Duratec carries out a significant amount of remediation work at mine sites in the North West of WA. Increasingly, these works form part of structural integrity (SI) programs, a newer, more streamlined approach to repairs and maintenance.

The way things were

Many mine sites in the North West of Western Australia were established in the 1960s and 1970s, and when it came to the maintenance and repairs of machinery, infrastructure and other assets, each mine site typically worked to an annual budget. This meant individually determining which asset needed recoating and what piece of machinery required steel strengthening, all on an ad-hoc basis. It was a very reactive approach and many companies continued in this fashion for the next half a century, or so.

The Pilbara, Gascoyne and Kimberley regions of WA are extremely harsh, highly corrosive environments, which means that now, 50 years after a lot of the mine sites were built, machinery and infrastructure have become heavily deteriorated. Many assets require a significant amount of remediation in order to extend their lifespan by a further 15-plus years.

The dawn of SI programs

The former reactive approach to maintenance and repairs at mine sites put assets at risk of sudden and costly failure. It became clear that a new way of doing things was necessary.

Structural integrity (SI) programs generally started with the introduction of ad hoc blast-and-paint crews. Consisting of four or five members, these B&P teams would move around site recoating any assets that displayed deteriorated paint.

Fast-forward several years and structural integrity programs have greatly matured. Nowadays, a typical program will involve consultants visiting a site to conduct condition assessments on assets that look to require remediation. These include everything from conveyors, crushers and screen houses to ROM bins and car dumpers.

Once the consultants identify defects, proposed repairs are rolled into a program of works, which are then packaged up and either put out to tender or awarded to a pre-approved contractor. These programs usually consist of 12 to 24-month contracts and involve the remediation of a range of structures.

Work ‘pipelines’

Most mining companies have a five-year-plus pipeline of work. This results from consultants assessing a certain number of – but not all – assets on site. If it is a large site, assets are typically inspected on a five-to-10-year basis, depending on the criticality of the repairs.

Duratec generally follows the consultants’ lead and remediates what they find, however, while the crews are doing that, the consultants might be looking at other assets and building the next package of works.

In an ideal world, this would create a flow of work, whereby personnel remain on site continuously, however, it doesn’t always turn out that way. Sometimes there is a gap in works, which allows Duratec crews to move onto other mine sites, effectively touring the North West!

Who makes up an SI team?

In the North West, Duratec self-performs all of its works. When undertaking a structural integrity program and depending on the size of the mine site, Duratec generally has about 20 people online and this includes both blue and white-collar employees. During shutdowns, this number can increase to 50 to 120 workers.

Blue-collar team members may include labourers, specialist applicators, welders, boilermakers, scaffolders and riggers. White-collar staff can consist of project managers, engineers, supervisors, QA/QC inspectors, HSEQ personnel and planners. Employees generally work a two-and-one roster (two weeks on, one week off).