A holistic approach to transportation for mining projects

Joel Shirriff, Global Practice Lead, Terminals & Transportation, discusses cost-efficient ways to get your mining products to market.

When developing a mining project, planning typically focuses on how much mineral is in the ground, how to safely extract it, and how to process the ore in compliance with environmental standards. While market studies examine where the finished product might be sold, the product’s transportation to its final destination is often overlooked—and addressed only in a short paragraph and a single line cost figure in the NI43-101 report.

Unfortunately, this approach creates a challenge. That’s because, in many cases, downstream logistics can be a significant percentage of total production costs. It may even have a major impact on the financial viability of the overall project.

So how can companies overcome this challenge? By including different modes of transport in a holistic evaluation of the mine site process plant and infrastructure. In addition to streamlining logistics, this type of approach can reveal some valuable trade-offs where spending a little more in one area may result in major project savings.

"A holistic evaluation of the mine site process plant and infrastructure can reveal some valuable trade-offs where spending a little more in one area may result in major project savings. Good answers start with good questions"

While every project is unique, there are common questions that can help guide the decisions you make around both the mineral process methodology and the transportation solution that are best for you: 

  • What are the annual production rates into and out of the process plant?
  • Is the mine site extremely remote and/or have limited access to power and water?
  • What existing infrastructure can be used or expanded for the project, and at what cost?
  • Does the transport route cross over/around challenging geography, like lakes or mountains?
  • Can any part of the beneficiation process be deferred to a downstream location?


Uncovering hidden value

The core benefit of answering these questions is that the process alone will drive several decision points on the type and configuration of the overall project flow sheet. This should help you uncover the types of trade-offs that can deliver greater value for your project. Here are a few real-world examples to help you understand what this might look like in practice:

  • Using a slurry pipeline to transport concentrate through a mountainous region by moving the process filter plant from the mine to the terminal site instead of trucking dry product.
  • Transporting copper-gold concentrates to remote third-party smelters instead of constructing capital-intensive local beneficiation facilities. 
  • Batch loading different commodities rather than bulk transporting combined product and handling final separation at the export terminal or the final destination overseas.
  • Evaluating the cost benefits of blending concentrates at a common user terminal facility with other product from other mines to offset end customer penalties.
  • Using multi-modal containerized bulk transportation to optimize existing infrastructure and storage needs instead of using a single technology to avoid re-handling costs.


Innovation delivered

No matter what mode of transportation you use—from heavy haul rail, trucking, and overland conveyers to slurry pipelines and beyond—there are likely trade-offs you can make to improve the economics of your mining projects. All it takes is a little innovation and experience. That’s where we come in. With a long history of developing transportation solutions for a variety of commodities, we have both the experience and understanding of modern technologies and environmental compliance issues to devise optimal systems from mine to market.

To learn more about how we can help you get your mining products to market with the best value, please visit our Transportation and Logistics page.  


Our experience

With over 90 years of industry experience, we have supported more than 500 bulk cargo operations and designed 80% of all slurry pipelines worldwide. Drawing on our extensive in-house technical expertise, we do more than provide unbiased opinions on how best to move your product from Mine to Market. We also deliver fully integrated transportation logistics systems that are fit for purpose and work holistically with both upstream production facilities and the downstream distribution network.


Looking for support on your next project? Our team of experts are ready to help, reach out to Joel Shirriff to learn more.


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