From the inception of the drilling plan to the moment the charges are ignited, a serious level of preparation is undertaken.
Then when the minerals are processed, miners are looking to get the most out of the minerals.
It’s a constant process.
Unfortunately, these two chains often work independent of one another, as functional silos, which means that mine sites are potentially missing out on higher production.
Speaking to Mincom, they explained that mining operations must deal with highly variable raw materials inputs, usually with limited data, and then have to try and predict and then plan these operations.
However, with each successive stage operating essentially independent of one another, maximising the ore produced is difficult.
Mincom vice president of mining John Jessop and chief strategy officer Jennifer Tejada told Australian Mining that "mining engineers want to maximise tonnes of ore mined while metallurgists want to maximise recovery.
"Both are looking to minimise costs in their area, with engineers looking to cut costs by minimising blasting, but this in turn increases costs at the processing plant," Jessop said.
"But by looking at blast optimisation, and working across cost centres, operations can seriously increase output.
"When you control how you blast to a much higher detail you can improve on throughput by 15% to a mill," he told Australian Mining.
"Right now, a lot of guys are just focused on making the rocks smaller, not mill throughput, it’s completely different, and not correlating with the mill engineers.
"For example, in zinc the metallurgist will know what is the best grade and quality or blend and what would be the best feed, but they aren’t exactly feeding this information back to the blasters, as there is a disconnect."
According to Tejada the key to increasing throughput and blasting process is integration.
"A complete mine to mill optimisation – the incentive is to get greater control of the blast, it may cost more money and requires a higher level of expertise, but it means that there will be higher grade of ore provided," Jessop told Australian Mining. However, this has been a challenge in the mines as while they have invested heavily in technology, the software they often use has traditionally turned a blind eye to this problem.
"It can act as barrier as it doesn’t support end to end optimisation of business processes," Tejada told Australian Mining.
"There is a need for cross functional integration," she added.
Mincom explained that in the case of blasting and processing what is needed to bridge these functional silos is software that can encompass the whole of mining operations, and streamlines activities end to end while at the same time providing information for improved decision making.
She said that Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are a critical part of achieving this integration across large, complex mining operations, but these systems alone are not sufficient as they weren’t designed to handle the high level of detail needed to make key decisions across the ‘silos’.
"Intelligent mining software suites, which can integrate different silos such as blasting and smelting/processing, can allow the users to gain a greater perspective across their entire chain," Tejada said.
She went on to say that Mincom has made significant steps towards bringing together these disparate silos to optimise the end to end mining operations process.
The recent merger between ABB and Mincom is set to push this integration further she added, with greater opportunities for SCADA and control systems, she added.