technical, management & sustainable solutions for open-pit mines

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jnel@tacmin.co.za

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Sarel Blaauw

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Top reasons why mine start-ups fail

AND WHY START-UPS SHOULD BE CARRIED OUT BY SPECIALIST FIRMS

Tacmin Madini has been assisting open-pit mining companies with mining, construction, management and technical solutions since 1996. One of the things we have recognized over the years is why mine start-ups fail, as the vast majority of operations improvement contracts carried out by us, are associated with the start-up of a mine. Hence, and based upon two decades of experience, Tacmin Madini expertise has packaged an unique outsourced turnkey start-up mine management service for mine and mineral right owners.


Below are among some of the top reasons why mine start-ups fail.


MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, ONE OR A COUPLE OF INDIVIDUALS ARE TASKED WITH THE RESPONSIBILITY TO START-UP AND DEVELOPMENT OF A MINE

In spite of the experience, qualifications or capability of the said individual(s), it is humanly impossible for one, or a couple of individuals to roll-out, implement and execute the findings, recommendations and engineering designs as compiled by multitudes of professionals firms during the period preceding mine start-ups. As such, in many instances the preceding due diligence work are not been adhered to or completely dismissed. 


TOO OFTEN A CONTRACT AGREEMENT WITH A REPUTABLE CONTRACTOR IS CONSTRUED WITH NO OR LIMITED OWNER MANAGEMENT OF THE SAID SCOPE OF WORKS

Mining contractors, do not assume geological, geotechnical, design, planning and scheduling responsibility, these functions are and remain the responsibility of the mine owner. Yet, several juniors as well as mid-tier mining companies tends to start-up and operate mines without adequate expertise required for the execution and management of the aforesaid disciplines, thereby relying heavily on contract miners to deliver the results.


CERTAIN PHASES OR SPECIALIST STUDIES OMITTED DURING EXECUTION OF THE PROJECT CHARTER STAGE

Sometimes due to the costs and or availability of data from projects / mines in close proximity, assumptions are made and the investigative study or study phase is not conducted, ironically aforesaid is sometime associated with core disciplines such as open-pit front-end engineering designs and geotechnical studies.


QUITE OFTEN THE EXECUTIVE TEAM MAY COMPRISE OF NON-MINERS

Added to which, the executive team, will often rely upon the expertise of one or a couple of individuals, and as pointed out above, executives will only consider a second opinion when things start going wrong. Aforesaid which is generally considered when the problem has developed to quite an advanced stage.


A DISTINCT DIFFERENCE IN MINERS WHO ARE COMPETENT IN MANAGING AN EXISTING MINE AND STARTING-UP OF A NEW MINE

Human resources or personnel agencies, in their search for talent, often do not distinguish between the difference in experience and as a result, individuals experienced in managing going concerns, are appointed to start-up a mine. In many instances it is realized that aforesaid individuals are not necessarily experienced and or the best solution to start-up and develop a new mining business.


LACK OF EXPERIENCED CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT PROFESSIONALS

Ramp-up and steady state mining is generally associated with the mine owners responsibility, yet a considerable number of open-pit mines employ contract mining methods, as a result contractors are managed by expertise who are less experienced in construction management. In other words, and for the avoidance of doubt, where contract miners are assigned, the application is better associated with a design-build construction project delivery method and should be managed by expertise with the necessary experience in this.


ENGINEERING AND PROCUREMENT BY PROFESSIONAL FIRMS FOR RAMP-UP AND STEADY STATE MINING NOT ENOUGH

Professional engineering and construction firms are better associated with engineering and construction of process plants and mine infrastructure. The aforesaid companies have built a reputation over decades of engineering, construction and successful handing over of on-time and within budget projects in a variety of disciplines and market sectors. Assigning of such firms during start-up of mines to merely engineer and procure contractors, do not imply that execution of the assigned scope of work will be successful, unless the execution and implementation was managed professionally. (a responsibility generally not associated with the aforesaid firms)


EMPLOYEES ARE HELD LESS ACCOUNTABLE THAN PROFESSIONAL COMPANIES

It remains a worrying factor that the mining industry has not been able to find an alternative to curb the multi-million dollars’ worth of budget overruns during start-up of a mine. The lack or absence of specialist companies to assume responsibility during the start-up phase, has left the owner with little to no choice but to assign this responsibility to their own personnel. Aforesaid which implies that the mine owner, unless a specialist firm was tasked, assigns the responsibility to individuals who are held less accountable than professional companies.


In anticipation to demonstrate the competency level between individuals and that of a company, compare your designated start-up project managers' experience with that of a company specializing in outsourced start-ups


To find out more on outsourced turnkey start-up mine management please refer to our contact page