Company supports infrastructure for African mines with digital tech

18th November 2022 By: Cameron Mackay - Creamer Media Senior Online Writer

Company supports infrastructure for African mines with digital tech

TERENCE MILNE Our edge has been developed through our involvement in the design and digital management of high-profile international projects in digital platforms

Professional consulting firm WSP has been awarded two major separate infrastructure projects in the African mining sector after leveraging its recent acquisitions in the sector, states WSP Africa transport and infrastructure MD Terence Milne.

“WSP Africa is providing the designs for these projects for enabling infrastructure, including rail, access and haul roads, earthworks and stormwater control. These have been delivered in a three-dimensional (3D) building information modelling (BIM) platform, setting up paperless execution.

“Further, project reporting and controls are done inside the modelling platform, also linking to four-dimensional (4D) and five-dimensional (5D) BIM, which incorporates cost and time elements”.

He also emphasises that following WSP’s global acquisition of Golder last year, the local integration of expert teams and complementary service streams has contributed to WSP in Africa winning major engineering, procurement and construction management contracts in the mining sector. 

This “opened up additional avenues” for WSP in mining and has led to the company’s contributions to these two mining projects.

The first project is a mine in South Africa’s Northern Cape province, and the second mine project is for a global miner in West Africa.

“The scope of work for both projects is enabling works including the haul roads in  the mines, earthworks, access roads and rail access, water sanitation, fencing and other aspects related to enabling infrastructure for the mine. An added benefit for WSP’s design capabilities is Golder’s significant waste and tailings dam capabilities and expertise that complements its infrastructure capabilities.”

Milne adds that the WSP infrastructure work is building upon Golder’s extensive involvement in water management, geotechnical and detailed mining design on site over the past decade.

The design and execution phases for both projects spans multiple years.

He stresses that while the local civil engineering and construction sector has been impacted by economic strain and subdued investment in the public sector, the mining sector has provided WSP with many opportunities to be involved in infrastructure projects in the private sector.

Digital Modelling

These projects come on the back of the company’s success in enhancing its digital design and major project capabilities, states Milne.

He particularly emphasises the impact of the 3D BIM platform on which these projects have been delivered.

BIM integrates structured, multidisciplinary data to produce a digital representation of an asset across its life cycle, from planning and design to construction and operations.

The 3D BIM modelling entails developing virtual models that have information about every component of an asset involved in construction.

There are also 4D, 5D and six-dimensional (6D) models to allow for detailed scheduling of the construction process, as 4D BIM adds time-related information to 3D BIM models.

5D BIM adds costs to BIM components to assist the calculation of total project costs, while 6D BIM includes life-cycle properties to allow for optimised asset management.

“The technology is available from off-the-shelf BIM software. Our edge has been developed through our involvement in the design and digital management of high-profile international projects in digital platforms, in addition to embedding our major project control and paperless implementation aspirations into a single tested offering.”

He adds that the company’s digital project planning capabilities enable clients to view and manage the different elements of their project more closely in a 3D model.

“This requires building a digital twin beforehand. This allows one to combine different project elements in a visual representation and see the potential project challenges ahead of time, and adjust before going to construction.”

Milne explains that these digital capabilities provide benefits for mining projects in terms of safety and cost efficiency through improved management of capital expenditure; they also allow for time saving, as it prevents the need for reworking aspects of the project during the design and construction phases.

These capabilities also enable clients to begin sequencing for construction projects and conduct elements such as safety workshops and risk assessments.

He emphasises the importance of these digital technologies on the management of significant infrastructure projects, and the advantages they provide for mining projects in Africa.

WSP’s digital capabilities enable the company to use technologies such as digital terrain models, drones and light-detection and ranging techniques used to examine surfaces, which allow for working in remote areas.

This also enables individuals who are working on site to have a team of people working remotely to support the on-site activities.