Jim Norine
Director for Minerals and Metals
Ausenco Southwest
View from the Top

Success Recipe: Get in Early, Design Well, Build Cost Certainty

By Lorenzo Núñez | Tue, 07/06/2021 - 08:30

Q: What opportunities do you consider the right fit for Ausenco?

A: At Ausenco, we value our clients, and we believe in helping them build better businesses because that means that we are doing the same. We design and build the projects that our clients need; always with attention to safety, operability, and financial success. We are always striving to find a better way through creativity, flexibility, and innovation, and we are interested in working with clients that are also looking for the best way to accomplish their project.


Right now, we are focusing on precious and base metals. We are looking at copper, nickel, gold, silver, lead and zinc as our core business and that is where we are going to continue growing our expertise. Those are the right fits at the moment. In some cases, with junior miners, we are able to agree a fixed-price turnkey, which is very important for them.


Q: How does Ausenco manage the turnkey system and make it a successful business model?

A: We like to get in early and build out the pricing uncertainty. This allows us to identify where there is certainty and where there is uncertainty. I have been very impressed with Ausenco’s designs because their work is efficient and well suited. It is about getting in early, having a good design and building cost certainty around that. We also have extensive benchmarking experience from projects we have built, and we use that as a comparison for our new projects. Our team asks questions like, what does this project need, based on these working projects that we have built? What are the lessons we have learned?


Q: How does Ausenco introduce new technologies to the Mexican market?

A: We have a special division that is essentially a focus group. It is called Emerging Process Technologies. That group focuses on looking for non-conventional, non-traditional methods of increasing production, often for lower grade ore. We include solutions like ore sorting and coarse particle flotation. Truth be told, many junior mines are very welcoming to new technologies and new ideas, mainly because the owners of those companies are looking for better ways to satisfy their stockholders. Some major mining companies have also been open to trying some of our solutions, but the reality is that those big companies probably have their own people looking at new technologies from within.


Q: To what extent do Ausenco’s technologies focus on addressing potential environmental risks?

A: The ESG initiative is about doing the right thing; doing what you are supposed to do. There should not be a cost associated when it comes down to ESG since this is a big part of what we do. Ausenco has a longstanding commitment to sustainability. Our success and reputation are built on developing innovative designs to reduce footprints and environmental impacts.  Our designs focus on eliminating waste, such as using less steel and concrete. In regard to green initiatives on energy, we are seeing more of those. In Mexico, the CFE can have a reputation for maybe being a bit particular in regard to certain procedures that take a great deal of time and a great deal of money. So, we are certainly seeing many owners now that are entertaining ideas of incorporating solar and natural gas turbines for self-generation of power.


Q: How has Ausenco added value to the Las Chispas project?

A: Las Chispas has been quite interesting. The study actually fell under my governance because I originally came on as a manager of studies from Vancouver. Las Chispas is a project where we agreed to develop the guaranteed maximum price on an EPC agreement. This project was a classic example of how we do a feasibility study to fix a turnkey price. What is interesting at Las Chispas is that construction kicked off at the height of the pandemic. We had projects that were already underway during the pandemic in South America where we learned lessons but nothing like Las Chispas where they broke ground during the height of the pandemic in Mexico. Due to the intense COVID-19 period when we started, it helped us sharpen our sanitary policies regarding testing and social distancing. We learned a great deal during that period, and it translated into a new expertise of managing the virus while building a project.

As far as the project goes, it is a great one because it is on a great ore body. Construction has been very efficient  and our team on site is world class. This project is really a success story of how a feasibility study turned into a successful EPC launch.


Ausenco specializes in providing consulting, engineering, project delivery and asset operations, management and optimization solutions to the minerals and metals, oil and gas and industrial sectors.

Lorenzo Núñez Lorenzo Núñez Junior Journalist & Industry Analyst