Technology Review

Project Management



Attila The Hun







Revision: 21 August 2008

Author: Jack Caldwell


Table of Contents


Introduction.. 3

Sources of Information.. 3

General Principles. 4

Scope of Mining-Related Project Management 5

Consultants and Engineering Companies. 5

Project Management Office. 7

Project Communication.. 7

Project Planning.. 8



Leaders are born; project managers are made.  Attila the Hun is my favorite example of a born leader:


·        First because of Verdi’s opera in which Atilla is portrayed as a rather sensitive inspiration to his men.

·        Second because of his legendary ability to avoid battle yet extract tribute from the Roman Empire to the value of more than a third of the gross national product.

·        Third because of the glamour of his death (the nature of which is admittedly disputed). 

My most admired project manager is still in the business so I tread warily in describing her.  We met trudging the woods of Pennsylvania across a site containing radioactive waste.  For two years I worked for her compiling the site’s closure plan.  She adroitly managed a team of eclectic individuals, each of whom was hand-chosen for their expertise, and each of whom was utterly unable to complete anything on time or within budget. 


The project was a great success, achieving all the company’s goals, including on-time delivery of documents and containment of costs below budget.  It is still something of a mystery to me how she did it. 


So let us examine the principles and practice of project management in the context of mining to see if we can discern at least the basic outlines of successful project management skills that can be taught and learned. 


Sources of Information

First access the website of the Project Management Institute.  If you do a lot of project management, their annual $129 fee may be well justified. 


You can also subscribe to the newsletter from PM Forum, billed as the world’s most significant project management on-line publication. 


The best free book on project management (in my opinion) is available from Method 123.  While on their site, I recommend you also register to receive their newsletter.  I always enjoy the information it brings.  Most of the tools you will need for mining-related project management can be found at this site.


The site Reforming Project Management, which bills itself as “the magazine for the project age” has an interesting article called Starting a Project Well Begins with a Kickoff Meeting. It is the sixth article in a series on Project Meeting Protocols.


For a comprehensive source of information on project management, see the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, Third Edition, by the Project Management Institute.


EduMine has a number of courses that set out the principles & practice of project management in the mining context.  In particular, I recommend the course on Mineral Project Management.  It is worth every cent you may have to pay for it and every hour you may have to study it.  The course author has also published a book: Managing Capital Projects for Mining.  You should definitely get it if you ever have to manage a mining-related project. 


General Principles

On the basis of observing many excellent project managers, having to manage projects myself, and scrutinizing the websites listed above, here is my list of desiderata for successful project management:

  • Technical Knowledge.  You need a good understanding of the technical details of the work to be executed.
  • Team Members.  You need people able to do the work. Hand pick the best, regardless of where they come from or which organization they work for.  Nothing reduces the likelihood of success of a project more than a team member who is on the team by virtue of organizational affiliation rather than competence.
  • Work Breakdown Structure. You must have a good WBS and better still a WBS dictionary.  Without the WBS, you cannot plan, budget, establish a schedule, file, or keep track of work done.
  • Schedule.  MicroSoft Project is pretty much good enough for most projects.  It is readily available and easy to use.  It works with WBS (one of the menu items).
  • Budget.  Be realistic but be conservative.  Carefully spelling out the work to be done in each WBS category and assigning costs means that if extra work is required, it is easy to identify the out-of-scope items and assign additional budget. 
  • Hard Work.  You have to work hard to keep abreast and ahead of the team.  You should know as much as they do, you should read everything they write, you should fuss over the details of schedule and budget status, and you must interact with the greater world that will bless or condemn your project deliverables. 


Scope of Mining-Related Project Management

The key to any formal project management activity is of course the Work Breakdown Structure.  To this end, I have compiled a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) for a typical mine.  This is an activity based WBS and covers most mining activities.  I am sure you can expand or adapt it readily enough for your mine. 


If you live and work at a mine in Australia and are charged with the task of managing a mining-related project, you may elect to go to the site of Enthalpy Pty Ltd.


Consultants and Engineering Companies

I have written many a proposal for consultants and engineering companies.  Without fail you must get the words in “we execute projects within schedule and under budget.”  My most severe peer reviewer would routinely strike out these words and pen a sarcastic comment to the effect of, “Prove it, give examples, why should I believe you?”  I recalled these words as I read the claims on the many websites of consultants and engineers, all of whom of course claim that they execute projects on schedule and within budget.  Here are some examples.


·         Ekati - Northwest TerritoriesCanada for BHP Billiton Diamonds:  AMEC was responsible for the engineering, procurement and project/construction management (EPCM) of Canada’s first diamond mine. This C$700 million project was completed within budget and one month ahead of schedule.


·         Micon International has specific experience in the management and administration of small and large underground mining development projects. This highly specialized capability includes providing assistance in the design of the project and, with a team of seasoned project administrators, ensuring that the quality of work is satisfactory and that the project is completed on time and on budget.


·         KBR engineers and project managers have the qualifications and experience to provide a wide range of services to the mining and mineral processing industries. Using KBR's well-established project management systems and the expertise of our project controls specialists, we help maximize outcome predictability and help minimize disruption to ongoing operations.



