A Vision for the Future of Surface Mine Design and Production Planning

Innovation in Mine Design


Marc, Lemieux

The purpose of this paper is to introduce a concept wherein the pit design process is applied directly to a geological model thereby eliminating the requirement for a block model.  Eliminating the bock model is required to implements a more flexible and comprehensive approach to mine planning.  A process is proposed where practical pits with roads, ramps, safety berms and other features are developed concurrently with the “optimum” pit algorithm process.  The proposed process also envisions production scheduling, blending and cash flow analysis conducted concurrently with the pit “optimization” process enabling a much closer approximation to a truly optimized mine-plan. The implementation of this concept is made possible by a new patented pit value maximizing algorithm generally referenced in the literature as an “optimizer”.  This new algorithm can process cones formed above base polygons constrained by features geologically modeled and by mining requirements.  The base cone polygon can be projected upward and out level by level forming polygons on each mining level constrained by geotechnical and practical mining requirements including safety berms.  The polygons provide the basis for modifying the surface topography as a pit is designed.  Cones can be designed to create near final pit walls during the initial pit design phase of mine planning.  The algorithm can be programed to present pictures of pits as they are developed on one computer screen.  The operating and cash flow data can be shown on another screen concurrently with the algorithm execution.  The new algorithm advances the pit deign as if each level is a deposit bottom resulting in a crude first approximation of a production schedule controlled by a parameterization process.  The new algorithm can be stopped, backed up and restarted from any place in the developing schedule of create practical scenarios.  Modifications to the pit for practical considerations such as pit wall smoothing, insertion of roads and ramp can be introduced as a pit is formed.  The costs and revenues associated with pit modification can be monitored to evaluate modification options.  Blending, capital additions, manpower and equipment leveling can be managed concurrently with the pit development in the appropriate detail. Implementation of this concept for mine planning is computationally intensive and won’t be as fast as Max Flow algorithms applied to block models for simple pit “optimization” processes.  Commercial implementation of the algorithm and calculation of associated operational requirements is expected to make overall data processing and engineering time to developed high quality total project evaluations competitive with current practices.  Programs analyzing mine plan subsystems can be integrated into the planning system for evaluation of items such as road design, haulage and waste dump planning.  As experience with the new system accumulates, the algorithm can be programmed to integrate current and emerging technologies such as advances in computational power, visualization technologies and artificial intelligence applications.   The net result will be more flexible and reliable pit design, production scheduling and comprehensive mine-plan development for reserve estimation, investment analysis and operational management.
Keywords: CIMBC22