Russia-based diamond miner Alrosa’s significant investment in modernising and automating its manufacturing processes is aimed at improving operational performance and decreasing costs.
The transformation of Alrosa’s maintenance system alone is expected to result in an efficiency saving of about $45-million from 2021 to 2025.
The repair-and-maintenance reform is part of the company’s wider approach to continuously examining ways of making its production processes more efficient.
“We are pleased to say that the reform of our maintenance and repair system came online successfully in late 2020 and has been implemented at all five of Alrosa’s mining and processing divisions in the Yakutia region,” Alrosa first deputy CEO Igor Sobolev tells Mining Weekly.
Ninety percent of Alrosa’s diamonds are produced in the Yakutia region.
He explains that Alrosa has implemented a dispatch system, from technology company Wenco, at its openpit mining divisions in Yakutia, as well as its Lomonosov openpit mine, in Arkhangelsk Oblast.
Consequently, the waiting time for dump trucks during loading has been reduced by monitoring their working cycles and average loading time. The system informs drivers about which excavators are free for loading purposes by sending a message to the driver’s screen.
Additionally, Alrosa has implemented a ‘perfect shift’ system, which has demonstrated a marked decrease in fleet downtime. “Our specialists have succeeded in bringing the system up to date, achieving a 7% increase in the fleet’s daily capacity,” Sobolev enthuses.
The system enables the maintenance of dump trucks and excavators in a “Formula 1-like pitstop” process, with simultaneous maintenance and refuelling.
Alrosa dumpers can remain in operation, thanks to the ‘hot seat’ concept, which means that when one driver needs to leave the workplace, a substitute driver is ready to replace the driver.
Further developments include a system that uses the lithological characteristics of the ore to increase grinding mill productivity.
This system was recently introduced at one of Alrosa’s newest operations in Yakutia, the Nyurba mining and processing division. The system uses a rigorous process to select an optimal blend of ore, which has increased processing capacity from 220 t/h to 245 t/h.
“As the world’s largest producer of rough diamonds, Alrosa is wholeheartedly committed to conducting its business in a responsible way,” says Sobolev.
He stresses that the central priority of Alrosa is to promote an environment of safety by providing streamlined, efficient governance for its employees, capital and machinery.
“To ensure that Alrosa continues to champion this goal, we launched our 2025 Sustainability Programme and Commitments earlier this year.”
It comprises of five pillars – environment, community, people, health and safety, as well as governance and ethics.
The environment pillar stipulates the development and approval of an environment and climate change strategy by the first quarter of 2022.
The strategy will outline scenarios to achieve carbon neutrality, including an expanded scope of information in accordance with Alrosa’s Climate Disclosure project, as well as the implementation of recommendations by the taskforce on climate-related financial disclosures.
Alrosa allocates more than $150-million a year to implement community development and support programmes for the operational regions.
Alrosa’s social and environmental investments of $216-million are comparable to the amounts it spends on technical renovation, mining facilities and infrastructure of between $270-million and $340-million.
The share of social investment of its revenue is about 8%, reportedly the highest rate in the diamond industry.
“Alrosa will also strive to ensure that a consistently high share of local and indigenous people are employed.”
Ensuring consistent employee loyalty and satisfaction aligns with the people pillar, adds Sobolev.
The company aims to achieve zero injuries and a yearly 10% decrease in lost- time injury frequency rates as part of its health and safety pillar.
The company’s approach towards governance and ethics entails conducting regular diamond supply chain due diligence for 100% of its diamond production.
Sobolev notes that Alrosa’s manufacturing execution system (MES) was awarded the Best MES Mining Project at the yearly Wonderware Online Forum 2020 – which is dedicated to global industrial automation trends – in November last year.
“The Best MES Mining Project served as a testament to Alrosa’s ambition to champion new technologies in an industry which is forever evolving.”
He explains that the implementation of the MES system was first trialled in the Aikhal operation, and proved “very successful”, consequently making it possible to start replicating that success at other Alrosa operations, such as the Nyurba operation.
“We presented and implemented our project with dignity, never losing sight of our ambition. It was a pleasure and the utmost honour to see others recognise our hard work,” Sobolev concludes.