October 2013

Editor's letter

The efficiency agenda

By Ryan Bergen

“If you want to know if your haul roads are in good shape, just pour yourself a cup of coffee, set it on the dash of your truck and take a drive through your operation at 60 kilometres per hour.” That was the advice of Caterpillar’s Kent Clifton at a recent product demonstration event at the company’s proving ground south of Tucson, Arizona. The event included a number of presentations from product line specialists and a showcase of Cat’s various machines in action. A fellow editor and return visitor to the site observed that the biggest change since his last trip there – beyond Cat’s embrace of electric drive haul trucks – was the company’s messaging. In the past, the emphasis was on sizing up, but the focus at this event was squarely on efficiency and “cost-per-ton.”

After a summer storm of writedowns, where mining companies reconciled their accounting to the reality of the marketplace, Cat representatives had scores of suggestions for the visiting group of miners on how they could make their operations more productive and push back against narrowing margins. Experts discussed many load and haul practices – tire management, road maintenance, refuelling schedules, payload optimization – and showed potential improvements that, when combined, promised substantial rewards.

Our feature this issue, “Breaking down comminution” by Eavan Moore, takes an equally close look at how changes in comminution circuits can uncover more value for operations. But in this instance, rather than refining current practices, as the Cat reps proposed, a number of expert voices argue that the moment demands a fundamental shift in how mines liberate minerals. As ore grades decline and sizing up mills to handle throughput becomes more difficult, they suggest the time has come for processing plants to put less familiar but increasingly proven energy efficient grinding technologies to better use.

This issue also features a special report on Senegal. Though the West African country’s mining industry is modest at present, it has the character to grow and, in the process, open up other jurisdictions on its borders. Our coverage is designed to give the reader a broad introduction to the country, one that should bring him or her up to speed on the state of the industry as well as some of the idiosyncrasies of the local culture. As you will discover, “business casual” doesn’t translate well to Wolof.

Ryan Bergen


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