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KEYNOTE: Upgrades, Modernisations and Expansions … Where Will the Expertise, Capability and Skills Come from in the Future?

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Author R Coleman, J King and T Hunter
ID P201608008

Description

The industry that supports operations and new projects is suffering a rapid decline in the currently severely curtailed capital investment environment. This is evidenced by a decline in the number of skilled teams, who are now centred in fewer locations. Other features are an aging and retiring ‘Baby Boomer’ generation, coupled with a low uptake of new graduates and the uncertainty in predicting future capital expenditure programs and requirements. Combine this with a reluctance of cash-poor operations to modernise and adapt in an environment of low metal prices, and there is a real uncertainty in how service providers will meet industry needs as they evolve.

The industry that supports operations and new projects is suffering a rapid decline in the currently severely curtailed capital investment environment. This is evidenced by a decline in the number of skilled teams, who are now centred in fewer locations. Other features are an aging and retiring ‘Baby Boomer’ generation, coupled with a low uptake of new graduates and the uncertainty in predicting future capital expenditure programs and requirements. Combine this with a reluctance of cash-poor operations to modernise and adapt in an environment of low metal prices, and there is a real uncertainty in how service providers will meet industry needs as they evolve.

Trends amongst service providers will be put forward as well as developing options and alternatives. These embrace a whole gamut of agile alternatives in the areas of partnering, alliances, commercial and shared risk models and mutual innovations. These will be discussed with some case studies and suggested approaches.

Particular emphasis will be upon brownfield expansions and upgrades which have emerged recently as a preferred lower capital and focused way to achieve best practical outcome at lowest cost. There are a number of specific features of such brownfields projects including the requirement for very close cooperation between the execution team, operators, maintenance and suppliers and a maximum usage of site resources and ingenuity. Often, required investment hurdle rates are high, downtime allowed is minimal and site resources usage is maximised. This requires mutual trust, good planning and high health, safety, environment and community (HSEC) standards and practice. In many ways the practices and skills needed are the exact opposite of the historical ‘big greenfields’ project with which the industry has been geared for more recently.

Another developing area has been with innovative commercial models and practices. These have been as a direct result of the more challenging investment criteria being adopted and the relative hunger of service providers. It has become more common to look at these commercial/costing alternatives very early in the project cycle as an essential project tool and not just as a possible option. These commercial solutions cover such alternatives as leasing and rental, deferred payments, build–own–operate–transfer (BOOT) and build–own–operate (BOO), whole-of-mine preferred spares and maintenance terms, and aggressive performance targets with real assurance penalties. Once again this requires very close mutual dealings and trust, and sufficient time allocation compared to a conventional approach.

Citation:

Coleman, R, King, J and Hunter, T, 2016. Upgrades, Modernisations and Expansions… Where Will the Expertise, Capability and Skills Come from in the Future?, in Proceedings 13th AusIMM Mill Operators’ Conference 2016, pp 69–76 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).