Juan Castillo Paz
Director General
Kepler Constructora
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View from the Top

Mining Construction Experts Set New Safety Records

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 16:50

Q: How did Kepler Constructora become involved in construction projects for the mining industry, and which specific projects hold the most significance for you?

A: Kepler Constructora (Kepler) was created in 1975 in Monclova, Coahuila, which is known for the mining of coal and iron ore. We have been involved in projects in the precious and industrial metals sector since 2004. Our first prescious metal mining project was at the El Sauzal mine in Chihuahua, previously owned by Glamis Gold and now by Goldcorp. The mine was relatively small; it only had two mills, one crusher, one conveyor belt, and some lixiviation tanks. After that project, Kepler’s reputation started spreading to the mining sector in other states. We then started working on Goldcorp’s Los Filos mine, who then recommended us for the Peñasquito project and Fresnillo’s San Julian mine in Chihuahua. In total, we spent five years building lixiviation plants for gold, lead, and zinc at Peñasquito. This makes Peñasquito the most important project we have worked on, alongside Barrick Gold and Goldcorp’s Pueblo Viejo mine in the Dominican Republic. Our biggest project now is Grupo Mexico’s Buenavista del Cobre mine, where we have constructed the building for two of the biggest mineral grinding mills in the world. This required 40,000m3 of concrete since the building was over 40m high. After two years, we are currently finishing the third SX-EW plant at the site, where copper is extracted through solvents and electrolytic procedures.

Q: What have been the main challenges for Kepler in entering the mining industry?

A: Mining projects are often carried out in regions far away from urban areas. For example, it takes 15 hours of travel to reach Coeur Mining’s Palmarejo mine in Chihuahua. This is the most complex aspect of working in the mining industry for Kepler. We have to provide room and board, transport, and all the basic necessities for our workers, as well as televisions and football courts for entertainment. Transporting machinery is also an important challenge since the roads to a mine are often narrow and rough. Kepler’s Material Resources division takes care of transporting machinery, while our Human Resources division takes care of managing our staff, camps, and the living conditions that they operate in.

Q: Who are Kepler’s direct clients, and what is its relationship with these clients?

A: Our direct clients are the project administrators, which are hired by the mine owners. For example, we were hired by M3 for Peñasquito, while ICA Fluor hired us for the Buenavista del Cobre project. The administrators design the mine, do the engineering, take care of the procurement, and hire construction companies to carry out the project. On top of that, they are responsible for choosing the quality and the types of materials to be used. After all these considerations, they present the project plan to the owners who then make the final revisions and take care of the expenses. It is not very common for mining companies to directly contract construction firms.

Q: Since the design, engineering, and construction of mining projects are highly complex, how do you view the capacity of Mexican companies to manage these aspects?

A: Mexican companies still need to improve their capabilities and expertise for managing such projects. I have noticed that most of the exploration geologists and technicians for feasibility studies in Mexico are foreigners. Moreover, the administrators in all the mining projects we have been involved in have been foreign companies. While Mexican mining companies are hired for the construction, companies such as M3 and ICA, with the latter being partly Mexican, handle the design, the engineering, and the management.

Q: What makes Kepler stand out from the competition?

A: When I entered Kepler in the 1990s, we started to focus on acquiring the ISO 9001:2008 certification, which took us five years. We were the first Mexican construction company to acquire this certificate, and we have followed on to obtain national and international certificates for quality, safety, and environmental compliance. We have now achieved the highest records for safety and quality in Mexico. At Grupo Mexico’s Buenavista del Cobre and La Caridad projects, we have worked for over three million man-hours and four million man-hours, respectively, without accidents. At La Caridad, alongside Siemens, we have worked on two power generation plants and broke the worldwide record for manhours worked without accidents in the history of Siemens..