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Aerial Drone of NSS @ Work

NSS recently partnered up with SkyDronics to bring you a series of aerial drone videos of just some of the services we offer at NSS.

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Move drone video and other NSS videos can be found over on our YouTube Channel.


An expert in small resources companies says there’s a good argument for recovering cobalt from the tailings dams at Queensland Nickel.

It revolves as much around where the future supply will be sourced as the size of the resource.

As the market grows, the producers of lithium-ion-battery powered products want to ensure a consistent supply, says Morgans Stockbroking analyst Chris Brown.

Mr Brown said end users also placed stock on reputation and both could be damaged when sourcing from an unstable supplier. An Australian-supplied resource ticked all boxes, he said.

“People like (Tesla’s) Elon Musk and obviously people moving to EVs (electric vehicles) are more ethically focused
and want to make sure the product is contributing to the clean source,” he said.

“(Also) People who are going to build EVs usually want a reliable battery supplier.

“They don’t want to build a demand for a brand and in the long run find the supply of cobalt or lithium or nickel is unable to meet the market they generated.”

The emphasis for most of the 40-year life of the Yabulu plant was on nickel, with cobalt being a by-product, albeit low value, Mr Brown said.

As much as 40 per cent of the cobalt processed could have ended up in the tailings dams, pointing to a high rate of return, he said.

While the idea to retrieve the cobalt was prospective, it was far from an easy prospect, Mr Brown said.

“Traditionally, new developments are going to cost a lot more than people think they are going to cost and take a lot longer to build than people expect them to (and) take a lot longer to get to nameplate capacity than people expect them to,” he said.

“Yes, obviously, if you’ve got a big resource and you make a mess of it in the first six months you’ve got enough time to change your operating procedures and get it right, get the recoveries up to the level you are projecting.

“Interesting to say there are enough tailings around. If they put some of that into a pilot plant and get three months of stable results that’s a pretty good indication of whether there is a real business there. “

The Democratic Republic of Congo has more than half the word’s identified cobalt reserves and is the world’s largest supplier.

World demand for cobalt in 2016 was about 93,950 tonnes and it is expected to increase to 120,000 tonnes in 2020, according to Darton Commodities.

The amount of cobalt production attributed to lithium-ion batteries is expected to increase from 50 to more than 60 per cent in that time.

Ethical cobalt a deal sealer

James Cook University has won up to $96 million funding from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) to develop the Technology Innovation Complex (TIC) at its Townsville campus.

JCU’s Vice Chancellor Professor Sandra Harding said the TIC was part of an integrated set of projects to modernise the university’s facilities across the Townsville campus.

“The Technology Innovation Complex will deliver leading-edge STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) innovation, research and educational facilities for northern Queensland,” Professor Harding said.

The three-level TIC will be the centrepiece of an innovation hub in which undergraduate engineering students, industry partners, post-graduate researchers and start-up businesses will converge and collaborate.

The project is expected to create about 270 construction and other jobs.

It is part of the Townsville Campus Renewal – a seven-year, targeted program of works affecting more than 50 buildings across the JCU campus.

Learning and teaching buildings will be refurbished while other ageing buildings will be demolished, and university activities will be brought closer together.

The Townsville Central Plaza is an open public space that will connect the TIC, the Science Place, and other areas of the campus. The $5 million project is funded through the Queensland Government’s Catalyst Infrastructure Program.

“JCU is the north’s own University,” Professor Harding said.

“We need to continue to upgrade our facilities so we can offer outstanding educational experiences for students from the north and from across the world as well as some of the best teaching and research facilities for staff.

“The innovation hub will be of tremendous benefit to industry partners as well as students and researchers, and will transform regional businesses and industry.”

JCU project attracts $96m NAIF backing
A Perth company commissioning a new nickel laterite processing system may have an optionto restart refining at the Queensland Nickel Yabulu site.

It would be in a revamped format.

Direct Nickel Technologies has been working on a hydrometallurgical model for more than 10 years at CSIRO’s Australian Minerals Research Centre in Waterford, WA.

A test of samples drawn from QN tailings during that time recovered 90 per cent- plus cobalt from what’s described as a medium to high-grade resource.

It was a good, but not conclusive, result for a process that was developed to liberate a scope of minerals from an ore body, senior technical development process engineer Dr Fiona McCarthy said.