Sinclair Knight Merz states that their project delivery system includes:

  • Safety management
  • Risk assessment and management
  • Estimating
  • Cost control
  • Planning and scheduling
  • Contract management
  • Procurement
  • Inspection, expediting, logistics and materials management
  • Project management systems
  • Document control
  • Reporting
  • Accounting and administration
  • Change management
  • Engineering management

Western States Mining Consultants see it differently when they state that their project management approach contains four distinct steps: 

  • Problem assessment
  • Development of alternative solutions
  • Selection of appropriate solution based on effectiveness and costs
  • Monitoring results


Project Management Office

A final question: Do you need a project management office?  This “office” would supply experienced project managers to manage projects using standard and current project management principles.  There are conflicting opinions about whether this approach saves money or costs money.  Read what CIO says about it and decide.  Then view a sad story.






Project Communication


Method123 distributes a free project management newsletter that must be amongst the best in the genre.


Their Communications Management Process template is the method by which formal messages are identified, created, reviewed and communicated within a project. Clear, accurate and timely communication is critical to the success of any project, as miscommunication can result in increased project risk.  If you communicate properly, the right stakeholders will receive the right information at the right time. This enables them to make well-informed decisions about your project.  There are a variety of ways that you can communicate the project status to stakeholders, such as through: Press releases; Internal newletters; Project Status reports; Presentation materials; Website news releases; and Internal project memos.


Step 1: Identify the Message.  Your Communications Plan will identify the communications messages that need to be distributed, to keep your stakeholders informed of the project's progress. Throughout the project, the Project Manager should review this plan to identify which messages need to be distributed, how and when.

Step 2: Target the Audience. Now that you have identified what it is that needs to be communicated, the next step is to identify who it is that the message needs to be communicated to. The audience for each message needs to be confirmed.

Step 3: Decide the Timing.  Identify the timing and frequency of the communications message. In some cases, regular communications, such as weekly Project Status Reports or monthly newsletters, may be necessary. In other cases, a one-off communication event, such as a project change notification, may be more appropriate.

Step 4: Confirm the Format. With content, audience and timing decided, the format of the communication message can be effectively chosen. There are a number of different types of formats to choose from, including verbal presentations, written reports, memos, letters and emails.

Step 5: Create the Message. You should document a first draft of the message content. The Project Manager will then review it and they may suggest changes. When a final draft is completed it is submitted for approval and release.

Step 6: Communicate the Message.  Once approved, the message is communicated to the target audience. The Project Manager may need to seek the Project Sponsor's approval before releasing certain high risk communications messages.


On the subject of good sources of information about project management, I also recommend PMFORUM, a fee subscription-based publication on news and information in the field of project management. 


Project Planning

Method123 regularly sends me their newsletter.  Of course they are marketing and here I am giving them free publicity.  But I so liked the following (edited to suit my style) that I do not hesitate to replicate it.  See their website for more information.   This is their checklist if you are planning a project.


Step 1: Create a Project Plan
Firstly, you need to create a comprehensive Project Plan, which is critical to the success of the project. The Project Plan identifies the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) of the phases, activities and tasks to be undertaken. It defines the sequencing, duration and dependencies of each task, as well as the generic resources and financial expenditure required to complete your project.

Step 2: Create a Resource Plan
Following the creation of a Project Plan, a detailed assessment of the resources required to undertake the project should be made. The required labor, equipment and materials should be listed and the amount of each resource quantified. Finally, the resource consumption should be scheduled to provide the Project Manager with a complete view of the total amount of resource needed for each stage of the project.
Step 3: Create a Financial Plan
 The Financial Plan describes the total quantity of financial resources required during each stage of the project. The total cost of each item of labor, equipment and materials is calculated, as well as the total cost of undertaking each activity within the Project Plan.
Step 4: Create a Quality Plan
 To ensure that the project deliverables meet customer requirements, a Quality Plan is developed. This plan explicitly lists the quality targets to be achieved, and a suite of Quality Assurance and Quality Control activities are scheduled to ensure that the required level of quality is achieved throughout the project.
Step 5: Create a Risk Plan
 Managing Project Risk is a critical process within the Project Lifecycle. To mitigate risk effectively, all foreseeable project risks are identified and rated in terms of their likelihood of occurrence and potential impact on the project. The risks are prioritized and a set of actions identified to reduce the likelihood of each risk and its impact on the project should it occur.
Step 6: Create an Acceptance Plan
 The key to customer satisfaction is in gaining approval from the customer that the deliverables meet the quality criteria stated in the Quality Plan. To ensure that customer acceptance is sought for each deliverable produced by the project, an Acceptance Plan is created. The Acceptance Plan provides a schedule of Acceptance Reviews which are undertaken to gain customer acceptance for the completion of each deliverable within the project.
Step 7: Create a Communications Plan
 A Communications Plan is a document which describes the information to be provided to project stakeholders to keep them informed of the progress of the project. Each stakeholder is listed and their requirements for information clearly identified. A schedule of communication events and activities are laid out to ensure that the right information is communicated to the right people at the right time.
Step 8: Create a Procurement Plan
 Projects often need to acquire procurement items (such as products, services and specific results) from external suppliers. The Procurement Plan describes which items will be sourced from external suppliers and the timeframes and methods for delivery.
Step 9: Contract the Suppliers
 With a clear view of the procurement items to be acquired, the project team will set out to select and contract one or a small number of preferred suppliers to the project.
Step 10: Perform Phase Review
 With a detailed understanding of the activities, resources, finances and supplier relationships required to undertake the project, the team is ready to enter the Execution phase. A Phase Review is undertaken to ensure that all of the required Planning activities have been completed and to provide formal approval to proceed to the Project Execution phase.
If you would like to use a suite of templates to complete each of these activities quickly and efficiently, then read about the Project Planning Kit. This kit includes all of the templates, forms and processes required to perform these 10 steps faster than ever before.