Challenges to overcome in applying information technology in the mining industry

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Mining has several characteristics, uncommon in other business sectors, which pose additional challenges to the implementation or design of IT and management systems that use the information. Understanding these characteristics would improve the chances of successfully importing new information technology and management techniques to mineral producers. The most important characteristics that should be understood are workplace issues, the industry’s dual nature of being a continuous construction project using cyclical factory processes, labour challenges, workplace culture, information availability, and the nature of technical education. These characteristics were taken into account in and application of engineering management. The project focused on the development of an IT-enabled performance management system at several underground metal mines in Canada.
Unlike a factory, identical work tasks in different workplaces rarely result in identical performance. For example, drilling a hole in a piece of sheet metal on one side of a factory could be compared and benchmarked against drilling the same type of sheet metal on the opposite side of the factory. However, in mining, the workplace is a key factor in the performance of a process. For example, ramp development in one part of the mine would be substantially different from ramp development in a part of the mine with different rock strength, stability, and proximity to interfering processes. Workplaces and their properties would therefore be a key attribute when tracking the performance of processes in databases.
Mining is also different in that it is a hybrid of a construction project and rock manufacturing plant. Other than certain block cave mines, most operations are under construction throughout their lives where a continuous construction process is underway to create rock factories until the stope is mined out, wherein the process begins anew. The construction process uses cyclical processes as manufacturing processes. Manufacturing IT and management tools are currently employed; however, the engineering and construction IT and management tools could also be exploited. This would instigate changes in which database tools are linked and how those links are designed.
Culture is a key factor that must be considered when developing IT solutions. IT creates significant visibility of performance and transparency of processes that may conflict with traditional cultural norms. Anthropological studies have characterized two distinct cultural groups within a mine environment. Understanding these characteristics may help managers design systems to use cultural levers rather than conflict with culture.
The educational system for technical personnel is one of the key challenges to the effective use of IT in mining. The educational requirements are clearly defined for what makes the mining engineering profession unique from other types of engineering: rock mechanics, geology, and economics. However, most of the activities of technical and management personnel in mining relate to the collecting, collating, storing, manipulating, cleaning, and analysis of data. Yet few engineering undergraduate programs have a class that covers the use and analysis of commercial mining data and is not even considered sufficiently important for a mention in the accreditation description.
Information technology is often seen as the source for the next great wave of productivity improvements. Technologies developed in other business sectors, such as data warehousing and data mining, are becoming available to the mining industry as the mine IT systems mature. However, the key challenges that differentiate mining from other businesses and that might impede the implementation of these new tools should be analyzed for solutions as is done in this paper.
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This paper discusses the classification of gold ores and gold minerals, mineralogical factors affecting gold extractive metallurgy, and study procedures and techniques commonly employed in gold process mineralogy.A case study of a refractory gold ore is provided to show the need and importance of process mineralogy in gold extractive metallurgy.
From the perspective of metallurgical processing, gold ores can be classified into free-milling and refractory...
Publication: CIM Bulletin
Author(s): J. Zhou, B. Jago, C. Martin
Issue: 2
Volume: 1
Year: 2006
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The coarse particle recovery (CPR) process captures coarse particles that are not recoverable by regular flotation. Several porphyry copper operations in the world operate analogous circuits that recover non-floated copper from tailings; however, the case presented here for Minera Escondida Ltda. is unique in that extensive underlying test work has allowed the authors to elucidate some fundamental principles behind recovery enhancement.
The concept is to...
Publication: CIM Bulletin
Author(s): B.J. Huls, G.S. Hill
Issue: 2
Volume: 1
Year: 2006
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In underground mines, material handling systems rely on a network of vertical or steeply inclined ore and waste passes. The design and operation of ore pass systems is often based on past experience, which can be anecdotal and, at times, contradictory in nature. This paper provides quantifiable information on ore pass practice and performance in Quebec underground metalliferous mines. The presented field data were derived during a series of site visits in...
Publication: CIM Bulletin
Author(s): J.-F. Lessard, J. Hadjigeorgiou
Issue: 2
Volume: 1
Year: 2006
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Optimization of production schedules in open pit mines is important for managing cash flows. The risk of not meeting planned production targets is a critical aspect of optimization, however, it is not accounted for by traditional schedulling methods. This paper describes a new, probabilistic, mixed integer programming (MIP) formulation. The formulation has been developed so as to minimize the risk of not achieving planned production targets, both ore feed...
Publication: CIM Bulletin
Author(s): S. Ramazan, R. Dimitrakopoulos
Issue: 2
Volume: 1
Year: 2006
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Stereolithography is a well known rapid prototyping technique in the manufacturing sector. Essentially, it is a three-dimensional printing process that produces plastic prototype parts from standard CAD files. At present, Canadian mining companies are not fully aware of the potential of rapid prototyping techniques (RPTs) for their production and mine design systems. Mining engineers and geologists attempt to visualize and understand the characteristics and...
Publication: CIM Bulletin
Author(s): C.P. O’Connor, N. Vayenas, A. Akerman
Issue: 2
Volume: 1
Year: 2006
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Electric cable shovels are the most extensively used highvolume excavators in open pit mining. The design of dippers for cable shovels has essentially remained unchanged for the last 100 years. Previous work to improve the production capability of these units focused on updating mechanical and electrical components, and optimizing utilization and operational approaches. Little work has been done to improve dippers and their ground interactions. With the...
Publication: CIM Bulletin
Author(s): N. Shi, T.G. Joseph
Issue: 2
Volume: 1
Year: 2006
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