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5 tips to  ensure remote mining camp construction best practice

The following interview, first podcasted by MiningiQ, is focussed on the many challenges and considerations that need to be taken into account when procuring camp and camp services, especially for remote and regional applications. In the podcast Jacqueline Bran interviewed mining camp expert Miso Stojkovski and asked him for his top 5 tips to ensuring remote mining camp construction best practice.

mac-FEATUREDJacqueline: Now, these challenges are very specific and also fairly unique, so I’m very lucky to have an expert here with me today who has personally faced and overcome them; Miso Stojkovski is the camp construction and management manager at Toll and he has personally overseen the construction and operating services of camps in remote locations, which include the BHP Billiton Exploration Camp in Ethiopia, Africa. He’s also been the driving force behind Toll’s innovative approach to mobile camps in the resource sector, so, it’s a pleasure to have you on the line today, Miso, and welcome.

Miso: Hi, Jacquie. Thanks for having me; it’s great to be with you here today.

Jacqueline: You are welcome. Now, we’ve obviously spoken over the last few weeks, Miso, when we were thinking about this chat and we identified that there were five specific challenges that we really needed to cover with regards to mobile camp construction and the procurement of those services, so, as an overview for our listeners, they include staff safety, cost, time frames, camp design and logistics, so I’m really keen to get into that.

Now, the first of those challenges is staff safety and it’s obviously a critical challenge and a really key challenge, especially when you’re talking about remote and regional applications; so, I’d like to ask you, Miso, can you talk to us about those challenges, specifically what’s unique about safety and the considerations you need to take into account when you’re ensuring and protecting staff safety?

Miso: Well, safety for the Toll Group is paramount, it’s one of our key values and drivers to ensure that everyone goes home safely after a hard day’s work for us; it is also one of the key drivers for our clients in the mining, oil and gas sector, so it’s very much at the forefront of everything we’ve tried to do with the camps in Australia.

By definition, the fact that we are working in remote and regional areas means that there is a higher inherent risk in some of the functions that we will work in, the access to medical aid is not as immediate as it is in the urban towns, so we have to be very cautious and very sure that our design and everything we do in terms of the build of our camps is designed so that the key safety considerations are taken into account and the key risks are minimised. For example, common safety concerns in some of these areas; working from heights, overhead lifting, manual handling, those are the types of basic common safety considerations that need to be considered because the guys will do that all day, every day, and if we can minimise the amount of effort that they put into those types of things and the amount of risk involved in those, then we will have a safer camp.

Jacqueline: Thanks, Miso, there’s some really good points in there and that’s a really good grounding for the rest of our discussion, I think it’s important to set the scene around safety and there’s some really practical points in there, too. So, the next challenge for discussion is around cost and the danger of escalating costs; can you share some advice from your personal experience on how best to control and also reduce costs, specifically in a mobile camp location?

Miso: Well, the biggest costs in a mobile operation, in any operation that requires numerous activities and high volumes of activities, is the mobilisation and demobilisation of equipment, particularly specialist equipment for loading and unloading; again, being in a remote area, a lot of that equipment is not available locally, so it has to come from quite a distance away, so the ability to minimise the amount of equipment that is required to undertake an activity is paramount. On a mobile camp, for example, the two traditional ways of doing it is either a camp on skids where you require a flatbed trailer or some sort of tilt tray trailer to lift the equipment back up onto a trailer for it to be transported to the next location or maybe a crane or that type of specialist equipment, that requires quite a bit of planning, quite a bit of equipment available at the right time and in the right locations and that comes at a cost.

The alternative to that, which is the avenue that Toll has gone down, is to have an integrated trailer based camp which has the trailer as part of the camp infrastructure; this means that we do not need the material handling equipment like a Franna or a crane or a tilt tray to be able to move our camp from one location to the next, all we really need is a prime mover, which means you’re cutting down on the number of specialist equipments that you need to bring onto the site, you know, particularly from a long distance away, so you’re cutting down the cost of the actual move itself. When you multiply the cost of just the saving in one move that that could represent, and on a 50k move we think that the cost of a traditional camp is somewhere in the region of, you know, in excess of $40 to $50,000 for all the equipment and everything that’s required to move something, for a prime mover to make that similar sort of move, it’s probably less than $10,000, so the cost difference between those is staggering and then to consider that some of these operations move quite frequently, as frequently as once a week, then you can see the costs mounting up and therefore the saving that you can have with the infrastructure put in place at the front end.

