Striking Gold With The Virtual Plant
By Martin Berutti on 10.31.12
Mimic Simulation

The October 2012 Issue of Control Magazine features a case study on how Barrick used Mimic to save time and money on the startup of the largest gold mine in the world in Process Simulation Pans Out For Gold.

Building the World's Largest Gold Mine

The Barrick, Pueblo Viejo project had all the warning signs for great startup and operational risks from the beginning.

  • The sheer scope and investment in the plant was massive.
  • Engineering of the process and control system were being done at two different engineering contractors over 4000 km apart.
  • The site is remote and finding experienced process operators locally was almost impossible.
  • The plant design is complex, with many processes, and requiring a variety of skills and experience.
  • Barrick needed to startup the operation of the plant by supplementing the work force with high price North American operators.
  • The plant commited to the Dominican Republic government to use local workforce for operations, even though they had little to no mining experience.

Barrick, Pueblo Viejo Site Map showing the major process areas. Unit Operations included in the dynamic simulation are shown in yellow.

Yet, the project team had two visionary leaders, Paul Yaroshak, Process Control Manager, and Benoit Bissonette, Plant Manager, who understood the value that a dynamic simulator could provide for preparing their operators for the challenges of the project. In order to meet the challenges of their project, Barrick decided to invest in a dynamic simulation to be used with their DeltaV process automation system. The goals of the investment of the dynamic simulation were:

  • Meet the aggressive startup and production deadlines.
  • Process understanding and familiarity with the control system.
  • Hands on practice of Standard Operating Procedures for the North American operator staff.
  • Promote safe production and mitigate potential risk of equipment damage.
  • Qualify resources for a wide range of roles within the facility.
  • Build organization capability to leverage the system for future training needs.

We were fortunate to earn the trust of Paul and Benoit and the project began. After evaluating several options, the Pueblo Viejo project team decided to use Mimic Simulation Software. The reasons for their decision (in their own words) were:

  • Mimic provided the required levels of fidelity (complexity) needed for the different unit operations.
  • Mimic integrates seamlessly with DeltaV.
  • The Pueblo Viejo project engineering contractors were already using Mimic for DeltaV testing.
  • Mimic is easy to use and change for implementing model changes and control system enhancements.
  • The project team felt the Mimic solution was the most intuitive offering.

Building the Virtual Gold Processing Plant

Working with our partner, Lakeside Process Controls in Toronto, we began building the virtual gold processing plant. The solution was a modular, flexible dynamic simulator that can be run as independent, parallel training sessions:

  • Over 10,000 simulated IO in all areas.
  • Simulation divided into 10 independent process models with boundary conditions so that each model can be run independently.
  • Mixture of model complexity with 30% high, 60% medium, and 10% low fidelity process models.
  • Instructor screens with model and boundary condition controls for each process model.

Instructor station graphic for limestone crushing shows dynamic Process Flow Diagram, instructor controls, and performance indications.

A Gold Mine of Business Results

The business results realized were greater than any the project team imagined with a payback of over 100X over the virtual plant investment. These benefits were due to a significant reduction in system commissioning time and early identification of system issues. In addition, the dynamic simulator provided an effective tool to familiarize the startup and operations staff with system and process complexities well before the startup of the plant. In addition, there were several unanticipated benefits such as:

  • Early identification of usability and logic issues.
  • Circular Interlocks, incorrect alarm limits
  • Identification of HMI errors and issues.
  • Ability to fully test Sequence controls and develop additional automatic sequencing.

In addition, Barrick used the virtual plant for off-line development of Standard Operating Procedures and as a test bed to improve operator training material. Finally, the operations trainers have a working system to develop on and not by memory and documents alone.

We appreciate the great capabilities of the Barrick, Pueblo Viejo team. Paul Yaroshak and Benoit Bissonette are knowledgable, talented professionals and their contributions were a major factor in the success of this project. We also appreciate the support and project management of our fantastic partner, Lakeside Process Controls. Finally, Jim Montague of Control, provided an excellent summary of the project in his article Process Simulation Pans Out For Gold.

Other Resources to Review

I look forward to your comments, questions, or suggestions.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Mart Berutti, 11/06/12