production.


Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

Sources consulted:
“Why mines consume such large amount of electricity”. Zambian Mining Magazine. 16 October 2016.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Altaaqa Global Achieves ISO Recognition for Energy Performance

The company is the first and thus far the only temporary power provider to have its projects certified in accordance with ISO 50001:2011 standards 

After months of rigorous process alignment and extensive audit, Altaaqa Global Caterpillar Rental Power, a leading global provider of multi-megawatt temporary power solutions, has achieved ISO 50001:2011 certification from TÜV NORD, the ISO-accredited certification body headquartered in Hanover, Germany.

ISO 50001:2011 specifies requirements for establishing, implementing, maintaining and improving an energy management system, whose purpose is to enable an organization to follow a systematic approach in achieving continual improvement in energy performance within its operations and projects.

“ISO 50001:2011 is applicable to any organization wishing to ensure that its products and services conform to its avowed energy policy”, said Shibu Davies, General Manager for Certification, HSD & Lab at TÜV NORD. “This certification awarded to Altaaqa Global, the only rental power company in the world to have achieved the feat to date, is a testimony to the company’s steadfast dedication to delivering multi-megawatt power generation projects that efficiently use energy, conserve natural resources and help in combatting climate change.”

Meghana Millin, Quality and HSE Officer of Altaaqa Global, described how the company ensures that its energy policy is implemented and adhered to across its processes. “We train our sights on providing the most energy efficient and environmentally responsible power solutions to our clients. Thus, we remain committed to our energy policy from the selection of the power equipment, to the designing of the power plants, to transport, through project installation, commissioning and maintenance. Furthermore, we regularly upgrade our current installations to further improve on their energy performance.”

Majid Zahid, Altaaqa Global’s Chief Commercial Officer, shed light on how the company guarantees customer satisfaction in all its multi-megawatt rental power projects: “We ensure that our power plants maintain the highest level of efficiency by having their performance monitored and evaluated by reputable global certification bodies. This way, we assure our clients that our power projects do not only supply uninterrupted reliable electricity, but also offer cost savings and minimal operational expenditure.”

For his part, Peter den Boogert, CEO of Altaaqa Global, called upon the rental power industry to take up the cause of energy responsibility. “Being in the business of providing electricity, the onus is upon us, temporary power providers, to conscientiously mitigate the environmental effects of our operations. That is why we at Altaaqa Global are continuously developing and optimizing our power generation solutions, so they ultimately promote real economic, social and environmental benefits. We are proud to have blazed a trail in energy performance and fuel efficiency in the IPP industry.”

In 2014, Altaaqa Global has also achieved ISO 9001:2008 (Quality Management System), ISO 14001:2004 (Environmental Management System), and OHSAS 18001:2007 (Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems) certifications, making it part of an elite list of global companies to have ever completed a triple audit and received all certifications in its first year of evaluation.


About Altaaqa Global
Altaaqa Global, a subsidiary of Zahid Group, has been selected by Caterpillar Inc. to deliver multi-megawatt turnkey temporary power solutions worldwide. The company owns, mobilizes, installs, and operates efficient temporary independent power plants (IPP’s) at customer sites, focusing on the emerging markets of Sub-Sahara Africa, Central Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, Latin America, South East Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. Offering power rental equipment that will operate with different types of fuel such as diesel, natural gas, or dual-fuel, Altaaqa Global is positioned to rapidly deploy and provide temporary power plant solutions, delivering electricity whenever and wherever it may be needed.

About Zahid Group
Zahid Group represents a diverse range of companies, offering comprehensive, customer-centric solutions in a number of thriving industries. Some of those include construction; mining; oil & gas; agriculture; power, electricity & water generation; material handling; building materials; transportation & logistics; real estate development; travel & tourism; waste management & recycling; and hospitality.

TÜV NORD International GmbH & Co. KG has established business relationships in more than 70 countries of Europe, America, Asia and Africa and is now represented in all major world markets. The TÜV NORD Group has combined its acknowledged competence, versatile innovative talent and also many companies who are leaders in their market segments under the umbrella of TÜV NORD International. Now, know-how developed over many years and a dedicated, 8,400-strong workforce worldwide ensure that “TÜV NORD” is accepted as a global name for safety, quality, competence and trust.

Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505