Sierra Gorda

Developed as a joint-venture between KGHM International Ltd., Sumitomo Metal mining and Sumitomo Corporation, the Sierra Gorda mining plant, located between Antofagasta and Calama, Chile is a massive mining operation that produces copper, gold and molybdenum. Estimated production from current reserves average 483 million pounds of copper, 25 million pounds of molybdenum and 64,000 ounces of gold per year. According to Bloomberg news, the original investment into the building and commissioning of the plant was a lofty $3.9 billion dollars.

Reliable Controls was contacted in early May of 2014 by SGSCM to fill the role of owner’s representative for Instrumentation and Controls and to support the operation I&C group. However, shortly thereafter, RCC’s role was adjusted to include pre-commissioning and commissioning of the copper production facility in conjunction with the Sierra Gorda PEM group.

RCC completed the scope of work assigned to them in the first week of September. The initial task was to produce 1st copper which was completed in August. Once this was achieved the 2 additional copper recovery circuits were brought online. Due to the large amount of I/O and time constraints, completing the project within such an aggressive schedule was challenging – but also rewarding. In the words of Ed Macha, President and CEO of Reliable Controls, “The project was fast and furious.”

RCC started out the project with a small core team but with the change in scope, ramped up the team to approximately 50 people and mobilized them to the mine site along with all the tools, logistics and housing needs required within just a few short weeks. The international team of personnel that was assembled to complete the project included workers from the United States, Peru, Chile, South Africa, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Argentina.

The Sierra Gorda mine site used an ABB Distributed Control System that used Fieldbus and Profibus to connect over 18,000 I/O points. One of the first tasks for Reliable Controls was to identify the critical instruments needed to achieve first copper. This included key systems for the mine including process water, dry conveyors and the column cleaners. In addition to the 50 employees sent to Chile for this assignment, Reliable Controls also worked with ABB, Yokogawa and SonarTrac vendors. Additionally, Reliable Controls worked with and helped manage the contracting companies, Sigma, High Service and Hatch in order to achieve first copper. Finally, Reliable Controls set up a Plan of the Day reporting tool that was used by Sierra Gorda Operations and Management to manage and track progress. Reliable Controls also used the Plantsight tool to identify and document outstanding issues as well as create an action items list to be reviewed daily.

While working on the project, Reliable Controls is proud to report that there were zero incidents or accidents.