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Mine optimisation insights at METS Monday


'METS Monday’ Workshop, IMARC 2018

Optimised Mine Operations, Monday 29 October

Panellists: David Moult Yancoal, Katie Hulmes Oz Minerals, Brian Hall AMC Consultants, Amy Lamb MMG Limited, Gerald Whittle Whittle Consulting, James Batchelor Roy Hill.

Monday’s Optimised Mine Operations workshop provided an afternoon of insight into the drivers for value generation from the perspective of both miners and consultants. The discussion facilitated by METS Ignited’s Ian Dover presented the challenges faced by miners in today’s operating environment, and the types of solutions that constitute the optimisation process at operations across Australia. As a soon-to-graduate mining student with a keen interest in mine optimisation, currently writing an undergraduate thesis on the optimisation of haul truck operations, the ensuing discussion presented some insightful perspectives on not only the strategy for optimisation, but also how these could be leveraged to create value.

The initial discussion fielded questions surrounding the operational challenges faced and leading practices employed at the panel’s operations. The key takeaways:

  • The perception of optimisation and maximising value. The challenges in its application with people and teams within organisations, and solution through clear definition and strategic alignment of KPIs across the operational chain;
  • The approach of product development and management of the optimisation process. Particularly worth mentioning is the work-backwards approach of Amazon that is utilised at Oz Minerals: in this method the project team prepares a press release focused on the ‘day of project completion’ so they can focus on identifying and demonstrating the value that the project is to deliver… this enables the team to become very focused on delivering value;
  • The importance of the optimisation value definition for all the key stakeholders, not just shareholders;
  • The critical role METS have to play in providing solutions and negotiating/managing some of the risk within operations; and
  • The context and quality of decisions, being based on controls/disturbances/constraints of models and ultimately resulting in achieving the outcome.

The discussion also addressed the importance of the management of automation, in both its creation of efficiencies and inefficiencies. Highly dependent on data quality, data is a vital corporate asset for decision making. Foundational to the optimisation process is accurate, real-time data that can be utilised to provide continuous update of models. Ensuring data is efficiently managed will provide greater return on any application of analytics.

Later discussion led to the skillsets of the future and expectations of those joining the industry. A debate of the role of digital skills was raised, and whether a ‘make’ or ‘buy’ approach is of greater benefit. Multiple opinions voiced the need for coding as a fundamental platform for the digital future—whilst others shared that it may not be so much the skill itself, rather the ability to understand and interpret its results and ask the ‘right’ questions. Either way it is clear the tools of the future are evolving, and as students it is important to understand each of them will be increasingly important in the future.

Written by METS Ignited Student Volunteer, Michael Spurway who is a final year Mining Engineering undergraduate at The University of Queensland.