With the mining industry facing increased pressure to meet rising demand for resources, experts warn mine planning departments must ensure their operational plans do not jeopardise the long term potential of mines to suit short term production targets.
"With the increasing time pressure on mine planners, many are focusing more on the short term than the long term,” Adrian Moodie, technical services manager at Austar Coal Mine said.
"The lack of a long term direction or strategy and information to support quality long term planning is a big challenge right now."
Dr. Peter Grossman, a senior research fellow at the Melbourne School of Engineering at the University of Melbourne echoes this view, but adds that whilst there are external factors impinging on the quality of mine plans, mine planners should focus on factors that are within their control.
"The challenge for mine planners is to reduce the uncertainties of their internal parameters as far as possible. These include issues like ground conditions, and the distribution, grades and metallurgical properties of the ore," Grossman said.
He adds that reviewing the operational plan is a possible way to control such issues, as long as it is properly aligned with long term vision.
"A key focus when conducting reviews should be to align the operational plan with the long term plan. This involves monitoring to ensure that long term targets are being met. In particular, the temptation to go for quick revenue at the expense of the long term plan should be avoided," Grossman said.
Moodie adds that when reviewing mine plans, they need to consider external market changes and shifts too.
"Mine planners need to be mindful of changes in the market, supply chain constraints and legislative changes. Any of these factors can result in the need to change medium term plans to maintain sustainability. However mine planners need to be mindful if this is changing the long term return on investment in the mine," Moodie said.
Both believe that this is a key area where mine planners could improve on in their operational plans.
Grossman said that there are mine planning technologies could help improve the quality of mine plans.
"The use of mine planning software can be of great benefit, it can be used to facilitate the quick updating of the design of the mine so that the best design is produced based on current information," he said.
He also says that for mine planners to keep their mine plans aligned to the long term strategies, mine planning software can help.
"With the use of [mine planning software] tools by suitably trained staff at all stages of planning, combined with a clear focus on monitoring and keeping to long term goals without sacrificing flexibility, it should be possible for mine planners to stay aligned with a plan that will ultimately yield the greatest value over the lifetime of the mine," he said.
Moodie adds that aside from technological assistance, mine planners should examine their life of asset plans and review them on a consistent basis to accommodate any business changes.
"Having a life of asset plan… is integral to the planning process and [it should] not just be stored on the mine planner’s bookshelf. It needs to be reviewed at least yearly in conjunction with the business planning and budgeting process and where major change is identified it needs to be revaluated for long term effect," Moodie said.
Adrian Moodie and Dr. Peter Grossman will be speaking at the Underground Mine Planning & Design conference to be held in Sydney in March 2012.
This article originally appeared on MiningIQ.