Falling commodity prices and a rising supply surplus have ushered in a period of restraint in capital project investment across the global mining and metals sector. Competition for capital project funding has seen fewer projects progress through investment gates and a stronger focus on projects that deliver gains in capital productivity and strategic outcomes.
Over the course of the 2015 financial year, EY conducted a study of 108 projects in the global mining and metals sector (EY analysis; Larsson and Ericsson, 2014; SNL Financial, 2015). The projects studied were at various life cycle stages and related to the development of copper, iron ore, gold, coal, nickel and other commodities. Each individual project investment exceeded US$1 B, and the studied group represented a cumulative investment value of US$367 B.
The research found that the majority of projects were delayed and/or over budget when measured against the initial estimates made during the early stages of the project life cycle. Of the surveyed projects, 69 per cent were identified as facing cost overruns with an average overrun of 62 per cent above the initial estimate and 50 per cent reported schedule delays, even after remedial acceleration initiatives.
The analysis found that budget and schedule overruns could be attributed to five key causes:
- project management factors
- stakeholder conflicts
- resource constraints
- regulatory, and policy-related challenges
- unfavourable external environment.
Improving project delivery performance starts with successful planning, followed by rigorous management during delivery. From global experience on large and complex capital programs, EY has observed a consistent theme of underinvestment and a lack of focus in three often-overlooked but critical areas:
- implementing effective governance and reporting frameworks with lead indicators that reliably flag emerging risks while they can still be mitigated
- allocating adequate cost and time contingency to account for risks across the life cycle
- enhancing the value of contingency by aligning contingency plans with scenario plans.
This paper explores the surprising findings of the study, proposes a root cause model and examines key considerations in applying these critical enabling techniques.
Hudson, L, Mitchell, P, Ferres, G, Bobbermien, K and Pushpan, S, 2016. Are your megaproject schedules and costs under – or out of – control?, in Proceedings Project Evaluation 2016, pp 75–85 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).