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2 Jul 2012
How urban-acquired skills are a perfect fit for the mining industry
Thiess may be a name synonymous with the mining industry, but the connection hasn’t been so obvious for wholly owned services division Thiess Services, which has spent 25 years honing its award-winning skills on projects mostly in Australia’s major cities.
Conceived almost at the opposite end of the mining industry, Thiess Services has built an extraordinary portfolio in fields as diverse as contaminated site remediation, waste management, water management, energy distribution and facilities operations and maintenance.
Contaminated site remediation in particular has won widespread acclaim with the 2000 Olympic Games site at Sydney’s Homebush Bay and the Hunter River remediation in Newcastle among the award winning projects. Thiess Services also led the remediation of the former nuclear test site at Maralinga in South Australia.
As the business shaped and perfected its portfolio, it was in fact bringing itself into perfect alignment with the growing needs of the mining industry. It was a realisation first seized on a year ago by General Manager of Remediation and Infrastructure Doug Moss, as he sought to broaden Thiess Services’ horizons in the fastest growing area of the economy.
“The perfect fit is just by chance I guess, but it’s also a reflection of the breadth of the Thiess Services business and the tremendous diversity we have in numerous disciplines,” Mr Moss explains.
The initial objective is to win projects with Thiess Australian Mining which currently operates 11 major projects, but longer term, Thiess Services is positioning itself as a key provider of specialist services to the resources sector as a whole.
Doug Moss says he’s targeting much of the fringe work that actually detracts from the core operation for a miner, but which sits at the heart of Thiess Services’ business.
“I can’t think of any aspect of our current operations that doesn’t have some application to mining.”
Spearheading Thiess Services’ journey into mining is a specialist team from its Remediation and Infrastructure division which is applying facilities maintenance and cutting edge occupational hygiene to the Thiess-operated Collinsville Coal Mine. The mine has a long history of challenges with gases produced by spontaneous combustion. Thiess Services is applying its skills acquired in extremely hazardous environments to ensure best practice air quality monitoring and health and safety practices at Collinsville, whilst at the same time maintaining and operating various parts of the mine site infrastructure.
“We’re experienced in dealing with a vast range of hazardous chemicals such as dioxins, hexachlorobenzene, and asbestos to name but a few,” Mr Moss explains.
“You can imagine the amount of thought and planning that goes into health and safety practices on such sites and all that expertise is applicable to mining sites affected by spontaneous combustion and associated gases.
“Ninety percent of our contaminated site work is in urban environments so we must have very effective methods of control.
“We cross the line from just a consulting business providing a monitoring capability and giving the client the results, to being a provider capable of delivering best practice by way of earthworks, dust control and spontaneous combustion management.”
The remediation expertise naturally extends to the rehabilitation of active and abandoned mine sites, many of which are comparable to the numerous large scale projects tackled by Thiess Services such as Sydney’s home for the 2000 Olympic Games.
“Our works at Homebush Bay where on a massive scale over a long period and included a vast array of civil works including creek diversions, acid sulphate soil treatment and water storage construction. These same skills apply to mine site rehabilitation, right down to production of the right plants for revegetation.”
Other areas of skill applicable to mining include water monitoring by the Thiess Services hydrography group. This specialist team is applying latest data network technology to provide the most comprehensive information available for flood mapping and water quality monitoring. This expertise translates directly to mining and the many challenges it faces with water.
Water treatment is also a core skill and Thiess Services has the niche engineering and construction strength to deliver specialist water treatment plants that may fall outside the interest of larger construction companies.
Electricity infrastructure is another major Thiess Services strength with direct application to mining. Installation or relocation of poles and wires and substation construction are core capabilities provided routinely to large electricity network providers.
As it sets its sights on the future, Thiess Services is looking beyond just organic growth to extend its mining reach. It has recently opened a new office in Newcastle to provide a focus on the Hunter Valley, and is in the process of establishing facilities in the Bowen Basin in Queensland, and in the Pilbara in WA, both burgeoning growth centres for mining.
Thiess Services is undoubtedly at the threshold of a major new era for the business and Doug Moss exudes the enthusiasm of all those at the coal face of the transition.
“We’re a one stop shop for the mining industry and we’re open and ready for business.”