KBR Inc., a major U.S.-based engineering, construction and military contracting company, has been actively involved in mining for more than 20 years. Over that period it has performed feasibility and environmental studies which led to major front-end engineering studies (FEE) and then engineering procurement construction; and management (EPCM) studies for major developments in iron ore, copper and coal in the Asian Pacific region. Late in 2010, KBR acquired bulk-material handling systems specialist Roberts & Schaefer (R&S), headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, and immediately began integrating R&S into its mineral business unit.

For KBR Minerals, the R&S acquisition revolved around engineering excellence. “R&S has a reputation for innovation across a number of sectors—mining, power and ports,” said Ted Wziontek, senior vice president, KBR Minerals.

“KBR aspires to be the leading providers for engineering services in mining and it’s growing its power business along with the port infrastructure associated with those sectors. The R&S acquisition also broadens KBR’s minerals exposure internationally.

“We have a $1.6-billion greenfield mine iron ore development project for Rio Tinto that kicked off in September 2010,” said Wziontek. “We have five projects in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Lots of money is being directed by major mining companies into iron ore development.” KBR also has worked extensively on the Olympic Dam project, a major copper mine in Australia.

The company has designed and engineered coal projects in Australia and Indonesia—developing new mines or working with existing mines on expansions.

“We have been selected to work on an extensive new coal mine development in Queensland, where the client is expecting to spend $5 to $6 billion,” said Wziontek.

R&S, in addition to extensive experience in building many U.S. coal prep plants, is a major designer of  bulk-material handling and processing systems for the global mining industry. In the 1990s, R&S acquired Soros Group, which was heavily involved in port development. That acquisition created a company that could deliver a “Pit-to-Port-to-Plant Solution,” not only for coal, but for other commodities as well.

KBR plans to capitalize on Pit-to-Port-to-Plant opportunities. “As an example, we can assist a greenfield mining project with a feasibility study and mine development,” Wziontek said.

“R&S can engineer the bulk material handling to a rail infrastructure. KBR can design the rail line to the port. Then R&S can engineer and design the port facility for ship loading. That’s the type of integrated solutions we will be able to provide.”

The integration process is nearing completion, according to KBR. R&S engineers have been trained in KBR risk and commercial management requirements and procedures. KBR has worked in remote regions where security and other issues might be a challenge and the company can execute and manage the risk in those regions, particularly on the mining side. KBR also will share some of its global systems, which will enhance the R&S portfolio, and back it up with a strong balance sheet.

“We have captured a lot of synergies,” Wziontek said. “We see a terrific opportunity for integrating the R&S experience in bulk material handling into much larger projects than they would have taken on themselves. We see future potential for developing the port infrastructure business. Soros has a strong presence in that area.”