March/April 2011

President's notes

Logistics, a challenge on the global scale

By Chris Twigge-Molecy

As we finally look forward to spring, one can only reflect on the weather extremes we have witnessed over the last few months, both in Canada and Australia. They have had a major impact at the mine site as well as along the links of the export chain — one of the main themes of this March/April issue. From the devastation caused by flooding of Australian coal mines to the implications of an ever-shortening season for hauling materials over ice roads in the Far North, there are a plethora of challenges testing the ingenuity of the industry.

On the operation side, the challenge can often be the same, even though the unit scales are normally smaller, but it takes special skills to supply and service remote sites regularly and reliably. In Canada, we are fortunate to have many highly experienced companies to call on.

Construction logistics also face an exciting range of opportunities and challenges. One such major undertaking is the transport of 17 smelter modules, equaling 36,000 tonnes, from Qingdao, China, to New Caledonia for the Xstrata Nickel Koniambo Project. Another, moving 780-tonne autoclave vessels from Malaysia to the Dominican Republic, is featured in this issue’s Engineering Exchange.

Development of the Labrador iron ore resources will critically depend on competitive logistics costs. It will be interesting to see how soon we can emulate the Rio Tinto approach in Western Australia, which features fully automated iron ore trains operating from pit to port, all controlled from Perth, over 1,000 kilometres away. It is truly an amazing accomplishment. Further, the heightened exploration of our North — whether in Ungava, Labrador, Baffin Island, Nunavut or Northwest Territories — will lead to future operations in very remote locations. The logistics companies will, I am sure, meet the demands of working in such environments and bring much needed opportunities to train and employ Northern peoples.

Very remote travel to any facility always brings to mind the issue of safety, a primary objective of all responsible companies. While we cannot afford to be complacent, as illustrated by the recent spate of mine disasters overseas, we can celebrate the remarkable safety record of our sector, in both construction and operations activities. Mining and metallurgical processing continues to be one of the safest professions. We need to get this message out often. It, along with the hi-tech nature of our business, must be a key element in persuading bright students to join our sector.

Chris Twigge-Molecy, CIM President

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