Mine and plant construction consume the majority of initial capital costs for mining projects, and their successful planning, implementation, and completion are fundamental to the project’s success. Our associates have the experience and expertise to support mine and plant construction efforts and to plan for smooth transitions from the initial design phase through planning, construction, and finally operation.
Our associates’ experience includes comprehensive planning to ensure that all aspects of the construction program have been thought through and prepared for, including risk assessment, health and safety, budgeting, scheduling, quality control and assurance processes, contract management and change procedures, and oversight. Planning may include developing construction methodologies; describing the work from start to finish including the sequence of work elements, inspection points, and hold points; identifying required plant and equipment; identifying sources for materials and locations for storing at the project site; and identifying any required work permits. Our associates can identify long lead items and provide scheduling to identify when those items must be specified, when RFPs need to be sent out, when vendors needs to be selected, and when agreements need to be approved. Our team develops Project Execution Plans (PEPs) that include all of these aspects working closely with the client’s key team leaders creating an effective and necessary planning tool.
Our associates’ project controls experience ensures that project progress, concerns, and priorities are well communicated. We develop detailed project schedules with milestone dates, resource loading, and budget tracking. We conduct productivity analyses (planned vs. actual vs. earned) and estimate hours and costs to complete at regularly scheduled times. We develop logs for tracking and managing issues, requests for information, and risks. Our project controls experience and insight ensures that all stakeholders are apprised of project progress and potential issues and risks as soon as they develop.
Throughout the planning and construction, our associates act as the owner’s engineer, managing design and construction contractors, coordinating all aspects of the work, controlling documents, budgets, and schedules. During construction, our experienced engineers provide oversight of construction activities, quality assurance, and work flow; conduct materials sampling and testing; provide management and documentation of work completed, changes, variances, issue resolution, quality, and health and safety. We coordinate and liaise with the client’s personnel and foster a collaborative, effective team.
Construction Support services include:
- Owner’s Engineer
- Engineer of Record
- Construction Quality Assurance
- Construction Management
- Project Management
- Geotechnical and Materials Testing
- Post-Construction Monitoring
- Trouble Shooting and Remedial Action
- Instrumentation Monitoring
Support for project construction completion is provided in several key areas. These are outlined as follows:
- Ensure proper interfacing and coordination of construction completion with necessary testing and Owner startup requirements.
- Recommend schedule revisions and construction manpower loading changes, as appropriate, to ensure that construction completion meets the schedule.
- Develop punch lists outlining critical work items which jeopardize the established test schedule.
- To effectively deal with problem areas, daily and weekly meetings are held with key construction personnel to review progress and, if required, to establish recovery measures.
Generally, construction activities are organized on a craft basis. While such an approach is logical from a manpower standpoint, it doesn’t necessarily lead to timely completion of sections of a plant. As a good example of this, some years ago, a five line iron ore concentrator was built. To make the work convenient for the labor force, selected items were completed on an assembly line basis. A pump would be installed on mill line 1 followed by the identical pump on mill lines 2, 3, 4, and 5. While certainly efficient from a construction standpoint, the approach wasn’t compatible with the Owner’s desire to start the first mill line early to allow bringing the operators up to speed and to confirm that the equipment and process steps operated satisfactorily. To solve this dilemma, the preoperational test engineer worked with the construction department to establish a revised completion schedule to meet the Owner’s need while at the same time allowing the construction completion effort to remain as efficient as possible.
Interface with Manufacturers
Final check-out of installed equipment frequently involves assistance of manufacturer’s representatives at the jobsite. Organization and control of this activity is the responsibility of the preoperational test engineer. In completing this function, the following points should be noted.
- Careful scheduling of the manufacture representatives jobsite visits is required to ensure timely check-out of equipment.
- Should any equipment operational defect develop, corrective action is initiated immediately with the manufacturer’s representative. The preoperational test engineer would prepare backcharges, as appropriate, to cover all costs associated with correction of the problem.
Coordinating vendor representative’s arrival with completion and testing requirements is no easy matter. Frequently, we find that vendors are very reluctant to provide immediate service when unforeseen problems are encountered.
As an example, we once had operating difficulty with a small pump. The vendor was very disinterested in our problem and advised that there were 1,000 similar pumps in service operating very satisfactorily. Left to our own resources, we disassembled the pump and found that there was, in fact, a design deficiency. Again contacting the vendor, who was still unsympathetic, we volunteered to pay travel and time to inspect the pump. The vendor agreed and sent a service engineer to the jobsite. Upon inspection, the service engineer quickly acknowledged the design deficiency and took the necessary steps to correct the problem.
With the ever increasing cost, size and complexity of modern day plants, a total commitment to front end preoperational test planning is well justified. The planning phase, if well organized and thought out, enables everyone to come up to speed quickly, thus eliminating the need for last minute decisions on who handles what. This point becomes particularly important during the initial stages of startup where situations can arise which necessitate rapid change.
It is imperative that the planning phase include early discussions with the Owner to incorporate any specific requirements unique to the project. It may develop, for example, that considerable tax benefits could accrue from starting up portions of the plant early. A proposed operator training program could include turnover of selected plant facilities early to allow orderly completion of personnel training. Also, it could prove beneficial to turn over sections of the plant to allow plant solutions to be brought up to strength prior to startup. An example of this would be preparation of acidic copper solutions for an electrowinning facility.
After startup requirements are defined, a simplified plant startup sequence diagram is often prepared. This diagram forms the basis for a detailed preoperational test schedule. Preparation of a detailed preoperational test schedule is essential to coordinate completion of the construction effort so that it will be consistent with the agreed upon plant startup requirements. This may sound straight forward, but in fact it isn’t. We have seen situations where plant facilities, not required for immediate startup, are completed at the expense of other facilities critical to the overall plant startup effort. It becomes obvious that front end planning is necessary to ensure that such scheduling errors do not develop. A typical preoperational test sequence commences with the plant utilities and then follows the process through the plant on a facility-by-facility basis.
The preoperational test schedule provides a detailed plan to verify that plant facilities and equipment are ready for initial startup and operation. Sufficient time is scheduled, based primarily on experience, to properly examine plant component design, materials and workmanship. Tests are completed to ensure that equipment and systems are correctly installed and operate in accordance with the drawings and specifications.
Lists of each item to be tested are carefully prepared and scheduled. For example, instrumentation calibration and functional loop tests are completed to ensure that each loop functions in accordance with the design intent. Test data are recorded to certify settings, scale ranges and operation. All mechanical equipment is turned over to verify safe run-in of the equipment, and piping pressure testing is completed.
Final scheduled test run-in confirms proper operation of the equipment and related systems. The test runs are scheduled to be of sufficient duration to ensure proper operation and alignment of drive systems. During the test runs, if equipment or systems are found to be defective, repairs or replacements are made on a priority basis. After correcting the problem the equipment is always re-tested and then tagged for turnover to the Owner. A color coded tagging system is used to designate the status of equipment and components under test. A green tag is used to denote that testing has been successfully completed and that the item has been turned over to the Owner for operation.
In summary, the time spent planning a pre-operational testing program will prove invaluable when the actual plant startup period gets under way.