28 Apr HOW TO ENABLE OPTIMISATION IN MINING
Over the last 50 years, commodity prices have fluctuated by approximately 600%. In the last decade, we’ve seen a 40% drop in productivity due to fluctuating and declining commodity prices and maturing mines. Essentially, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get to the required grade, while sweating assets which are getting old and deteriorating. Add to this the decarbonisation pressures, and optimisation becomes a critical success factor to overcome challenges that erode mine profitability and sustainability.
Johan Oelofse, Principal Engineer Advisory at Minopex, a DRA Global Company believes using available technology is key to driving mining optimisation – with a caveat. “There are currently around 107 tech-driven trends used in the mining environment. So, the question becomes, which is the right solution, where do I start?”
To Johan, deriving value from digitisation and, depends on how the technology is implemented, and whether the mine truly understands what information should be extracted from the processes and assets to address operational challenges.
How Does Optimisation Address Mines’ Needs and Curb Frustrations?
The key is either doing more with the same or achieving current production with less.“To create efficiencies, mines need to become smarter in the ways they use data and information in order to make better, more impactful decisions faster. Here optimisation is required – and this isn’t something that happens on its own. A common mistake mines make is focussing only on assets in the pursuit of optimisation. This is only part of the equation.”
Johan confirms that true optimisation relies on three elements, working simultaneously:
The Assets – how can we use the assets optimally to become more predictive and prescriptive?
The Technology – for enhanced information visibility, extracting data in a smarter way to create better insights, and make better decisions
The People – enhance people capabilities by embedding best operating and problem-solving practices
What do we do with the data? How do we extract value?
“The answer starts with an Operational Assessment,” says Johan. “Once we’ve determined what the client’s frustrations are, what they want to achieve, and how far they currently are from reaching these goals, we can build processes and dashboards that drive proactivity and consider the entire integrated value chain. With the right information available in the right format, at the right time, solid, value, and fact-based decisions are made. Improving how mines can “save the shift in the shift” – the events are identified timeously and can be managed before deficits are experienced.”
What are the problems?
In Johan’s experience, clients often find it difficult to articulate the root cause of problem and often only deal with the symptoms. “They see the effects of the problem, like excessive downtime or lost opportunities, for example. Any action taken at this point would be treating the symptom, and not the cause. With the right data at hand, we begin to understand and rectify the cause.” This provides better insights to the processes and assets.
For this reason, the Minopex Advisory team engages with clients to develop a deep understanding of:
- Client’s desired performance levels
- Current position
- The “probortunities” (opportunities created by the problems faced)
“Once we understand where the gaps are, we actively employ tools and processes to visualise with data, introduce controls, identify predecessors to process issues, and become proactive in ensuring optimised operations. With the right visibility, alarms are raised in the early stages of events, driving intervention, and preventing the problem from snowballing throughout the plant – impacting downstream operations,” adds Johan. “Essentially, it’s the understanding of what’s to come, coupled with the power to engage the systems, processes and people necessary to change course.”
Optimisation Solving Real Mining Problems
Through the optimisation process, data visibility identifies bottle necks and potential issues. By understanding the key processes, and the relationship of input parameters with the processes, specific asset or component performance can be effectively evaluated, powerfully influencing how and why decisions are made.
“Understanding the elements that introduce variability into the plant means predictive models can be created, forecasting how an input will affect an output, and driving proactive decisions around the input.” The common problem Minopex Advisory solves for its clients is addressing a lack of visibility. “Combining true visibility with deep technical expertise and knowledge, our team supports the client to solve specific problems. From maintenance engineers to process engineers, metallurgists and more – our capabilities are strong. This deep technical mining expertise is built on being active in the mining environment and ore and mineral processing environment for over 25 years. Tapping into this expertise is what empowers us to solve clients’ problems.”
Continuous Improvement for the Mine of the Future
The reality of technology is that, once you’ve successfully implemented it, there’s new opportunities in improvements are unlocked. To be innovative, in the context of optimisation, it is essential to monitor new technologies, choosing what’s relevant to support and improve production capabilities and throughput.
“You will never reach the point where you can say ‘I’ve now reached the future mine’ – it’s a continuous process which is linked to continuous improvement.”
For more information about Optimisation, please contact Johan Oelofse at firstname.lastname@example.org.