Project complexity and narrow margins are just two scenarios that drive management within a standard framework monitored by management computer software. Maurice Jones reports
All substantial businesses need some computerised assistance but mining is an industry with specialist needs.
Multiple activities within a mine, most of which have an effect on the ‘bottom line’, plus external factors such as commodity prices, transport costs and possible host country instability make management decisions and balancing the books tricky activities. All those factors have to be taken into consideration to achieve maximum efficiency and return on investments, and algorithms developed for computer analysis best handle this. Functions may include mine design and planning (both open-pit and underground incorporating geological, hydrogeological and special data), production management, parts and consumables inventories and ordering, processing optimisation, personnel records including capabilities, training and security controls, dispatch schedules and financial control.
Although standard business software can be used for basic mine business, specialist software is desirable for many duties. Ideally the software functions should be integrated, as they are in real life, but that may also mean high up-front costs for a broad IT system, and perhaps accepting some less capable software for the sake of good performance in other functions. At least many software packages can be trialled to assess whether they suit the customer.
The mine design and modelling software function has become well established over some 40 years, and is essential for the increasingly large and complex operations as it eliminate laborious calculations and checks. The need is fulfilled by several specialist providers including more recent capabilities for 3-D modelling, geotechnical stability analysis, and consequently innovative design methods. Of course, on the principle of ‘rubbish in gives rubbish out’, a more than adequate database of geotechnical and exploitation performance data is first required.
The well-known Gemcom Software suite of mining software is now part of the Geovia range within Dassault Systemes. Its InSite software is designed for efficient, monitored mine and plant production control providing auditable information to cover the quality as well as quantity of mined stocks. A new feature in version 4.4 has an ‘inspect and correct’ function for accurate reconciliation of plan against actual production. The latest version of Geovia’s Surpac (v6.6) geology and mine planning software includes advanced stope design capabilities with tools called Stope Designer and Stope Slicer.
Maptek’s Vulcan software line offers bundles for various geology, surveying and modelling functions. The MineModeller Open Pit bundle allows mining engineers to design, evaluate and maintain daily mine operations with easy updating of surfaces and design lines to generate daily production reports.
Recently some equipment manufacturers have become involved in computer software covering the wider operational parameters of their products. Sandvik Mining has agreed with Maptek to co-operate in the development of integrated planning and execution solutions including robust automation systems so that mining equipment can work directly from mine planning and measurement data.
The Cat MineStar integrated mine management software from Caterpillar is led by safety and maintenance needs. It has five sub-modules including the CatTerrain intelligent earthmoving system, Detect to control collision avoidance, and Fleet providing real-time tracking, scheduling, assignment and productivity management.
Videos: 1: Thiess uses the Adaptive Discovery cloud visual analytics software solution to give hundreds of remote mine workers instant access to key visual analytics
Video 2: IBM mine maintenance