Mercator Minerals

Mercator Minerals teams with Schmueser to bring Mineral Park Mine online. Mercator Minerals Ltd. is not in the construction industry, but it’s not necessarily immune to its effects, either. On the other hand, it hasn’t let the construction slowdown put a damper on its plans.

It purchased Mineral Park Mine near Kingman, Ariz., in 2003, intent on constructing a 50,000-tons-per-day facility at the copper, molybdenum (moly) and silver mine. The two-phase project kicked off in 2007 and, after a temporary hold, it is now in its second phase to bring the plant into its full capacity by June 2011.

The project’s first phase commenced in April 2007 with Schmueser & Associates Inc. as its industrial contractor. For the next year-and-a-half, Schmueser placed 34,000 cubic yards of concrete and more than 4.5 million pounds of rebar. It erected more than 1,000 tons of structure steel, laid 50,000 feet of pipe and expended 680,000 man-hours to do so. It also installed equipment including:

  • Jaw crusher
  • Two sag mills
  • Two ball mills
  • Rougher, copper and moly float cells
  • Tailing thickeners
  • Copper and moly filter presses
  • Concentrate handling systems

“We started the project way before engineering was complete in order to get it online in a timely fashion,” says Schmueser Estimating Manager Sonny LeClair. LeClair says document control was key in ensuring the field foremen were working with current information. For some aspects, such as steel fabrication, the team began constructing without approved shop drawings in order to keep a steady flow of materials coming on site. LeClair acknowledges this procedure runs the risk of detail errors, but the team minimized mistakes through constant communication. “The relationship between Mineral Park and Schmueser & Associates was so close that all decisions were made together, which kept the project moving forward at all times,” he says. “Projects of this nature require a good working relationship for the project to be successful.”

The first phase was successful. And construction finished in December 2008. The owners achieved commercial production in second-quarter 2009 with an output of 25,000 tons of ore per day.

Just as the first phase neared completion, the financial industry took a hit, stalling construction projects across the nation, including Mineral Park Mine. However, Mercator was determined to bring the mine to its full capacity, and Schmueser remained in close contact with the owner in between construction to assist with second-phase budgeting.

The second phase began its fast-tracked construction in February 2010. When it’s completed, LeClair says it will be the first new milling facility in the United States to handle moly in the last 15 years. “This puts them in a pretty good position when the economy finally turns around to be a major player in molybdenum production,” he says. “The moly is what has made this project viable. It produces a lot more copper than it does moly, but in ratio dollar-wise, the results are somewhat equal.”

Moly is a silvery-white metal used in high-strength alloys. It can withstand high temperatures without significant expanding or softening, and is used in products such as aircraft parts and industrial motors. Mercator estimates Mineral Park to have a 25-year mine life able to produce 1.1 billion pounds of copper, 257.5 million pounds of moly and 11.7 million ounces of silver. It is scheduled to start producing 50,000 tons of ore per day in June.

Second-phase components include an additional crushing system, generating facility,  gas fire power plant, doubling of the rougher flotation and two additional ball mills.

Successful Leadership

LeClair says the construction has gone very smoothly thus far, especially as far as safety is concerned. “Schmueser & Associates takes safety seriously and goes to great lengths to provide a safe, healthy, and productive work environment for both our employees and clients,” the company states. “Though we approach our projects with a safety first attitude, we also recognize the importance of a safe production philosophy.” Schmueser has developed training programs specific to the industrial construction market. In addition to providing MSHA Part 48 and OSHA training to its employees, Schmueser is a member of the National Safety Council.

During the first phase, two full-time site safety professionals were on site. Now that the crew is minimal, the safety personnel visit the site biweekly to audit the project. They stay on site until all issues are resolved. However, LeClair says the biggest factor in the project’s success is the owner’s leadership. “It’s just a very well-coordinated effort spearheaded by the owner and his desire to complete the project and get it up and running,” he says. “They also trust our expertise and let us work our way through the project and provide them with what they need.”

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