Moose River Project – An Interview with PM Mark Cornwell

Author Ausenco
Service Area Gold

A sit down interview with PM Mark Cornwell to discuss the Moose River Consolidated Gold Project where Ausenco undertook the delivery of the 2 mtpa carbon-in-leach (CIL) processing plant and associated infrastructure. The project is located ~85 km north-east of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

 
Q: Why was Ausenco selected by Atlantic Gold to deliver the Moose River Consolidated Gold Project?
 
A: There are several key factors that played into this decision. We came to the table with a good relationship with the client, strong understanding of the project (having been involved in studies since 2007), and the flexibility to undertake this project on a lump sum EPC contract basis. 
 
This contracting method worked for both Atlantic Gold and Ausenco as we fully understood the requirements of the project and the financial constraints. Challenged with an aggressive schedule, and tight capital budget, we were able to identify cost effective options and find innovative solutions allowing us to design a truly fit-for-purpose project.
It takes trust on both sides of the contract to accept this approach and to move forward. This worked for us both as we have a strong partnership.
 
Q: How did you deliver the project on time and within budget?
 
A: A lot of hard work and having an excellent team who was aligned from the outset! This type of project relies on quick and efficient decision making. The team needs to be empowered to move forward and be innovative. This was achieved because the team knew the objectives and where highly skilled in their respective areas of expertise. 
 
We also benefited from having access to the construction team very early in the project. Identifying the risks and opportunities from the very outset helped us address and mitigate potential challenges. In addition, by having a good lead in and alignment with the client, we hit the ground running.
 
In terms of budget, a lot of effort was made on a local level to select the right contractor(s). We invested the majority of our lead in time getting the contractors’ cost structures and commercial position aligned with our contracting strategy. We also evaluated the contractors’ work and safety culture and selected those who complemented our skill set and capabilities.
 
Innovation was critical to success. The engineering team, procurement and contracts team applied new solutions and creativity for this project. Some examples are:
  • Modularisation of equipment/facilities 
  • Completion of critical pre-winter activities – e.g. building footings, ball mill and CIL tank foundations
  • Micro piling – we had never used this before 
Q: What were your biggest challenges?
 
A: The biggest challenge was the tight schedule. We had 16 months from the date of signing to takeover (i.e. the end of C2 commissioning and the introduction of first ore in the mill) and the schedule was challenged further with delays in getting the head contract executed. This pushed the commencement of construction closer to winter - cutting our window of good weather by two months.
 
We broke grounds on August 24th, 2016 which left us with three months before winter conditions. This created focus and prioritization for our engineers, resulting in a differing critical path than would be the norm, meaning their schedules and deliverables were targeted to suit the specific site requirements.
 
As a result of very careful planning and working closely with local contractors early on - who had experience in maritime conditions - we developed strategies and initiatives to avoid or mitigate challenges within the schedule. 
 
Our biggest driver in procurement and selection was timing! We carefully mapped out when major components had to be delivered to site recognizing the impact that Nova Scotia’s freeze/thaw cycles could have on trying to move heavy equipment. 
The decision to purchase the Ball Mill from a supplier in China was strongly influenced by schedule, as it could be delivered four weeks ahead of competitors, and we could get it to site by January 2017. In addition, to minimize time and exposure on-site, we deliberately delayed the building of the crushing area until after winter. The crushing equipment was modularized allowing us to erect and assembly quickly in the spring. 
 
Q: How did you maintain high standards of Health and Safety?
 
A: The project was delivered in less than 300,000 hours, which is relatively low when one considers the scope. We put emphasis on safety by having labour performed in more controlled work environments as per the following.
 
The modularization and package supply strategies reduced our overall site hours and significantly reduced hazardous risk activities such as working from scaffolding (tank erection), and in many instances, eliminated risk activities completely. For example, our CIL work area – which typically requires a lot of scaffolding and working at heights – was undertaken without scaffolding required.
 
A comprehensive pre-qualification process was undertaken with all on-site contractors, with particular focus on safety performance. By working with the right people, who are in line with our goal of Zero Harm, we achieved a total reportable incident frequency rate 1/25th of Nova Scotian industry average.
 
Q: What did you enjoy most about your time in Nova Scotia?
 
A: For an Australian being able to spend over a year in a location like Nova Scotia was a real experience. It’s about as far from my home in Brisbane as you can get on the planet. The climate, and in particular witnessing the change of seasons was something completely new and fascinating.  Living locally within a small community (I actually lived in a place called Mooseland) got us up close and personal with not only the people, but also local critters - black bears, bobcats, coyotes, porcupines and even a Moose!  An abundance of fresh, cheap lobsters was an added bonus.
 
To learn more about the Moose River Consolidated Gold Project please visit the project page, or contact Mark Cornwell at mark.cornwell@ausenco.com.
 
View Moose River infographic for a snapshot of the project.
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