“We’ve piloted a one-tonne-a-day plant here at CSIRO and we ran that for about 11 months,” Dr McCarthy said. “So we are essentially ready to start considering the first commercial plant.

“I think the issue with the (QN) tailingsdam is that it is fairly barren in nickel and it is also fairly barren in magnesium. So it doesn’t quite match the same profile as what the process was developed for.

“If it’s tied in with another ore though and becomes an ore processing plant that is also treating tailings, then I would suspect that’s a different thing again also. But I say, certainly, it has possibilities.”

The current rehabilitation issues at the site north of Townsville were also addressed, with the process resulting in a nitrate-based by-product with fertiliser properties, Dr McCarthy said.

“I would say if there were some incentive from a remediation or rehabilitation point of view, it would fly probably,” she said.“So that’s one of our other positives, being a nitrate-based process. Our tailings are nitrate-rich.

“Yes, you do have to manage water run-off still, but as long as it is remediated professionally it should work out quite well.”

Dr McCarthy said under the right conditions a smaller plant processing 5000 tonnes per year could be built in two to five years at a cost of $200-$400 million.

New tech presents options for refining at Yabulu
The first shipment of hard coking coal from Cook Colliery since its recommissioning under new owner Bounty Mining has sailed from the Port of Gladstone.

The 34,000-tonne cargo was sold to privately-owned coal marketing and logistics group Xcoal Energy & Resources, which is also a major shareholder in Bounty, under an existing offtake agreement.

Bounty Mining said shipments would become more frequent over the coming months as it ramped up output from Cook Colliery, south of Blackwater in central Queensland, with the company targeting a 2.2Mtpa production rate.

Bounty acquired the Cook Colliery and Minyango coking coal project for $31.5 million late last year after former owner Caledon Coal was placed into administration.

Bounty chairman Gary Cochrane said farewelling the first shipment of Cook coal was another significant milestone in the company’s history, following on from the successful initial public offering and listing on the Australian Securities Exchange in June.

“We look forward to growing exports from Cook, taking full advantage of the underutilised infrastructure we have taken ownership of and establishing Bounty as a leading Australian producer of hard coking coal,” he said.

Cook coal ships from Gladstone after restart
An open day at Port of Townsville this weekend will showcase the equipment on its way to the $160 million Kennedy Energy Park near Hughenden and highlight the huge logistical efforts involved.

The event has been organised by Port of Townsville Limited along with energy park owners, Windlab and Eurus, and project contractors Quanta Solar and Vestas.

The MV Huanghai Advance arrived in Townsville this month to deliver cargo for the project, including 36 x 67m long wind turbine blades for what are said to be the largest wind turbines in Australia.

NSS worked alongside Rex J Andrews Transport to discharge the cargo, with the wind turbine blades being unloaded using the MV Huanghai Advance's cranes in tandem. 

The open day will run from 10am to 2pm on Sunday (July 1).

The Kennedy Energy Park Display is a free event, open to all ages and includes:

- Guided bus tour of the Port of Townsville
- Technical explanation and interactive tour of the wind turbine 
- A wide range of industry exhibitors
- Food and beverage kiosk 
- Merchandise giveaways

Tickets at

Open day showcases wind farm activity

Barminco has won the mining contract for the Mount Colin underground copper operation near Cloncurry as owner Round Oak Minerals brings the new mine online.

Round Oak, formerly CopperChem, expects the mine to employ 70-80 people and have a lifespan of about four years.

Chief executive officer Rob Cooper said the mine portal would be developed into the wall of the Mount Colin open-cut, which was last mined about three and a half years ago.

“There is a about a kilometre of decline development to access the ore body at the first production level,” he said.

“While we’ll access development ore within the first six months, we expect it will be almost 12 months before first stope production and about two years to get the mine to steady state production at a rate of 400,000 tonnes per year.”

The underground project contains an ore reserve of 1.3Mt at an average grade of 2.9 per cent copper and 0.4g/t gold.

Mr Cooper said Round Oak had a toll treatment agreement with Glencore for the ore, which would go to the Ernest Henry operation for processing.

The company is also kicking off a new gold development near Cloncurry, with clearing work starting at its Wallace South site.

Mr Cooper said activity there was expected to ramp up in July.

That operation is expected to create 30-35 jobs on the mining side, as well as about 25 positions at Round Oak’s newly constructed gold processing plant at Cloncurry.

Barminco to mine Mount Colin