Modelling for improved mine planning

Mining and metallurgy have traditionally been treated separately in metals production. For decades now, metallurgists have been able to use a popular simulation package and model their operation; identify bottlenecks in the process, explore potential solutions, and recommend the most appropriate changes to their process with a fairly high degree of confidence that the changes will work.

The problem for the mining engineer is that good models aren’t readily available for the mining process; particularly ones that take into account the:

  • Dynamics of a mining operation
  • Surges caused by truck queueing
  • Delays caused by shift changes and other production interruptions

Mining3 is working on a project called GESim which is developing models for simulating mining operations.  These models are discrete event-based, so they simulate the movement over time of materials and resources; the ore, trucks, excavators, conveyors, feeders and so on; modelling the queuing behaviour of the mining process.

These operational conditions have a significant effect on equipment utilisation and production, particularly in complex situations.

Discrete, time-based, simulation of mining operations is nothing new, but in the past, the models have been tailor-made for specific operations with specific objectives or limited to truck and shovel operations. GESim is focussed on developing re-usable discrete event models for the mining industry.

A key focus for GESim will be able to simulate Grade Engineering solutions. Grade Engineering is an innovative initiative by CRC ORE, which seeks to exploit the natural heterogeneity of the minerals, upgrading of the ore in or near the pit before it’s sent to the plant.  GESim needs to be able to facilitate these types of new processes, which introduce a higher level of complexity into the mining operation, for example by adding new sorting or screening technologies into the mining process.The GESim event models will incorporate material characteristics such as size distribution, mineral grades, and grade by size or response factors.  These characteristics will be used in models for processes such as screening, ore sorting and stockpiling.

However, mining is only part of the equation. It’s incredibly important that we understand the impact of mine plans and the delivery of ore on the performance of the processing plant. If a Grade Engineering solution is designed to deliver a certain throughput and quality of ore, in terms of size distribution, grade and contaminants, we want to make sure this is achieved consistently, hour after hour, shift after shift, week after week.

To do this, Mining3 will also be designing and testing a method to interface the mining simulation to IES, the Integration Extraction Simulator developed by CRC ORE and the JKMRC.  An interface between a time-based mining simulation and IES will allow users to set-up value metrics in IES and test a large number of mining scenarios, enabling them to forecast potential problems in mine plans. It will also enable users to identify the operational decisions or levers that will maximise the value of the process from blasting through material handling and processing.

The GESim project will be completed by the end of 2018 and will provide substantial benefits to the mining industry including:

  • Improved mine planning to increase productivity
  • Better visibility and control over the entire mining process
  • Enhanced decision making to maximise output
  • Mitigated risk of implementing new mining equipment and methods in the mining process