Canadian Consulting Engineer

Peter Saunders   

Hatch discusses digital project delivery during PDAC convention

Industrial Hatch Mining

Hatch digital project delivery panel

Photo by Peter Saunders.

This morning, at the start of the second day of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada’s (PDAC’s) 2020 mineral exploration and mining convention, Hatch—a consulting engineering firm specializing in projects for that industry—hosted a panel discussion about digital project delivery (DPD).

With the theme ‘achieving lifecycle value,’ the discussion focused on how greater interaction between people and systems, via cloud-based software, can enhance efficiency for various stages of a mining project, from 3-D models with spatial data properties through scheduling, labour, material costs, sustainability to the use of a full ‘digital twin.’ While digitization has been a major component of the ‘Industry 4.0’ for the fields of engineering and manufacturing, Hatch suggests the mining industry still has a lot of room for improvement.

“A few years ago, there wasn’t a lot of evidence of what DPD could do,” said Randy McMeekin, Hatch’s global managing director of engineering, in his keynote address. “Today, there is.”

He went on to cite specific examples where DPD has been applied, including BHP’s Jansen potash project in Saskatchewan, Rio Tinto’s Koodaideri iron ore mine in Australia, De Beers’ Gahcho Kué diamond mine in the Northwest Territories, Anglo American’s Barro Alto nickel mine in Brazil and Freeport’s Tenke Fungurume copper-cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).


“On Jansen, we are using integrating our digital assets with our enterprise systems to provide value,” confirmed panelist Mike Elliott, head of engineering and digital strategy for BHP’s potash business. “We have a very strong automation agenda in place to get us, as a miner, as close as possible to a manufacturer by 2025.”

“We can collect all of our engineering data in a single hub, model a project in 3-D, add tags, make live updates and link tasks in our schedule to the data to save time,” said Laura Twigge-Molecey, Hatch’s managing director of engineering delivery.

“As we rely more on the 3-D model, we’re trying to take paper—and the associated room for error—out of the equation,” said Max Koepcke, construction co-ordinator for Walters Group, which builds steel projects for commercial and industrial clients.

“DPD can also make our work safer,” added Anthony Downs, former principal consultant for Hatch and current head of digital transformation for iron ore and nickel miner Vale. “”We have 100-year-old mines and underground collision avoidance is still an emerging topic. There is a need for more autonomous and semi-autonomous equipment.”

“Digitization can be tough to tackle, prioritize and quantify, but the benefits can be immense,” said Joe Lombard, Hatch’s global managing director for metals. “Competing factors such as cost, the environment, safety and technical viability are oat the forefront of thinking when today’s mining organizations are investing in or retrofitting systems.”


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