Historically, mining companies have factored the cost of building new infrastructure—such as port facilities, roads, and railways—into their project development and logistic plans. To offset the non-renewable nature of resource extraction, companies have long understood the imperative to invest in long-term assets that support sustainable and inclusive community growth.
Yet, in recent years, the development of new infrastructure has become both cost-prohibitive and challenging to execute. Which begs the question: do alternatives exist? Fortunately, the answer is yes, and the key lies in shared use through collaboration.
The power of advance planning
While local governments traditionally use taxation revenues from resources to build new infrastructure, they often do so in isolation, without taking the needs of the mining industry (which generated these funds) into account. Through collaborative efforts, however, mining companies could help to bolster public and private infrastructure investments at the design phase, or play a part in expanding existing infrastructure to meet industry needs.
Although mine developers may need to build new roads to connect to public highways—or even to ports in extremely remote regions—many coastal communities already have existing roads leading to local port and terminal facilities. These assets can be shared, expanded, or repurposed in a number of ways.
Using existing infrastructure in either an exclusive or shared arrangement can benefit both miners and local communities in other ways as well. For instance, it can help:
- Reduce the incremental capital cost of infrastructure investments
- Optimize opportunities for sustainable local development
- Foster social trust in the potential contribution of mining development to the local region
- Minimize environmental impacts, as it requires only minor changes to existing or shared infrastructure rather than mandating completely new construction
Using innovation to repurpose existing facilities
Finding alternative uses for existing infrastructure can be facilitated by the use of innovative solutions for the movement of mineral products. For instance, containerized bulk handling systems use a custom open-top container with a locking lid to store and transport concentrate (or other product) in an environmentally friendly and cost-efficient manner. In Peru, Ausenco integrated this system into an existing bulk terminal facility for Las Bambas. This allows product to be moved by truck and train to the Port of Matarani, where the cargo is dumped into conventional bulk storage for loading through a common user ship loader operation.
Uncovering logistic solution savings
While mining companies have historically been resistant to sharing export terminal space with one another, this trend has been shifting as they begin to embrace the idea of collaboration. Although it’s rare to see third-party cargo introduced into an existing mining operation’s logistics chain, companies have begun to share mineral export facilities more frequently. In some cases, these facilities are being built under joint venture (JV) arrangements between mining companies, while others are independently operated by a third party.
Regardless of the ownership structure, these shared facilities allow producers to pool their resources to reduce investment costs, while giving them options to blend their concentrates to better meet market needs. Consider, for example, Terminal Portuario Paracas (TPP) in Peru, where Ausenco designed a new concentrate storage and blending facility that multiple producers in the region will utilize before their cargo is loaded to ships at the Port of Pisco. To further optimize shared resources in the region, Ausenco included the use of this same facility in the concentrate logistics plans for the new Mina Justa mine we’re currently completing construction of for our client Marcobre.
If you’re looking for a way to reduce the cost of your overall logistics solutions, we can help. Leveraging years of experience developing studies to test the viability of logistics solutions using existing infrastructure, we have developed an innovative approach to make brownfield sites viable.
A closer look at containerized bulk handling
First developed in Australia, containerized bulk handling allows concentrate (or other product) to be sealed in a specialized container until it’s ready to be loaded onto a ship. This allows the product to be temporarily stored without the need for a bulk storage facility at the transfer location or the export terminal site. The system also allows for bi-modal transportation with both container trucks and trains, without dust, spillage, or contamination issues. Standard container handling equipment can be used to move the product and store it at port, while vessels can be loaded over an existing container dock or a general cargo dock using shore-based cranes. Once in place, a speciality rotating spreader unit opens and closes the system’s lid, allowing cargo to be dumped directly into the ship’s hold with minimal dust. Ausenco has been a strong proponent of using this system for mining projects in the Americas. It is growing in popularity in South America, and most notably is currently being used at Puerto Angamos in Chile, where nearly one million tonnes of concentrate is loaded to ship this way each year.
With over 90 years of industry experience, we have supported more than 500 bulk cargo operations and designed 80% of all slurry pipelines worldwide. Drawing on our extensive in-house technical expertise, we do more than provide unbiased opinions on how best to move your product from Mine to Market. We also deliver fully integrated transportation logistics systems that are fit for purpose and work holistically with both upstream production facilities and the downstream distribution network.