Jacqueline: I think that point that you just made at the end there in terms of how often you’re moving is an incredibly important point and something that, you know, you’d want to take into consideration upfront as much as possible, and that leads very logically into our next question, or at least the next specific challenge that we decided we really wanted to cover, and that was the challenge of managing a time frame realistically and assuring that you’re on time and therefore meeting expectations, remaining to budget and, you know, that can be incredibly difficult when you’re talking about this kind of set up, so perhaps you could talk to us, Miso, about the challenge of managing the delivery of a remote camp to time?

Miso: Well, absolutely, and time equals money in these operations; the type of operations we’re supporting, big drill rigs, aren’t cheap, any day that they’re not drilling is costing clients an awful lot of money, so the amount of time we can minimise the time that there’s downtime, is literally money in the pocket. So, things like reducing the amount of equipment that’s required means that there is less activity that’s required in an actual move, so that in itself is speeding up the process; the fact that the camp is on trailer and doesn’t necessarily need to have the same sort of ground preparation that a normal camp will need, where it needs to be graded and levelled and potentially footings and those types of things put in place, means that there is less time taken to prepare sites and also, on the backend, to remediate sites, so that you get a cost saving there and a time saving.

The thought of how the bits and pieces work together to create the complete picture is very important because it means that there is less time taken to actually connect all the pieces, you know, the sewerage, the plumbing, the power, the water. If we can cut down on the amount of effort that’s needed to link all of those things that are integral to the camp operating, if we can cut that time down, then we’re saving money and we can achieve moves within the required time frame so that that drill rig does not stop drilling, which is what we’re all there to do, to support the drill rig drilling.

Jacqueline: Great, thank you, Miso. Well, you know, we’ve talked a little bit about some of the core basics; safety, cost, time frames; I think now it makes logical sense to actually talk a little bit about the actual design of that camp because obviously a critical component of that is the quality of that design and therefore, even more specifically, will the design of the camp be durable in extreme conditions and will it last, you know, will it meet expectations? Can you comment on that, Miso?

Miso: It’s really critical to have the right design and the right types of materials used for the construction; given that we’re in a remote environment with very little support out there for things to go wrong, Australian standards, quality Australian materials with good engineering to engineer out any foreseen issues, are very critical to make sure that this camp can function and that downtime is minimised. On the logistics front, as one of the largest transport and logistics organisations in the country, Toll has brought quite a bit of experience on the running gear and the trailers themselves and how they will operate in those rugged environments, and on the camp infrastructure front we have really put quite a bit of detail and gone quite extensively to Australian specialists to make sure that the camp assets themselves operate in the high temperatures and be durable in those areas where the ruggedness of the terrain requires extra effort to be put into it so that the camp assets last.

Jacqueline: Brilliant, thanks, Miso, I think that’s a really good checklist for anyone listening, in terms of the things they really need to be aware of in terms of the quality of design and great information in terms of your experience and Toll’s experience, too. So that leads me to our final point, the final challenge we wanted to discuss, and that was logistics. Now, the logistics of remote camp design and the associated services are complex and also challenging and the experience of your selected remote logistics provider is obviously going to be critical to the success of that camp, in fact, any camp; what advice can you offer here, Miso?

“It’s really critical to have the right design and the right types of materials used for the construction.”

Miso: The most important advice here is the network that the logistics provider has and in particular the network in the region; things, when they’re going right, everything is working well, it is when critical aspects of a logistics supply chain start falling over is when you really do need to rely and call heavily on the provider that you have, so if you have a provider that has a good network of depots and transport routes and assets in the regions that you’re operating in, then that’s really what you need so that you can support the operation both from a standard day to day operation but also, very importantly, when there is an issue with one of your assets or there’s a heightened need of job activity that’s required, you then really feel the pinch if the provider themselves doesn’t have the capabilities or the extensive network to support that operation.

Jacqueline: Thank you so much for those insights and being so frank and honest as well, Miso. I really appreciate that and I know that our audience will because this is a very specific problem and it has its own associated challenges, but I think what we’ve demonstrated today is that these challenges can be overcome with the right strategy, the right plan, considerate delivery, and of course support at implementation and roll out, so thanks for that, Miso.

This article has been republished with kind permission of Mining IQ. Visit their website, www.miningiq.com, for information on a range conventions and seminars on automation as well as many other topics important to the mining industry.

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