Image: Las Bambas 3rd Ball Mill Project: Management excellence brings a new team together to meet a common goal

Minerals & Metals3 min read

Las Bambas 3rd Ball Mill Project: Management excellence brings a new team together to meet a common goal

Apurimac Region, Peru
Minera Las Bambas S.A.
Copper, Molybdenum

Ausenco worked with Minera Las Bambas to lead an Integrated Management Team approach to the construction and commissioning of a 3rd Ball Mill at the Las Bambas copper mine in Southern Peru. Management leadership techniques and extensive safety training brought the project in on time, on a restricted budget, with a clean safety record.

The Challenge

The Las Bambas Mine is a copper and molybdenum project set in the mountains southwest of Cusco in southern Peru. After acquiring the property in 2014, Minera Las Bambas sought to improve metal recovery by an additional 3% by adding a 3rd Ball Mill to the existing circuit. Ausenco completed a pre-feasibility study (PFS) in 2017, a subsequent feasibility study (FS) in 2018, developed the engineering designs, and was awarded an EPCM contract to complete the project.

In early 2020, with 48% of the work completed using a single contractor, the COVID-19 pandemic unexpectedly halted progress. During the stoppage, Minera Las Bambas requested a new bidding process, and chose to resume construction with a new, contractor from China.

The Better Way

The project restarted in April 2021 under an Integrated Management Team (IMT) approach, with the challenge of completing first turn of the Ball Mill in October 2022. Our goal within the IMT was to integrate the client and contractor towards a common goal – teaching, learning, and supporting our partners – all within the restrictions of the pandemic, as well as ongoing local social unrest.

Encouraging integration between Minera Las Bambas, Ausenco and the contractor would be critical to our success. And as always, safety would be paramount. We developed safety programs and protocols that were new to the contractor and educated both management and workers in their importance and execution. Management was coordinated through several initiatives, including 6-week look-ahead (6WLA) to track the arrival of materials and equipment, 3-week look-ahead (3WLA) to track construction, and the implementation of a Constraints Log to detect delays early and act in advance to address them.

With equipment no longer part of the contractor’s scope of work, our team arranged contracts with local companies to source and provide the required items. We similarly took on responsibility for procurement and warehousing, ensuring supplies were available when needed. A critical component in construction was shared use of the existing 80-ton bridge crane, requiring continuous and direct communication with Minera Las Bambas Maintenance to coordinate scheduling availability.

The Outcome

Good communication and continuous direction and support allowed the IMT to work seamlessly with the contractor to meet the required delivery dates, with the first turn goal in October 2022 successfully achieved. The timely intervention in taking over responsibility for critical equipment, procurement and warehousing eliminated potential delays. Advance planning, daily meetings, and coordination with operations and maintenance teams allowed us to work to a scheduled shutdown plan and avoid any additional operational delay in bringing the 3rd Ball Mill online. The new Ball Mill has reduced the P80 grind size to 80% passing 200 microns at a throughput of 53.7 Mt/y.

Most importantly, the project saw more that 1,100,00 person hours of work completed without a lost time incident, demonstrating the successful implementation of extensive safety training to contractor personnel.