Determining the cost of developing a potash or soda ash solution-mining project is the easy part for Novopro Projects Inc. The company’s specialty is determining a project’s risk before it is begun. “For us, engineering is a very important part of the study, but it is not driving everything that we do,” co-founder and Managing Director Mazi Rejaee explains. “Our model is basically driven by the development phases. The front-end engineering is really the strength of the company to develop a project from the ground up with the client as an integrated team.
“What drives what we do is risk,” Rejaee continues. “So let’s say the risks are several different dimensions. They could be technological – then engineering is a factor – but they could also be commercial, marketing, logistics or environmental. We do a very thorough risk review ahead of starting our activities and allow that risk review to govern the scope of the study. We look at the water supply, roads, marketing and how the revenue is coming into this entity that they want to create.”
Additional considerations are how the material being mined will be marketed, how the project will be financed, the permitting requirements and how local residents will react to the development. “The way we use the definition of risk to determine the scope and the cost of the project would be the biggest difference between ourselves and other engineering companies,” Rejaee says. “This risk governs all activities for the project, and the residual risks that are left at the end is carried by the owner or costed out.”
The risk is organized into steps and assessed in progressive stages. Novopro Projects can determine the cost of structural steel and facilities with ease. “Anything that is high-value, high-risk, that is where we spend the effort at the beginning of the project,” director of Engineering Jim Brebner emphasizes.
Novopro Projects specializes in engineering and project management of facilities for solution mining of potash and soda ash. “The drilling is similar to an oil well, and we basically use a solvent,” Rejaee explains. “In this case for potash, it’s water, and we are dissolving the ore under the ground at a certain elevation.” One of two concentric pipes in the well pumps water down the well while the other brings the mineral material to the surface under pressure. The material is processed on the surface using various techniques, such as evaporation and crystallization.
Typically, Novopro’s projects are in greenfield locations that have not been mined before. Its staff can augment a customer’s team. “Instead of having a team that shadows us, we integrate with the client and do it quite effectively,” Rejaee says. “This way, there is no doubling of positions – we become one project team.”
Novopro Projects’ size keeps it nimble. “Because we’re not a large team, we’re quite dynamic,” Rejaee emphasizes. “We can change focus quickly. We don’t have a lot of inertia like the larger companies. We can react quite a bit quicker. We customize our methodology based on the capabilities of the client and what the project needs, as opposed to delivering a standard design.”
The company provides its services globally. “We have projects in Turkey, Ethiopia, Congo, Canada and in New Mexico,” Rejaee says. He attributes Novopro Projects’ success to adapting to the needs of a project. “Sometimes, we have to look at a project as an entity and address the needs of the project,” he maintains. “Then the project benefits, and if the project benefits, everybody benefits.”
Besides assessing risk, the other area in which Novopro Projects expends considerable effort is in estimating costs. “It’s not enough to draw the plans,” Rejaee stresses. “You have to know what they cost and how accurate the costing is, so the owner can gauge whether this is an interesting operation for them and what risks are involved.” The company uses estimation methodologies from AACE International.
Novopro Projects has several goals for the future, but growth simply for its own sake is not one of them. “We would like to be in a position to be able to choose which projects we want to get involved in and the ones that have the most likelihood for us to bring value to those clients,” Rejaee says. “We have a good reputation in the industry and are doing quite well. Since our inception only in 2007, we basically grow 30 to 40 percent a year, but it hasn’t been because we simply wanted to grow. It’s because the workload, the clients and the projects demanded it.”
Novopro has been involved in developing a number of projects from inception and feasibility to financing, implementation and start-up applied to the metallurgical, mineral processing and pharmaceutical industries. The expertise required to execute such projects is available at Novopro, including conceptual design and feasibility studies, program development, preparation of capital and operating cost estimates, financial model simulations and assistance in obtaining project financing.
One of Novopro’s core competences is project management, which in every project has the most potential to determine the outcome in terms of successful implementation. The lessons learned over the years have encouraged the managers at Novopro to use sound methodology and diligence when making recommendations for decisions to be made by the client.
Providing the correct information at the appropriate time is essential for a sound decision to be made, and project management ensures this and therefore drives all other disciplines to produce the tools required for the project to run safely, on time, and on budget. Project management is the key ingredient in developing projects.
Acting on behalf of the client or owner’s representative is a part of the services offered by Novopro which would assist the client’s team in dealing with large increases in work loads that inevitably result during project development and implementation stages. In fulfilling this role, Novopro understands the reporting requirements for a sound decision-making process that are present at various stages of the project.