Lihir Gold Mine Asset Condition Assessment Audit

Lihir Gold Mine Asset Condition Assessment Audit

GPA were recently engaged to conduct an inspection and assessment of existing steel and concrete structures within Lihir Gold Limited’s Metallurgical Plant in Papua New Guinea. GPA structural engineers, Yuehan Treloar and Armin Milanian travelled to site to complete the inspection and assessment, which resulted in an update to the site Asset Condition Register.

The project presented several challenges including working 12 hours days for an extended period in a fully operational high risk environment, as well as the ongoing risk of COVID-19 in PNG and the challenge of the 2 week quarantine periods when entering PNG and when returning to Australia.

The trip was Yuehan’s first time working in a foreign country away from support networks, thanks to Yuehan for sharing his experience of travelling and working onsite at Lihir.

A first-hand account of working onsite at Lihir Metallurgical Plant

Prior to travelling to Lihir approval for entry into PNG was required, these requirements had become much stricter since the start of COVID-19. Armin and I were required to undertake a Medical, complete a Police Check, ensure that our vaccinations were up to date, apply for a PNG Visa, complete the required Newcrest paperwork that allowed us to be registered in their internal systems, apply for Australian Government permission to leave the country and complete a PCR. We also completed a HIDRA at GPA prior to travelling to Lihir, which allowed us to properly identify and assess the various risks associated with our travel.

Traveling to Lihir was also quite eventful; Armin and I flew from Brisbane to Cairns, where we were meant to stay one night. However, due to Cyclone Kimi, our flight to PNG was cancelled and we ended up staying an extra day! Once our charter flight was actually cleared to leave, we flew from Cairns to Port Moresby and then onto Lihir. From the Lihir Airport, we then boarded a bus and were transferred straight into our 2 weeks quarantine in Camp 4 (which is located away from the main mine camp accommodation).

While working at Lihir, we were provided desks within the PNE office, which is located in the south-east corner of the Metallurgical Plant. The Newcrest Mining team were very friendly and welcoming and we were able to quickly develop relationships. Generally, we were allowed to walk around the Metallurgical Plant and undertake our condition assessments with minimal supervision once we had completed the required area-specific inductions.

During our 3 weeks on-site, we kept the Newcrest Mining team up-to-date with our progress on our condition assessment of the Metallurgical Plant. We were also able to provide a summary of our findings from specific areas of the Metallurgical Plant, which was useful for repair works that were being planned for the upcoming March shutdown. 

During our time on-site, we were able to thoroughly inspect the areas of the Metallurgical Plant that we originally allowed for in our proposal. As we ended up staying up a couple of extra days on-site (due to flights out of Lihir only running once a week due to COVID-19 restrictions within PNG), we were also able to inspect some additional areas. This included the internal areas of the substations, the LV & HV Workshops and the Londo Weir Pump Station.

On the trip back to Australia, we flew from Lihir to Port Moresby (including a stop in the middle), where we stayed overnight. The next morning, we flew from Port Moresby directly to Brisbane, where we were quickly transferred to our 2 weeks quarantine back in Australia!

Once back in Australia for our 2 weeks quarantine, we were able to work on updating the Asset Condition Register (ACR), which was originally developed following GPA’s 2018 inspections. We were also able to provide some additional documentation that was requested by Newcrest Mining, which included a summary of the critical findings from each area of the Metallurgical Plant.

Inspection of all required areas of the Metallurgical Plant were successfully completed while we were on-site in Lihir. Spending time in the Metallurgical Plant office allowed us to develop relationships with the engineers and other personnel, which will greatly assist with future projects.

As this was the first time that I have worked overseas and the first time I have worked on a mine site, I was able to learn several valuable lessons, which included how the Metallurgical Plant operates, the chemical processes within the Metallurgical Plant and the importance of developing relationships with the client on-site. I greatly extended my knowledge of the process of assessing the condition of steel structures and quickly learned what I needed to survive 2 weeks quarantine!

Quarantine room in Camp 4 at Lihir

View from my quarantine compound in Camp 4

Lihir Metallurgical Plant (view from CCD area)

Lihir Metallurgical Plant (view from HGO Mills area)

Beach near our accommodation in the Lihir Mine Camp

Mine camp accommodation in Lihir