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EPCM companies in mining: redefining relationships

How disruptive digital technologies are redefining the decades-long relationship between mining and EPCM companies for effective mine design project execution

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First published in the December 2018 issue of International Mining

The impact of digitization and automated mining technology on EPCM and contract mining

The industrial internet of things, artificial intelligence-driven analytics and machine learning provide real-time and predictive data to mining operators, helping them make informed decisions to reduce ore variability, operating and capital expenditure, improve safety, automate machinery operation, and facilitate predictive rather than preventative maintenance.

For EPCMs (Engineering, Procurement, Construction Management), whose job it is to design, build and develop mines on behalf of owners, that means eschewing traditional, rigid working practices in favor of a more collaborative, holistic approach, according to Max Luedtke, Global Head of Product Group Mining, at ABB.

“EPCM companies can no longer rely on the traditional model where they break down large projects into smaller packages using cut and paste solutions,” Luedtke said.

Max Luedtke, Global Head of Mining at ABB
"EPCM companies can no longer rely on the traditional model where they break down large projects into smaller packages using cut and paste solutions”

Forming a collaborative partnership

Now, in order to drive digital innovation, technology companies such as ABB have to be involved as early as the pre-feasibility stage, forming a collaborative partnership with the mine operator through the entire lifetime of the mine.

In addition to early contract involvement, future-proofed design and build solutions that incorporate digital applications, electrification and automation are key to reducing costs and maximizing output.

EPCMs have to look at electrification and automation as one whole package, and think about how to combine different types of projects and solutions in order to reduce cost of ownership and build an operational platform that can then be used in the future.

Also, there needs to be ongoing dialogue between the EPCM and the operator about how other industries such as oil and gas are utilizing digital solutions and how these could be adapted for the mining sector.

Early contract involvement of technology companies, future-proofed design and solutions that incorporate digital applications, electrification and automation are key to reducing costs and maximizing output.

Looking at the whole picture, where everything is connected

ABB developed the MineOptimize concept based around early involvement in a project and this can be broken down into four pillars:

  1. optimizing the engineering;
  2. optimizing the way of working on systems supply;
  3. applications; and
  4. service
ABB’s Ability™ MineOptimize encompasses optimized engineering, electrification and automation solutions, digital applications and collaborative services to reduce cost, minimize risk and improve efficiency, and is used by both end operators and EPCMs.


ABB Ability™ MineOptimize speeds up the engineering process by allowing companies to make quicker changes without compromising on quality, but also, at the same time, looking at the whole project investment picture. This is achieved by modern digital engineering and project management tools.

“To use an analogy: a smart phone is nothing without the apps. In terms of MineOptimize, that means everything is connected, allowing operators and us to gather all kinds of data and create information out of it – for example, to optimize plant performance or enable predictive maintenance services.”

In ABB Ability™ MineOptimize concept everything is connected: optimized engineering, electrification and automation solutions, digital applications and collaborative services. To use an analogy: A smart phone is nothing without the apps.

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