Overcoming altitude – Ausenco recognised for challenging Andes project

Australia-based project manager Ausenco has won an award for deploying innovative solutions to overcome adversity at a challenging mining project located in the lofty heights of the Andes in north-east Peru. Mining Technology spoke to one of Ausenco’s project managers to find out more.


Constancia mine

Hudbay's $1.7bn Constancia Project, 4,100m above sea level in the Peruvian Andes, has faced many development challenges due to the location's harsh environment and high altitude. The project embodies many of the new challenges faced by mining companies as they are forced to explore in more remote and hard-to-reach locations for commercially viable resources.

Australia-based Ausenco, which was hired by Hudbay to provide engineering, procurement and construction management services to design, construct, and commission a 25 Mt/y concentrator and associated infrastructure for the project, was last week recognised for its work.

The company won the Innovation in Mining and Metals award at the 2014 Bentley Year in Infrastructure awards, held in London at the Hilton Metropole on 5 November, for its innovative approach to overcoming project challenges.

Speaking about the award, Ausenco senior design systems engineer Anuj Anand says, "It feels amazing to accomplish something of this magnitude. This is like winning an Oscar for us, so to be acknowledged at this level does feel good."

Overcoming altitude problems

The altitude of the project provided particular problems. For example, staff had to be gradually acclimatised to the excessive height to avoid altitude sickness. Workers would first climb to the town of Aguas Calientes, which is about 2,000m above sea level, to begin acclimatising. It is the nearest town to the historical Machu Picchu, which many workers took the opportunity to visit on their days off.



An unmanned aerial vehicle has completed a record-breaking 80-minute mapping mission above one of the world's highest mines.


Speaking of altitude-related challenges, Anand says, "I have heard from staff there that they get tired a lot faster than they usually would. That, along with getting heavy equipment up to 4,100 metres above sea level, were some of the big challenges we faced."
Successfully managing people and data.

The Constancia project, which is in its final stages of commissioning, was managed out of three different offices - Brisbane, Toronto and Peru - creating particular logistical problems with sharing up-to-date information.

"From a design and engineering perspective, we had a lot of new users in Toronto and Lima, Peru that we had to train in our standard systems and workflows," Anand says.

"Cultural challenges were also faced. To overcome these I spent some time with the users in these offices and we got them up to speed. The bit of innovation we came up with was a bit 'big brother', whereby we were able to put together one model from all the offices and report on a single database."

Ausenco used Bentley's ProjectWise and AutoPLANT software to help achieve this, while also reducing errors and increasing data integrity throughout the lifecycle of the project.

"The Constancia project was managed out of three different offices - Brisbane, Toronto and Peru."

Eventually, the mine will be entirely run from the Lima office.

Hudbay acquired the Constancia project in 2011 as part of its acquisition of Norsemont Mining Inc. According to Hudbay, initial production is expected at the end of 2014 with commercial production in the second quarter of 2015.

The project management team beat its colleagues at Ausenco working on another mining project called GoldStrike in Eureka County, Nevada, US and Vale Manitoba Operations' T1 Mine project in Manitoba, Canada to win the Innovation in Mining and Metals award.
Anand says he and his team will use the project and award as inspiration to keep coming up with innovative ways to deliver projects more efficiently for future clients and to keep challenging themselves further in the future.

Follow Heidi Vella on Google+  

Energy link