Laying the foundations of mining camps

A SPECIALIST contractor has made an entry into the mining industry, offering a cheaper, quicker and more environmentally friendly alternative to concrete building foundations which has already attracted the attention of some of the Pilbara’s largest players.
Laying the foundations of mining camps Laying the foundations of mining camps Laying the foundations of mining camps Laying the foundations of mining camps Laying the foundations of mining camps

The Coppabella coal mine in Queensland's Bowen Basin supplies 30% of the global pulverised coal injection market.

Kristie Batten

SFL Piletech has been supplying screw piles to industrial commercial buildings for the past 15 years, but singled out the mining industry as a major growth opportunity.

Earlier this year SFL approached construction and engineering company VDM Group with the concept of using steel tube screw piles as foundations for accommodation and amenities buildings.

SFL’s Western Australian sales manager Richard Douglas told that the innovative design had impressed VDM and resulted in VDM designing accommodation to suit the screw piles.

“We designed it ourselves and then we worked with the engineers who were actually building the camp,” he said.

SFL has secured contracts for three mining camps since entering the sector in February.

The company completed work for the 470-person mining camp at Atlas Iron’s Pardoo project and recently finished work with Decmil, putting screw piles in for the first stage of BHP Billiton’s Port Haven camp in Port Hedland.

A further contract for stage 2 works has since been awarded to SFL.

SFL is currently working with VDM on Citic Pacific’s massive $US3.6 billion ($A3.96 million) Sino Iron project and has about two months of work left there.

Douglas said the main benefit of the screw piles was that they alleviated the need for concrete.

“We all know how expensive concrete is to ship in and out in remote areas and what we do is send a truck up with the screw piles and a little excavator and these are just screwed in the ground and the accommodation building is bolted on top,” he said.

“When the contract is finished and the mine is finished they can just be screwed out again.”

The environment also benefits from the product, as it minimises impact on the ground and doesn’t generate any spoil – a feature which Douglas says has made the product appealing for not only remote mining camps, but also indigenous housing.

“They don’t like the ground to be disturbed too much, because for normal housing, all the spoil taken from the diggings has to be put somewhere and you can’t put it on anyone else’s land,” he said.

Noise pollution is also reduced during installation.

“There are no trucks going in and out of the camps,” Douglas said.

The screw piles reduce construction time and labour costs and, unlike concrete, there is no curing time.

“You can install up to 100 a day which is 10 accommodation buildings a day,” Douglas said.

“We can do it all – we can install the buildings and just bolt them down.

“We’re just trying to add value for the client.”

Douglas believes there are plenty of opportunities for the company for more work in the resources sector.

He is meeting with Decmil today for possible work on Chevron’s $43 billion Gorgon liquefied natural gas project.

Decmil, along with joint venture partners Thiess and Kentz, recently finalised the $500 million contract to construct the 3300-person accommodation village on Barrow Island.

Douglas also singled out the James Price Point development, as well as Australasian Resources’ Balmoral South iron ore project, which recently received environmental approval.

“There’s also a lot of upgrades to iron ore mines so we’ll hopefully be targeting those guys as well,” he said.

Keeping up with the demand won’t be a problem for SFL.

“We have several manufacturing facilities around the country – one in Melbourne and one in Brisbane – so we can draw on those to fulfil our order book.”

SFL have offices in Queensland and NSW, including Newcastle.

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