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By Sarah Hurst
For Mining News 

Mines generate Precision Power contracts

Anchorage company supplied equipment at short notice for ice roads to Russian project; also working at Pogo and Nixon Fork mines


Last updated 2/26/2006 at Noon

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was not the ideal time to be scouring the country for three 3,500-gallon-per-minute pumps, but that's exactly what Anchorage-based Precision Power needed last fall to complete a rush job for a gold mine in the Russian Far East. Fortunately, manufacturer Gorman-Rupp happened to have three such pumps on the shelf and Precision Power met the deadline to provide the mine with customized equipment for building ice roads.

"I got a phone call while I was having lunch and took the numbers down on a bar napkin," said Larry Junker, Precision Power's general manager. It was Sept. 15, 2005, and someone from Busby Marine in Seattle had called Junker to ask for help. Busby Marine had agreed to supply Vancouver-based Bema Gold with shipping containers for the Kupol project, a gold mine that is under construction, but they needed experts to put the equipment together inside the modules. Busby Marine knew that Peak Oilfield Services, Precision Power's parent company, had experience with ice roads on Alaska's North Slope.

Three-month timeline

The generators, pumps and ventilation system to go with them had to be ready for transportation within three months. Normally this would be about a five-month project, Junker told Mining News. A crew of eight Precision Power employees worked 12-15-hour days, seven days a week, to finish on time. Busby Marine supplied the container shells and Precision Power designed the equipment to fit inside them. All the pieces came from different vendors.

The equipment needs to last for seven to 10 years: "They were looking for something that could take a lickin' and keep on tickin'," Junker said. Apart from the short time-frame for completing the contract, another unusual aspect of the project was the amount of paperwork required by Russian authorities. "We had to state where the item was made and what its composition was. It was pretty detailed," Junker said.

The modules were loaded onto two Russian planes on Dec. 13 destined for Chukotka, the region of Russia that is closest to Alaska. In the past, much of the equipment for the Kupol project has been transported from the neighboring Magadan region, where Bema operates its Julietta mine. "Hopefully we would see some more work, they seem to be real satisfied with the project," Junker said. The contract was worth something in excess of $500,000 to Precision Power.

Work at Pogo, Nixon Fork

Mines in Alaska have also employed Precision Power recently. So far the company has had three contracts with Pogo gold mine near Fairbanks, working on the final stages of the mine's construction. As a sub-contractor to Alaska Interstate Construction, Precision Power built the heat trace into the pipe that carries water used in the mine process. A heat trace cable is an electrical heater that keeps the pipe from freezing. Precision Power also installed flow transmitters that monitor the amount of water being used and 15 KV cables to feed various satellite electrical buildings at the mine. That job began in October and finished in early February.

Precision Power's second contract at Pogo was to install fiber-optic cables, and that has almost been completed. The company began a third contract in February to install a security system for the mine. The three contracts are worth over $1 million. "With future expansion at the mine we're hoping to get additional contracts," said Denis Vamvoras, Precision Power's operations manager. "While you're there they always seem to have something additional for you to do that wasn't in the scope of work; we're open to other work."

The newly permitted Nixon Fork gold mine near McGrath has contracted with Precision Power to provide generators.

With its new mining contracts and regular work for the oil and gas industry, Precision Power has more than doubled in size in the past year to about 70 employees.

More will be needed.

Junker, who got his start in power generation with the U.S. Marines in Vietnam, is concerned that young people are now more interested in computers than a career where they get their hands dirty.

"The power generation world is a unique little niche," he said.

"Whether there's an engine problem, an electrical problem, a cooling problem - one guy has to take care of it.

In that respect it's a little demanding."


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