Australian consulting engineering and R&D firm Soto Consulting observes that Australian mining companies are focussing on sustainable Capex to maximise their returns from existing assets and get more production and productivity gains.
WA mining companies can look to the engineering experience honed over decades in the NSW industrial sector of Illawarra to find a new efficiency option in the quest to minimise expenses at the top of the resources chain.
Soto Consulting services some of the leading names in the Illawarra supply chain including Billiton, BlueScope and Boral. Having overseen the business in mining and process technology related projects around Australia, Managing Director Mr Frank Soto believes the sheer scale of the mineral resources sector in the country often draws focus away from the post Capex period when the company can achieve even greater savings.
Having come in at the tail-end of major capital expenditure projects, Soto Consulting has observed that the large Engineering Procurement & Contract Management (EPCMs) companies, which are set up for the delivery of significant major Capex projects, do not always leave a lasting or reliable legacy of a processing plant.
Mr Soto explains it is often left to the new plant owners to resolve plant reliability and production issues and reduce cost of the operation, forcing them into implementing sustainable Capex projects to resolve the shortcomings handed to them.
Where Soto Consulting has been able to assist these companies is in the flow of Opex work straight afterwards when the equipment is all in-situ but perhaps not operating or performing as required after commissioning. Working with the new plant owners and their reliability and asset managers, Soto Consulting has been able to provide fast and cost effective solutions to the shortcomings they have inherited by redesigning the non-performing elements of the plant.
Once the plant or mine commissioning is finalised, major consulting and construction firms move on leaving the plant optimisation and reliability improvements to other companies that have a better understanding of the needs of an operational plant and that next level of optimisation.
Across the entire plant and operation, targeted operational expenditure will deliver improved reliability and increased production and yields. Experts have to be on hand to advise mine managers and plant operators about replacements and upgrades to derive optimum use from the setup.
Leading miners and operators such as BHPB and RIO and FMG are focusing squarely on Sustainable Capex and Opex improvement projects to increase production, improve reliability and reduce the operating cost of their plants in order to increase profits to shareholders instead of taking the alternative and more expensive Capex option of new mines and plants in Australia.