WorleyParsons RSA recently completed a feasibility study update for the Wafi-Golpu Joint Venture (WGJV) in Papua New Guinea, giving the greenfield Wafi-Golpu Project a revised execution plan going forward. The update incorporates findings from earlier feasibility and draws on extensive data collection undertaken since 2016, providing a deeper understanding of the project’s geotechnical, mining, processing, oceanographic, environmental and social parameters. It also forms an integral component of the revised proposal for development in support of the special mining lease application, which was submitted to the Mineral Resources Authority by the WGJV in August 2016.

“The updated feasibility study sets out an improved business case for the Wafi-Golpu Project, and it confirms the preferred technical options to deliver the block cave mining project safely and with appropriate consideration given to environmental, social and cultural heritage stewardship,” said Bryan Bailie, executive project director for the WGJV.

Located in the Morobe Province of Papua New Guinea, approximately 65 kilometers (km) southwest of the city of Lae, Wafi-Golpu is a joint-venture copper-gold project that is owned 50/50 by Harmony Gold Mining Co. Ltd. in South Africa and Newcrest Mining Ltd. in Australia.

Various approaches to development, including infrastructure configurations, have been considered in the investigations for the development of the Wafi-Golpu deposits. Early investigations considered large-scale open-pit mining of the Wafi deposit rather than underground mining; however, this was dismissed for various reasons. Subsequent investigations were highly successful in more accurately delineating an orebody, but further work was required to determine the economic viability of mining. A number of technical studies across various disciplines have been completed since 2012, which determined a viable business case for development of a large-scale deep-level block cave mine. The proposed development contemplated a significant upfront capital commitment to deliver maximum resource extraction and production profile over the project’s life.

Based on the orebody dataset improvement achieved in 2016, the update now incorporates a much larger mine than previously anticipated and mining throughput will be increased from 3 million metric tons per year (mt/y) to 16.84 million mt/y. This increase in throughput required the redesign of the underground material handling system, process plant, associated infrastructure, and overland concentrate and tailings transport pipelines.

In setting out the updated business case for the feasibility study update, WorleyParsons RSA drew on SmartPlant design technology that uses rapid prototyping, and other innovative processes such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) to create a sophisticated digital project design platform and prepare for project execution as efficiently and cost effectively as possible.

“By using intelligent design tools, we were able to incorporate all the consultants and role players involved in the project into one user-friendly digital model,” said senior project manager, WorleyParsons RSA, Niell McEwan.

He explained that SmartPlant is a portfolio of design and data management solutions that captures integrated engineering knowledge to enable productivity gains and improving engineering efficiency and design productivity. It includes Building Information Modeling (BIM) that augments the three primary spatial dimensions of width, height and depth with 3-D, 4-D and 5-D technology, allowing the entire project team to visualize project objectives as never before, greatly improving operational efficiency in a dynamic time and cost-saving environment.

General Manager for Engineering and Construction for WGJV Leigh Cox said, “We were impressed with WorleyParsons RSA’s use of BIM for the FSU as it showed us how quickly different components and disciplines can be merged together to help evaluate design, optimize resource utilization and identify design risks upfront and on an ongoing basis.”

The findings of the updated study provide greater clarity around the infrastructure which will be associated with development of the Wafi-Golpu Project and proposes a modular designed power plant to ensure a reliable base load power supply; new port facilities created within the Port of Lae; a new northern access road and two new community roads; and puts forward three types of tailings management options for consideration.

If developed, the Wafi-Golpu Project will be the largest, deepest and most complex underground mine in PNG, with a mine life of 28 years. As well as this significant injection into the PNG economy, the project will create economic benefits across the country, including around 2,500 direct jobs during construction, about 850 ongoing operations jobs and further indirect jobs created in the region.