AAEngineering Group, utilising Bentley Systems’ cloud-based technology, has helped Altynalmas come up with a new vision for a gold processing plant in Kazakhstan.
When drilling and geological studies revealed the presence of gold ores in the surrounding Akmola region, gold producer Altynalmas invested in expanding resource extraction operations, announcing a tender to increase annual ore processing production up to 5 Mt.
The $230 million project included construction of a new gold processing plant, a dam, accommodation camp for 600 people, water pipelines, and a 220 kV electrical substation.
AAEngineering Group was tasked with overall design, procurement, and construction works that required upgrading existing energy and mining infrastructure, ensuring environmental protection and occupational safety, and determining an optimal construction site that mandated a 1,000 m sanitary protection zone from adjacent pits and uranium dams. The new plant also needed to be interoperable with the existing processing facilities in terms of equipment and materials, as well as seamlessly integrate with the operating systems.
Additionally, AAEngineering faced challenges meeting the technology demands to comply with the client’s “Digital Mine initiative” on a tight timeline, compounded by coordinating a remote team during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company wanted to offer several conceptual models to the client for Altynalmas to visualise the infrastructure design options and make the best decision for implementing the project.
“We needed to issue several versions of the project according to their technical inquiry,” Andrey Aksyonov, Director of the Information Modelling department at AAEngineering. This situation required updating the existing plant information model, creating a digital terrain model, and incorporating components from the database of equipment and materials to provide accurate visual options for the client.
Once the client decided on the optimal design concept and selected the location for the new plant, AAEngineering moved to the detailed design stage and proposed simultaneously executing design and construction works to reduce construction time and meet the short, 22-month deadline. It also sought provide seamless integration with existing facility assets and operations using digital twins.
To develop its conceptual solutions, concurrently perform design and construction, and achieve digital deliverables aligned with the client’s smart mining initiatives, AAEngineering required integrated BIM and digital twin technology. Furthermore, given the COVID-19 global pandemic quarantine, it needed to establish a connected data environment to remotely coordinate design and construction.
Beginning early in the conceptual modelling stage, AAEngineering established a collaborative design platform using Bentley Systems’ ProjectWise to provide a connected data exchange system for all contractors and the client. It used laser scanning and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to survey the existing facilities and the new construction site, processing the captured images with ContextCapture.
“From the survey data, they assessed earthworks and generated a digital terrain model in OpenRoads,” Bentley said. “Then, using OpenPlant, they digitised existing and new pipeline layouts and equipment connections to develop several conceptual 3D models for the client.”
Aksyonov explained: “Using the survey data in ContextCapture, we built a digital terrain model, and all this was transferred to the site layout plant to generate preliminary specifications with an assessment of earthworks.”
The client used the models to determine the optimal design concept and approve the plant location, equipment and piping scheme.
Based on the client’s specifications, AAEngineering used various software applications to assemble the pipeline and structural models, along with the accommodation camp. It then integrated these models with the general plant model in OpenBuildings Designer.
“Aligned with their proposal to perform design and construction simultaneously, AAEngineering used ContextCapture to process weekly UAV-captured images into reality meshes and synchronised the models with SYNCHRO 4D for construction simulation and scheduling,” Bentley said. “Incorporating LumenRT and iTwin Services facilitated visual clash detection and provided the cloud-based platform to establish a digital twin.”
Using Bentley’s digital twin technology, the company synced the model with iTwin for the best understanding, for visualisation of changes, and for making the right decisions on the project, Aksyonov said. These open applications helped maintain project control and stay on schedule throughout quarantine, the company said.
“Using Bentley technology during the conceptual phase resulted in a well-developed visual bid for the project, providing the client with a full understanding of the design right from the start and winning AAEngineering the contract,” Bentley said. “Throughout project execution, the integrated modelling applications and digital twin solution streamlined workflows and facilitated concurrent design and construction that reduced construction costs and allowed plant commissioning to be ahead of schedule.”
Working in a collaborative digital environment and updating the development model with UAV surveys saved 30% in design time and cut travel expenses by 75%, according to Bentley. This also optimised remote coordination and construction management during the COVID-19 quarantine. Accurate modelling and visualisation reduced material quantities by 15% and eliminated clashes during construction, it added.
“Lastly, using the digital twin, the client was able to train operations staff prior to plant commissioning,” Bentley said. “In addition, the digital twin enabled seamless integration with the client’s operating system in accordance with their digital mine initiative to support intelligent mining processes and management, promoting automation and digitalisation that are transforming the mining industry.”
For AAEngineering, implementing the use of digital twin technology on this project provided economic efficiencies and has instilled new corporate processes, making advanced digital practices a company standard, according to Bentley.
Aksyonov concluded: “To sum it all up, Bentley Systems enabled us to improve our own design, construction, and operations solutions.”