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A local minerals processing consultancy group finds itself in court… for all the right reasons. Sarah Falson speaks with METS about its offerings in the minerals processing sector.

A group of engineers with over 200 years cumulative experience in the mining, minerals and processing industries formed an engineering consulting services company in the late 1980s with a view to use their experience to help budding junior miners to grow their businesses.

The engineering consulting services company, Mineral Engineering Technical Services (METS), has since evolved into a nationally recognised consultancy used by industry to secure engineers and project managers with special technical skills and experience that can be used in legal disputes, project management and plant optimisation.

Today, the METS portfolio provides consulting on a wide range of specialist topics including project development, plant optimisation, and due diligence, as well as mining staff training and specialist studies about the sector. The METS customer-base is mainly junior and mid-tier mining companies who require metallurgical and engineering advice to help their businesses to run more efficiently or develop new projects.

Now over 20 years old, METS has honed its specialised advice to the areas of minerals processing and engineering services for both local and overseas clients in Australasia, Europe, America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, having serviced some of the smallest and biggest local players in mining and processing.

Court room tactics

The company’s director and principal engineer, Damian Connelly, has been in the metallurgical industry for over 40 years. Perhaps one of the most interesting roles on his resume — and one that METS now offers as part of its specialised consulting — is that of expert witness for a variety of engineering companies, miners and legal practices involved in dispute cases.

“Our local expert witness work includes a dispute over the capacity of a plant. The case was successfully defended with METS acting for the defence,” Connelly told PACE. METS has provided expert witnesses for a variety of cases both locally and internationally over the years, principally in the field of minerals processing, Connelly said.

An expert witness, like an ordinary witness, may give evidence of pure facts, but his principal function is not to relate facts but give evidence of his opinion, according to METS. And while the team of experts heading up METS says it is not the most “pleasant” experience to be “grilled by a team of lawyers,” the members agree that the experience has given them valuable insight into the potential risks and pitfalls involved in project development.

“Due to the complexity and scale of many mining projects during development, design, and construction, it is not uncommon that disputes arise,” said a spokesperson for the team. “In these instances, expert witnesses provide a valuable tool for evaluating ones position and to aid in the negotiating process even before matters reach legal actions.”

Hit the ground running

Companies like METS provide start-ups with the experience necessary to set achievable business goals and to run a productive process or control plant. For a fee, METS can undertake engineering studies on markets and best practice; testwork programs on scoping, development and management; process optimisation, integration and design information; equipment design, specification and selection advice; and a range of engineering consultancy including maintenance audits, failure analysis, and instrumentation and control engineering services.

The expert witness consulting is part of the company’s specialist services portfolio of offerings, which also covers investor reviews, risk analysis and financial modelling.

A range of courses is available either on-site or in-house. These include a general mineral processing course, and other more specific courses on water management in mining, iron ore processing, gold extraction, and heap leaching courses.

“The courses are tailored to the audience, from no background assumed to site specific customised content,” said Connelly.

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