Dec '09/Jan '10

Better information better results

An enterprise resource solution for the mining industry

By J. Borsato

A screenshot of a mine operations dashboard where the fidelity to mine plans can be tracked


From exploration to operations, the mining industry’s decision-making capabilities depend on the integrity of the information that decisions are based on. Accessible, manageable and up-to-date spatial information is essential for addressing very complex issues with competing priorities. The role of this information is fundamentally important in mining business systems, the reduction of production costs, regulatory compliance and the achievement of sustainability goals.

Multi-potent software

To help manage these complex issues, the Australian mining technology services company, Runge Limited, has created a specialized business-focused Mining Knowledge Platform (MKP) called Mining Dynamics. An essentially visual system, Mining Dynamics supports data acquisition and management across the entire production chain from modelling and design to scheduling, reconciliation and performance management. Designed to dovetail into mining companies’ existing IT frameworks, the demand-driven software was created by miners. The industry has increasingly come to regard three-dimensional (3-D) modelling as critical to current and future operations. Furthermore, the consensus is that 3-D modelling should be translatable across the spectrum of business activities and software platforms and should be able to reflect the most current information from these disparate quarters. Mining Dynamics aims to succeed on these counts.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems have been designed and tuned to comprehensively manage standard manufacturing environments. Mining introduces complexities that do not fit the standard manufacturing model. ERP solution providers have universally identified the operational complexities of mining as a capability gap; Runge’s MKP has been certified by SAP to bridge this gap.  This gap is often described as having confounding complexity and can impose inefficient work practices. The modular design of Mining Dynamics circumvents this problem. Not requiring single-step, all-at-once implementation, the MKP system can be rolled out in various customized stages or phase-ins, to smooth its transition into clients’ businesses.

Mining Dynamics comprises five modules:

  • The Control and Storage module, for workflow management and storage capacities, allows users to accurately file, retrieve and submit data throughout the organization.
  • The Discovery module facilitates the search for 2-D and 3-D data capacities across multiple geo-spatial data stores.
  • The Enterprise module controls the interchange and procurement of data across various applications .
  • The browser-enabled 3-D View module allows spatial visualization from multiple sources without the need for any additional software. 
  • The Plan Compliance module helps process applications to iron out planning and compliance issues and reduce the gap between projected and actual data.

To expand the capabilities of their product, Runge collaborated with the geographic information system (GIS) firm ESRI to integrate GIS technologies into Mining Dynamics. This allows users to create searches, analyze spatial information, edit data and maps, and view the results of these operations in three dimensions inside any web browser.

Mining Dynamics in action

Two early field applications of Mining Dynamics have served to illustrate the software’s capabilities and reliability. Billiton Energy Coal South Africa (BECSA) adopted Mining Dynamics to improve the planning and execution of its mining activity, while GeoScience Victoria (GSV), an Australian provincial survey organization, used it to enhance data management.

A clean report card: BECSA, a BHP Billiton subsidiary, serves the South African and international energy coal markets. It adopted Mining Dynamics to track production against mine planning and to help fulfill mandatory regulatory reporting requirements.

To derive the maximum possible benefit from its assets, to govern resources better and to prolong the mine’s life, BECSA wanted increased compliance with mine plans. Unable to accurately and quickly analyze mine compliance, BECSA could not adjust the mine plan to cope with ever-changing operating conditions. Mining Dynamics helped close the critical gap between planning and operating, helping the company identify and correct deviations from the mine plan. 

To adhere to regulatory compliance codes, BECSA also needed to improve traceability and accountability to align outcomes with plans. The Mining Dynamics platform was configured to create a series of workflows that managed and authorized all input documents and process flows. This helped ensure that specific employees were notified of what tasks, updates or supporting data were required of them. It also created a clear and accessible audit trail, which ultimately facilitated the generation of requisite Competent Person’s Reports.

Arming the explorers: In July 2006, the provincial government of Victoria, Australia, launched the Gold Undercover Initiative to stimulate the development of systems and infrastructure needed to unearth the 70 million ounces of gold that are estimated to lie undiscovered in the state. GSV was tasked with identifying new geoscience information to prompt greater exploration and discovery. The first challenge was to effectively access and manage the region’s copious geoscientific data. The shift from two- to three-dimensional modelling had made GSV’s already-daunting data management tasks all the more difficult.

In response, GSV adopted the 3-D modelling capability of Mining Dynamics to help build and manage models and distribute them to prospectors and developers. The implementation of Mining Dynamics required the unified storage of 3-D objects and context-specific metadata (data about data). Given the sheer variety of data and users, it was essential for all consulted, added or altered information to remain within a single system. By thus unifying the information, GSV could also comply with the geographical metadata-related ISO 19139 standards more easily. Working with common standards, users can search for and export objects, and query the software using third-party systems.

GSV usually receives models in a variety of formats, which, in the past, were difficult to reconcile. Now, Mining Dynamics ensures easy interplay between data types and file formats and facilitates the performance of uniform projection analyses. This capability freed GSV and its clients to view any model of any format in a common web browser, without needing to install the application that was used to generate the model.

In addition to providing better access to information, the system also eases information control. Users can easily manage the life cycle of 3-D geological models, store data in proprietary or generic formats, and even convert between formats at will. Furthermore, data compiled by explorers with mineral rights to a specific region can be released selectively to safeguard private information. Meanwhile, researchers engaged in other projects can continue to have access to non-sensitive geological data. For the future, GSV plans to grant access to a host of 3-D models via its public website.

Mining data, like mining ore, entails the separation of things of value from masses of irrelevant or obstructive material. The advantage belongs to those who can sift through and refine the data — good, bad, revised or outdated — as efficiently as possible. Mining Dynamics seeks to provide precisely that advantage.

Visit www.runge.com

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