Wheels turn on Gruyere gold plant 

A landmark greenfields discovery east of Kalgoorlie, the Gruyere gold project has achieved plenty since its discovery by Gold Road Resources in 2013.

Around 200km east of Laverton in Western Australia on the Yamarna greenstone belt, the discovery was initially heralded by Gold Road as the beginning of a fifth gold belt in the state’s Goldfields region.

Within 10 months, Gruyere had been defined as a significant, high-grade gold deposit and had a maiden JORC 2012 resource of 96.93 million tonnes at 1.23 grams per tonne gold for 3.8 million ounces of the yellow metal.

The resource has since grown to 148 million tonnes at 1.3g/t for 6.2Moz – cementing its place as one of Australian gold’s biggest greenfields projects. A further resource update is expected early this year.

The regional activity didn’t go unnoticed. In 2015, Gold Road’s South Yamarna exploration tenements attracted $5 million of investment from Sumitomo Metal Mining – considered the first big spend by a Japanese company in WA gold.

Sumitomo earned a 50 per cent stake in the tenements, a deal which provided funding for Gold Road to explore the region more extensively.

But when it came to developing the Gruyere project around which any gold region would likely emerge, partnership came in the form of South Africa’s Gold Fields in late 2016, who announced it would pay $350 million in cash and an uncapped 1.5 per cent net smelter return royalty after 2Moz of production for a 50 per cent project stake.

De-risking the project, Gold Fields and Gold Road recognised the benefits of their combined skillset in forming the agreement which combined the former’s management and leadership expertise in project development and the latter’s ambition to develop the project while also exploring the highly prospective region.

The deal was recognised with the Small-Cap Deal of the Year award at the Mines and Money London Achievements Awards and Gala Dinner in November last year.

The definitive feasibility study released for Gruyere in October 2016 mapped a 13-year mine life, producing an average of 270,000oz of gold per annum from a single pit operation.

Project management is in the hands of Gold Fields, with an eye to production in early 2019. The project will be powered by a gas pipeline and power station to be built by APA Group.

Mature blends deliver quality

In seeking the unique skillset required to deliver world-class engineering, procurement and construction in a remote location, the Gruyere JV turned to a partnership between engineering specialist Wood (Amec Foster Wheeler at the time of the deal) and WA construction expert Civmec.

The contract, worth a lumps sum fixed price $298 million, combines the skillsets of both its recipients to deliver a plant operating seven days a week to process between 7.5 million and 8.8 million tonnes of ore per annum and produce an average of 270,000oz of gold each year.

The contract promises to maximise local procurement, a commitment facilitated by Civmec’s 200,000sqm heavy engineering fabrication facility at Henderson in Perth.

Not unlike the joint venture between Gold Fields and Gold Road, Wood Mining Director Greg Hayes said the partnership between Wood and Civmec complemented the strengths of each other to deliver an excellent outcome for the client.

“Between the two of us we are able to deliver the full scope of the project – the engineering, construction and procurement aspects – and our relationship is very complimentary,” he told National Mining Chronicle.

“We bring the engineering and commissioning expertise, Civmec brings the construction expertise.

“The other additional expertise is Civmec’s fabrication capability. They have a very extensive fabrication system in Western Australia. We’re all very closely located and able to deliver the project very efficiently for the client.”

The JV has been able to realise great efficiency through the use of Bentley Systems software, with its work in designing the plant using Bentley’s AECOsim Building Designer, LumenRT, MicroStation, MineCycle Material Handling, Navigator, OpenPlant, OpenRoads, OpenPlant PID and ProjectWise programs design costs by 25 per cent and shop detailing costs by 20 per cent by eliminating the need for 2D deliverables.

Mr Hayes said Wood, which was an award finalist in the 2017 Bentley Year in Infrastructure conference in Singapore, had used Bentley software for a number of years and watched the software improve alongside its own systems and capabilities.

“We’ve seen the value of the 3D model and deliverable production become more efficient,” he said.

“Our clients are also demanding more from our engineering work, and the Bentley software has helped us to develop better product offerings for them.”

At Gruyere, the software enabled the parties to bring together data from multiple applications and apply it in the 3D context.

“The whole virtual reality thing, and being able to visualise what we’re going to build has benefits for the constructor, the operator and the maintainer – the software allows us all of those abilities and benefits,” Mr Hayes said.

In particular, Bentley software has helped to facilitate Wood’s partnership with Civmec by allowing the construction firm greater input during the design process.

“Working with Civmec as our JV partner was helpful as we were developing the model,” Mr Hayes said.

“For them to be able to see what they had to construct and to be able to provide input on how they might prefer to do so enables us to optimise the engineering to allow them to construct in an efficient way.”

Big cheese emerges as new era dawns

Speaking shortly following Amec Foster Wheeler’s merger with oil and gas-focused Wood Group, Mr Hayes said the combination of the pair would have a significant impact on the new entity’s ability to cater to a new era of global mining.

“The Wood Group part of the business has some really good automation and control capability,” he said.

“In the mining industry, there’s been a push for the innovation angle for a few years – everyone’s driving down costs and looking at ways of improving the productivity and efficiency of their operation.

“We are getting lots of clients who want to move to the next generation of mines, and what those projects look like is smarter and more digitalised – for us that’s opened up quite an interesting opportunity.

“Within Amec Foster Wheeler we had over 200 mining and mineral specialists, and now we have about 1300 automation and control people within the business as well.

“The combination of those two capabilities gives us a leading position in developing and designing the next generation of mines.”

Note: The reporter attended the 2017 Bentley Year in Infrastructure conference as a guest of Bentley Systems.

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