At Snowden our Mine Planning group thrives on solving complex problems quickly. Because each project is unique, we often develop our own tools to get the best bottom-line outcome for our clients. We do this by leveraging our diverse range of skills, experiences and perspectives as mining engineers, mathematicians and software developers. This series of articles provide some examples of where we have developed innovative solutions to problems; solutions that could also help add value to your project or operation.
The ProblemIn completing open pit mining studies, a common problem we have faced over the years is how to quickly generate auditable haulage profiles for calculating productivities and costs. Given the cost pressures in the market, the need for efficiency has increased. Historically, we would, depending on the level of study, and materiality of the haulage, either (a) estimate haulage via segments in a spreadsheet, or (b) manually design the haulage paths. Each has their advantages and disadvantages. (a) is quick, but difficult to audit and can be inaccurate. (b) provides you with a level of confidence regarding accuracy, but can take a lot of time and preclude the consideration of multiple scenarios. In particular, these approaches struggle to deal with complex haulage scenarios, where there are a large number of pits.
The SolutionAt Snowden, we decided to make our own haulage automation tool, Haulage Automator, that would automatically generate haulage profiles for a given schedule. It is comparable to the strings produced through manual design, but without the need for manual design. The tool automatically generates period advance surfaces, and then generates a haulage string for each source-destination combination in the period. The generation of the haulage profiles does not require instruction from the user. It will identify ramps by itself, understanding fuel/time cost with changes in haul gradient. “No-go” zones can be specified, and preferred haulage corridors can be considered. Within an hour of completing the schedule, we have an auditable set of haulage strings to estimate truck requirements. Subsequent schedule scenarios can be run within minutes. It also acts as a design validation tool to ensure that you have allowed adequate access to each mining area as the pit advances. Iterations and scenarios can be rapidly generated to identify sources of cost savings through design efficiencies.
This tool has given us the ability to save time and add value to our client’s projects simultaneously, and is routinely used at all levels of study for open pit projects.