South32 has started assessing the impact of Cyclone Megan on its GEMCO manganese operations in northern Australia. The company temporarily suspended operations at the site and confirmed that the mine will remain closed until further notice. 

As a category three Tropical Cyclone, Megan made landfall in the Gulf of Carpenteria, stranding hundreds of people in the remote Northern Territory. Initial damage assessments indicate flooding in the GEMCO mining pits, significant damage to a critical haul road bridge, and suspected substantial structural damage to the pier and port infrastructure. 

South32 is evaluating alternative shipping arrangements while the full impact of the damage is being assessed.

The company aims to return to safe operations as soon as possible and will provide a further update in its March quarterly report. While the work is underway, South32 has withdrawn its manganese guidance. GEMCO is one of the largest manganese ore producers in the world, producing 5.9 million tonnes of the metal worth $1.53 billion in the 2022-23 financial year. 

The mine is strategically located near export markets in Asia. Cyclone Megan has been downgraded to a tropical depression and was expected to deliver heavy rains to the NT’s outback regions. 


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Fortescue Sets Sail with Green Marine Fuels

Fortescue has again cemented its reputation as a leader in clean energy innovation, using ammonia as a marine fuel on the Fortescue Green Pioneer vessel in the Port of Singapore. To conduct the dual-fuel trial, the ship was loaded with liquid ammonia and diesel from a facility at Vopak Banyan Terminal on Jurong Island. 

The seven-week trial included rigorous testing of the ammonia storage systems, piping, gas fuel delivery system, retrofitted engines, and general seaworthiness of the Fortescue Green Pioneer. According to Fortescue’s chair, Andrew Forrest, the success of the Fortescue Green Pioneer proves that “safe, technical solutions for ammonia power engines exist”.

He added that “global emitters should start paying fair carbon prices for heavy fuels used in traditional shipping, which should provide clear investment signals to drive green investment.” The MPA’s CEO, Teo Eng Dih, said, “The safe conduct of this fuel trial supports the assessment of using ammonia as a marine fuel and the development of standards and safety procedures.”

The Fortescue Green Pioneer made its maiden voyage from Singapore to Dubai in December 2023 for COP28.

It symbolised the technology solutions and regulatory changes required to decarbonise shipping. 

Fortescue is now calling for the world’s ports to become capable of pollution-free shipping, as green ammonia is emerging as a bulk marine fuel. Andrew Forrest said he “looks to the leadership of the world’s ports to make it clear that running the world’s global shipping on dirty bunker fuel has to stop, as a pollution-free alternative is available.”

Shipowners have ordered several dual-fueled ammonia vessels from Fortescue to date.      

MinRes and Lithium Australia Launch LieNA Pilot

Australian Lithium and Mineral Resources are exploring a new technology for lithium production called LieNA. During the LieNA process, fine spodumene is fed into an autoclave, reacting with caustic soda to form a synthetic lithium sodalite. 

Lithium is then separated from the sodalite through a simple solid/liquid separation step. 

If successful, the LieNA technology joint venture has the potential to process years’ worth of lithium tailings to extract fine spodumene for refinement. According to Lithium Australia CEO and Managing Director Simon Linge, “The announcement marks a significant milestone in the joint venture with MinRes”.

“LieNA has significant potential at new and existing lithium mines, and the royalty model is expected to materially expand the company’s addressable market, capturing a fee on all tonnage processed using LieNA.”

Once the pilot program is successfully completed, Lithium Australia and MinRes will form an equal joint venture (JV) partnership to commercialise the LieNA technology. 

Lithium Australia’s mission is to lead and enable the global transition to sustainable lithium production. The company operates one of Australia’s leading battery recyclers, produces critical battery material lithium ferro phosphate, and has developed a patented lithium extraction technology.


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