Latest News

Rio Tinto Clermont keeps it local with all Aussie and Asia design team

The design of a Rio Tinto coal mine in Clermont that has become the first in Australia to use paste thickening technology, has recently been completed by global engineering firm, Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM), using employees strictly from Australia and Asia only.

While it is the first new coal plant in Australia to use paste thickening technology, the delivery of the design is of particular interest — being done by a team whose members were located throughout SKM offices in Australia and Asia.

Clermont Coal Mine is Rio Tinto Coal Australia’s proposed thermal coal production open pit mine located in the Bowen Basin, Queensland, which will replace coal currently drawn from the existing Blair Athol mine. The new greenfields mine will produce up to 12.2 mtpa of high quality thermal coal when it reaches full capacity. It is expected to have a life of about 17 years at this production rate.

SKM has been involved in the project since 2007 when it was asked to undertake a Feasibility Study for the new mine, including the design of a dedicated CPP.

SKM’s chief mechanical engineer, Peter Stringfellow, said that to effectively resource the engineering design process, SKM sought to draw upon leading skills from across SKM’s network of Australian and Asian offices. Components of the work were ultimately carried out in Brisbane, Newcastle, Darwin, Perth, Manila and Yangzhou.

“The initial layouts, detailed design and process configuration were undertaken in Brisbane and Newcastle,” Stringfellow said.

“In tandem with this work, the review process was conducted by experienced engineers independent of the project, and led by SKM’s Mineral Processing Practice Leader, based in Perth. This allowed for an unbiased assessment of the design, and provided additional ideas that improved the overall finished product.”

The shop detailing was then carried out by teams based in Darwin, Manila, Yangzhou, Perth and Brisbane.

“The benefits of working in a virtual team using team members linked by technology rather than being physically together in the same location, allowed SKM to realise cost efficiencies and productivity gains by working off-shore, being able to maintain a 24 hour work schedule and more effectively manage quality standards, schedules and budgets by keeping the project in-house,” Stringfellow said.

The virtual team was able to work on a single 3D model utilising information sharing tools, a central repository for information, and a variety of communication channels, including videoconferencing, and web-based methods.

The incorporation of design practices which focussed on concepts of sustainability, and in particular design elements aimed at reducing greenhouse gases and water usage, was a particularly strong feature of SKM’s approach.

Quoting SKM’s CEO Paul Dougas, Stringfellow said: “In the midst of a global financial crisis, sustainability has never been more relevant. There are of course three pillars of Sustainability: the economic, social and environmental. Never before have each of these elements come together to produce the ‘perfect storm’ that is so readily apparent today.”

Stringfellow said that the initial idea was to use a co-disposal facility for the removal of waste, but by adopting paste thickening technology for the tailings dams, a good balance between moisture recovery and low maintenance costs could be achieved.

“The waste is thickened to a paste and pumped to a placement area. This ensures a minimum amount of water usage — in fact this technology utilises only 10 percent of the water used by conventional co-disposal,” he said.

SKM has since been appointed by Rio Tinto as the EPCM contractor for Clermont mine, and is currently tendering for construction.

It is anticipated that the CPP will be built by the end of 2009, with commissioning in early 2010.

Send this to a friend