Mineral processing at Ausenco

At Ausenco, our ultimate objective is to develop solutions that maximize our clients' return on investment while managing technical risks and environmental, social & governance (ESG) factors. By establishing the best fit-for-purpose mineral and metal extraction processes, we achieve the highest project value based on capital costs, operating costs and metal recovery.

Keeping an eye on operating costs, capital costs and metal recovery

The key components of operating cost optimisation include ease of operation (process stability), energy and water efficiency, maintainability and consumables costs (e.g. reagents, grinding media). Each of these are considered in the context of a given project (i.e., location, ore characteristics, ESG parameters) to assess a range of processing options.

Capital cost-effective processing plant design is a key differentiator for Ausenco. We focus on plant footprint minimisation to reduce the quantities of concrete, steel, cable, piping and other bulk materials. The cost of these installed bulk materials contributes up to 70% of a project cost, and by reducing the footprint, we can reduce project capital cost by up to 25%.

Optimum metal recovery is a function of applying the best combination of comminution, mineral beneficiation and metal extraction processes in concert with consideration of operating and capital costs. We compile a simple "target" techno-economic model early in the project evaluation and study process. This drives the subsequent work so that the engineered solution falls within the economic boundaries of a successful project and the project risk is managed effectively through pertinent sub-studies and test work.

Maximizing value at every project stage

We seek to be cost-effective in each stage of the project development process. Early in the project cycle, we focus on defining a technical solution that maximises value and matches the project timeline and risk profile. During the feasibility and delivery stages, we focus on capital cost-effective engineering and design that delivers a mineral processing plant that reaches design performance in a short period of time.

Project value can be significantly improved by focussing engineers and designers on the cost (operating and capital) implications of their engineered solutions. "Standard" designs need to be continually challenged and improved while meeting or exceeding statutory requirements.

Reusing designs from past projects can be a cost-effective solution, but the engineer always needs to be aware of the opportunity for improvement. As an example, Ausenco's grinding circuit designs for large projects in South America typically use less than half the concrete and steel when compared with the norm.

A focus on ESG

The increasing focus on ESG factors has led to a greater emphasis on energy efficiency in comminution (the major energy user in mineral processing) and water efficiency in all projects. The focus is now on producing waste streams with the coarsest particle size without materially impacting metal recovery. This reduces energy consumption, reduces water held up in tailings waste storage, and reduces the project's overall environmental and social footprint. Ultimately, low operating costs allow lower grade ore to be treated and result in more efficient use of resources.


Simplicity is the key to good project delivery. Projects that over-complicate their delivery processes will result in increased capital costs and longer project delivery times. From the people perspective, there are three key drivers

  • Team leadership that structures a project for success
  • Team members who "know what good looks like" and are not reinventing or redeveloping solutions
  • A culture of trust based on listening, challenging, aligning and delivering (the best outcome on time)

In summary

Increasing the value of a mining project starts with selecting the best processing flowsheet, then materialising the flowsheet in the optimum footprint (plant layout) to reduce bulk material quantities. With lower bulk material quantities, the project is faster to construct, and the inherent simplicity makes the well-designed project easier to commission, operate and maintain.

Every step we take is in the context of finding the optimum solution that delivers the best value for our clients.

Contact Greg Lane & Ademir Ramirez to learn more.

*Article content first published in Mineria Chilena