Construction Planning from Resources to RestorationWed, 10/21/2015 - 16:43
Mining and metallurgical construction projects have specific operating and financial requirements that set them apart from construction projects in other industries. Mine construction requires the transportation of materials and machinery, as well as water, electricity, and housing facilities to remote locations, often through rough terrain and over a period of several years, before a mine can be fully operational. Additionally, the facilities need to be built to resist harsh operational conditions, including high temperatures, chemical corrosion, and rock impact. Naturally, the design and production of these structures and operations requires highly skilled architects, engineers, and construction managers. In North and South America, M3 has become a respected design, engineering, and construction management firm responsible for managing large expansion and construction projects for mining companies.
“M3 was founded in 1986 in Tucson, Arizona, and has acquired comprehensive experience in the design and construction of mining-metallurgical processing plants throughout the years,” says Rafael Ayala, a senior Process Engineer for M3 Mexicana. “Since these projects require highly technical expertise and considerable capital investment, mining companies have solicited our services for the engineering and design of their processing plants.” M3’s reputation stems from decades of involvement in the mining industry and a list of successful projects in the mining-metallurgical sector. The trust that is placed in M3 is supported by a list of important clients which includes Grupo Mexico, Freeport-McMoRan, and Goldcorp. The company is mostly involved in gold, silver, copper, zinc, and lead projects, but its areas of expertise run the gamut from power generation, transmission and distribution, control, and automation, to programming, waste management and water treatment, metal lixiviation, ionic exchange of gold, silver, and uranium, and even to logistics.
Given the complexity of any mining and metallurgical operation, any design and construction firm must ensure that all mining-metallurgical structures will endure while remaining open to expansions. “The halting of a mining or metallurgical operation costs a lot of money for the company,” says Jaime Carvajal, a senior General Arranger for M3 Mexicana. “Once an operation has started, it should only stop on planned maintenance days.” This is not an easy task when considering that most mines experience unplanned downtime on a yearly, or even monthly, basis. Carvajal mentions that M3 can help prepare companies to overcome this downtime, even when caused by the design, engineering, and construction of other companies. “Many of our structural engineering staff also specialize in forensic engineering, meaning they can find out how and why something failed without having constructed it themselves,” shares Carvajal. “Fixing other people’s mess and making sure that these structures will not fail again is one of the services that we offer.”
The company has established such a reputable presence in the industry that, according to Carvajal, when M3’s founders and executives approve a project’s feasibility study, certain banks take it as a valid investment endorsement for the project. “Some projects are too risky to be economically viable, and that is exactly how M3 presents it to the banks,” adds Carvajal. “We carry out all the evaluations under international norms such as the Canadian NI 43- 101.” The US engineering and construction firm also follows the strict standards and norms of its home country in all international markets, placing it at the forefront of quality, safety, and technological development standards in Mexico. Carvajal makes it clear that the company does not compromise on quality or safety to reduce the cost of its services. “Companies that offer low-cost services tend to deliver the most expensive projects due to the increased volume of accidents and failures caused by the low-quality work,” he states. Along with strict quality and safety standards, M3 employs best practices related to environmental consciousness. Carvajal explains that M3 has follows trends in the sustainable development of the mining industry as it has become more committed to the environment. This evolution can be partially attributed to the growing importance of adequate mine closure and restoration plans. “For proper mine closure, an operator needs to carry out research on the local fauna and flora. These species must then be kept and maintained, together with the original soil, so that they may be reinstated after the mine has been closed,” he clarifies. Once a mine has closed, its ramps and slopes must be smoothed in a controlled, non-destructive manner to avoid erosion and surface run off. After the landscape has been remediated, the safely kept soil and species can then be relocated and the landscape can be restored. M3’s participation with these types of projects helps it maintain its close connection to the mining industry’s sustainable development.