Mining consultants play a major role in the feasibility, planning, design and construction, operation and improvement of both small and large mines. Consultants are experienced design engineers, mine designers, operating specialists or maintenance engineers who operate independently of operating mines. They are available to work on:
- mineral exploration projects, where start-up companies have not yet recruited their own staff;
- mine and process plant conceptual design, engineering and construction where consultants’ greater experience can lead to significant cost savings prior to construction;
- project start-up, where extra hands are needed to work the bugs out of the process;
- mine and plant optimization, where a fresh set of experienced eyes can observe different dimensions of an operation and bring outside experience to solve problems;
The role of the consultant is changing with the major causes for change coming from:
- major technical advances in communication, particularly the ability to transfer large amounts of information by telecommuting through e-mail and the internet,
- the development of mine design packages and software systems that can be linked to databases accessed remotely by the mining operation and the consultant,
- and the global unavailability of direct hire experienced technical staff (for operating companies and consultancies),
- the reduction of on-site mine infrastructure and the establishment of mines as non-residential sites with extended work shifts on commute rosters.
Outsourcing of professional personnel for a range of functions from direct mine management to specific technical roles suits the operational and planning structure of remote mining operations. This trend will likely expand even to non-remote sites due to the unavailability of experienced technical staff.
Here is 911Metallurgist’s List of
Top Mining Consultants
- 911Metallurgy Corp Engineering – Canada
- AGP Mining Consultants Inc.
- SLR Consulting
- Mining Consultants – SRK Consulting
- Bain & Company
- Thomas Bagan
- Smart Dog Mining
Major advantages of using them are listed below.
- Consultants extensive backgrounds can be used to get the onsite staff up to speed faster.
- Consultants can provide continuity of on-site expertise on demand, thus reducing the overhead costs of recruitment, training and access to technical data.
- Mine management can assign consultants specific tasks in allocated times, thus reducing the number of on-site technical staff to cover peak requirements. Completing tasks using their own personnel may be made difficult by their involvement with day-to-day operational and planning
- Consultants generally come from a well-disciplined culture based on an efficient work style, have access to technical information from a wide mining database and confer with associates in all aspects of the industry.
- Interaction with experienced consultants can provide mentoring opportunities for younger operating company staff.
Risk considerations and their management:
- Consulting groups have suffered from the same issue as mining operations, i.e., loss of experienced people through retirement.
- Knowledge and skills are captured in consultant files and consultant employees, not in the operating company files or employees. Processes are required to mitigate this risk. Knowledge management practices at all mining consultancies are not equally good.
- Goal setting and validation of completion and value must remain the responsibility of the operating company. Projects and routine activities need to be defined.
- The expertise of consultants varies considerable. Operating companies need to maintain awareness of ‘their’ consultants’ competencies.
- QA/QC practices are highly variable across consultants. These should be evaluated and monitored.
Mining Engineering Consultants
Mining engineers are engineers who specialize in the design and working of mines. Distinguished from other fields of engineering such as civil, mechanical, electrical or chemical engineering, mining engineers are trained in many areas including specialized mining techniques, construction, mechanics, electricity and power supply, metallurgy, geology, accounting and economics. Mining Engineering/Mining Consultants are mining engineers who specialize in one or more facets of mining engineering and who should have a long and intensive experience in the mining industry.
Mining Engineering Consultants are sought after by clients who do not have a continuous or full-time need for mining engineering services. These clients can be non-mining individuals or companies, mining or exploration companies, financial underwriters and lending agencies, government agencies, or occasionally litigants.
Services performed by Mining Engineering Consultants include, but are not limited to, examination of mineral properties, planning and directing mineral exploration programs, preparation of mineral resource or reserve estimates, economic evaluations and appraisals, planning and directing metallurgical studies, mine planning and design, cost estimates, scoping studies, pre-feasibility studies, feasibility studies, due diligence reports, and court testimonies as expert witnesses. More recently, Mining Engineering Consultants have been sought after for participation in the preparation of Technical Reports that are compliant with the Canadian National Instrument 43-101 (more commonly referred to as NI 43-101), which contain Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects. NI-43-101 has become the de facto standard for technical reporting for mineral properties throughout the world because of its near universal acceptance as the “gold standard” for public disclosure of scientific and technical information about mineral properties and projects that are held by issuers of securities.
Further to the NI-43-101 disclosure requirements, the US Securities and Exchange Commission adopted new mineral property disclosure requirements of their own, effective 25 February 2019, embodied in their new subpart 1300 of Regulation S-K. The new rules “would require a registrant with material mining operations to provide both summary disclosure concerning its properties in the aggregate as well as more detailed disclosure about individually material properties.” “Registrants engaged in mining operations must comply with the final rule amendments for the first fiscal year beginning on or after January 1, 2021.” As with the NI-43-101 disclosure requirements, Mining Engineering Consultants will be sought after as “Qualified Persons” to author or co-author many of these reports.
Selecting a Mining Engineering Consultant involves reviewing prospective consultant’s qualifications and experience that are relevant to the client’s particular requirements. Prospective consultants may be either an individual or a member of a group or corporation. The client usually assesses prospective consultants by reviewing their Statement of Qualifications (SOQ) and determining how well the candidates fit the job requirements. Membership in professional organizations such as the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) or Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM), which have criteria for admitting and suspending members, help ensure the candidate is in good standing within his/her profession. Additional qualifications such as being a “Qualified Person” (QP) with respect to NI 43-101 are a bonus, since a QP must have sufficient experience and qualifications to make statements within Technical Reports that are compliant with NI 43-101. Other certifications such as licensure as a Professional Engineer add significantly to a consultant’s qualifications, since State Boards of Professional Engineers usually have strict requirements for obtaining and maintaining licenses to provide engineering services to the public.
Once one or more Mining Engineering Consultants have been identified, the Consultants are contacted to determine whether they have an interest in the particular assignment, and if so, they are provided with a Request for Proposal (RFP) that details the scope of work involved, the deliverables that are expected from the Consultant, and the timeframe for the project. In response, the Consultant will provide a formal proposal that outlines how they intend to provide the required engineering services, including an estimate of the time and cost involved, a project schedule detailing the order of priority for the tasks involved, their availability, and a resume of the project team member(s). Depending on the scope of the project, additional team members may have to be subcontracted in order to complete all of the tasks within the required timeframe and provide the necessary depth of experience and competency required.
The size and importance of the job will largely determine the manner and depth of investigation in selecting a consultant.