Interview with Patricio Muñoz, Ausenco’s Vice President of Commissioning for South America. Article first published in Minería Chilena, May 2022. Reprinted with permission.
Ausenco is providing commissioning services for some of the most important mining projects in South America and is recognized for its experience, and quality of service.
So says Patricio Muñoz, Vice President of Commissioning South America at Ausenco - an Australian company with 30 years of experience, specializing in consulting, project delivery, asset operations and maintenance solutions for the mining industry.
"Ausenco has built and commissioned more than 20 mining plants in Chile, Peru, Australia, Canada, Mexico, and other countries; we have extensive experience delivering high-quality projects with a level of professionalism and management that is exceptional", highlights the executive.
Muñoz states that Ausenco, based on the experience of several start-ups, has developed a standard commissioning process. "This includes the development of a strategic commissioning plan and aligning all parties involved in delivering the strategy. This involves workshops that reinforce the importance of being prepared for unforeseen events and equipping everyone with the resources to solve problems as they arise. In the development of the commissioning strategy, we include operators, maintainers, and the suppliers of the most critical equipment, thus ensuring the strategy respects the testing procedures defined by the suppliers. In this manner, we can make sure that all equipment will function reliably and at an optimum level once the operation commences and that it can be maintained at this level in the future”, he specifies.
Once load commissioning tests are completed, the team is prepared to continue providing support during the ramp-up period and plant stabilization. "We even have the ability to design plans for maximum capacity testing at the end of the ramp-up, and thus detect 'bottlenecks' early and suggest engineering solutions to increase the project's production capacity," Muñoz points out.
The executive highlights that Ausenco's commissioning team is made up of highly qualified specialists with extensive experience in the operation, maintenance, and commissioning of mining plants. He adds " They are incredibly committed, disciplined, and above all, passionate about what they do., These are people who, after many years of working for different mining companies, want to share their knowledge and teach others".
Experience with SGO
Ausenco participated in the commissioning of BHP's Spence Growth Option (SGO) project, where US$2.46 billion was invested for the construction of a copper and molybdenum concentrator plant that will extend the useful life of Minera Spence for another 50 years.
"We arrived at SGO before its construction was completed to prepare the development of the strategic commissioning plan and had 70 people on-site at the peak of the commissioning process," says Muñoz.
Through a final test called Water Run, which is performed with full water of the entire plant, the company verified the operation of the instrumentation, operation and tuning of the control loops, in order to ensure the operability of the entire production process. " These checks and tests are key to a successful ore test," he explains.
The most challenging aspect of the project was meeting the schedule during the Covid-19 pandemic. "We had to resort to augmented reality technology to facilitate the work of commissioning using smart cameras placed on people's helmets, to remotely incorporate the participation of suppliers and operators in the tests and verification walks. Thanks to the close collaboration with the client from the beginning, everything turned out favorably," he points out.
Today Ausenco continues to support SGO´s operation, and currently provides commissioning support to Teck's Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 and Capstone Copper's Mantoverde projects in Chile, Anglo American's Quellaveco project in Peru, and Silver Crest's Las Chispas project in Mexico. In addition, Ausenco has recently been awarded the commissioning support for Minera Los Pelambres´INCO project. " We continue participating in new opportunities in the region and developing a high value-added commissioning service for our clients," adds Muñoz.