Process Optimization in Mining: The Next Paradigm Shift in Productivity Gain After Mechanization and Automation

APCOM 2009
Abstract About 80 years ago the mining industry saw an advertisement of a machine manufacturer: „One man – one machine“, meaning the productivity gain by using a pneumatic rock drill instead of manual tools. Mechanization in mining had started. In the 1950's and 1960's when mechanization progressed the word could be transformed into the meaning of „one man – one drill rig“. During the 80's automatic functions were added to the machines. Automation started. In the 90's, the first autonomous machines were seen, transforming the advertisement from the 1920's into „one man – multiple machines“ operated from a remote control room. Soon, the productivity gain achieved by pure automation will also be flating out meaning that the margin cost of further productivity gain will be inefficiently high. What next? In mining operations there is still a high potential of unused productivity lost by „trivial“ things like organization, logistics and operational management. Changing the focus from mechanization and automation towards optimizing the overall mining process will unleash another big potential for cost cuttings and for enhancing efficiency of production. Optimizing an overall process is a task of much higher total complexity compared to an isolated machine automation focus. And a successful process integration requires the collaboration of machine vendors, infrastructure suppliers, IT services and the mine itself. It requires a number of of important preconditions to be fulfilled: - Integrated IT systems with seamless interfaces between all components and peripherals involved - Real time information access in all locations - Real time overview of all operational aspects. A crucial aspect for all of these issues is a seamless communication both above and also under ground and IT interfaces which are easy and price efficient to implement. This paper highlights ways to achieve productivity gains by process optimization. It also discusses needs for industry wide activities in order to enable cost efficient performance of mine process optimization projects.
Keywords: Standardization, Mine operation, Communication, Process optimization
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