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MEI Online: Plant Operation News: Middle East & Asia: August 31st 2005


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:: Engineering excellence up the Ho Chi Minh Trail Wins Top Award

Bateman, in joint venture (JV) with Ausenco, has been awarded Queensland, Australia's top engineering excellence award for its work on Oxiana Resources' Sepon Copper/Gold Project in the remote jungle of Laos.

The project undertaken by the JV team, known as the Khanong Development Group (KDG), was announced the R.W. Hawken Award winner at the 2005 Queensland Engineering Excellence Awards, ahead of 29 other major and innovative engineering projects. The project was also awarded the Engineering Excellence Award for Resource Development.

The challenge at Sepon was to engineer, procure, construct and commission a world-first copper-processing facility to produce 60000 t/yr LME "A" grade copper cathode and to double the capacity of the existing gold plant to 2,5M t/yr of ore throughput.

The resulting copper facility incorporates a patented copper-leaching process which allows consistent copper recovery from secondary sulphide minerals with an ability to accommodate high-carbonate oxide ores, which are high consumers of acid. The remote location requires the acid and ferric reagents to be generated autogenously on site.

The project, which ran from January 2003 to March 2005, was delivered two weeks ahead of schedule and under budget. This was achieved in the face of considerable odds which included the fact that the project is located 42 km up the infamous Ho Chi Minh trail requiring unexploded ordnance to be cleared before work could commence. In addition, the remote location meant that the site was over 1 000 km from the nearest port, with 1 430 materials deliveries to be expedited, including a 186 t autoclave which was transported and offloaded during the monsoon season.

The Sepon Copper project involved pouring over 25 000 t of concrete (mainly during the monsoon season) and installing more than 60 km of piping, much of which involved HDPE or special steels consistent with the aggressive process conditions. The project team also needed to manage the environmental and cultural impacts identified in the ESIA (environmental- and social-impact assessment) report and make use of local unskilled personnel within the administration and construction workforce. Achieving an LTIFR (lost-time injury-frequency rate) of less than 0,15 per 200 000 manhours over the 6,7 million manhours expended was a significant achievement, given that over 30% of the site workforce involved personnel with no previous industrial experience.

At the presentation of the awards, the Queensland President of Engineers Australia, Melissa Griffith, said, "Judges were impressed at the degree of engineering design, innovation, planning and successful implementation in relation to this complex project under unique circumstances. The Khanong Development Group Joint Venture is an example of exceptional engineering merit."

The R.W. Hawken Award is presented in honour of a significant contribution to engineering in Queensland and across Australia, made by Professor Roger William Hawken, Chair of Engineering and Dean of the Faculty at the University of Queensland for 29 years.




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