The life of a mine generally runs into the decades.
It is important for mine operators to be able to look into the future and have a plan about what activities they will be undertaking further down the track.
Mining software company Gemcom last month released the latest version of its mine planning program, Minex 6.0, which is designed to be used exclusively in stratified deposits, such as coal, phosphate and bauxite.
According to the company, the new Minex 6.0 scheduling software fully integrates all aspects of mining from exploration through rehabilitation, ensuring that resources are evaluated accurately and mined as efficiently possible.
“Minex 6.0 is now a complete end to end mine planning solution,” Gemcom technical product manager-Minex Mark Godresse told Australian Mining.
It is this start-to-finish design that sets the latest Minex package apart from others in the market, Godresse said.
“A lot of mines have a different package for geological modelling, design and pit optimisation, and a different scheduling package,” he said.
“With Minex 6.0, there is no need for other mine planning software, all the way from exploration through to rehabilitation of the mine.”
Information that is perfectly clear to one person may not necessarily be quite so easy to understand for someone else.
Being able to communicate scheduling results as clear as possible to mine managers as well as software and equipment operators is of key importance.
“One of the hardest aspects of mine schedules has always been how to communicate the results, because they are very complicated and involve large amounts of data and lengthy reports,” Godresse said.
Reading numbers and reports is not everybody’s way of easily digesting data, especially if they are not up to date on exactly how the software works.
“Showing somebody an Excel spreadsheet does not really make it easy to communicate the real guts of what is happening in the schedule.”
According to Godresse, Minex 6.0 is designed to make it easier for scheduling information to be communicated visually.
“The whole scheduling process is driven through the graphics window and is within a very rich 3-D environment.
Being able to simply record a video, show it to the mine manager, and say ‘this is what we are going to do’, helps it all to make sense very quickly,” he said.
“We have overhauled the software’s tools in order to allow users to better communicate the schedule to mine managers and operators.”
In addition to actual Minex 6.0 users being able to better communicate scheduling results to others, the visual aspects of the software have also been designed to make key information more accessible to the users themselves. “Rather than numbers in a spreadsheet coming up at the end of a schedule and
having to go back and analyse the results, the schedule is graphically happening in front you and it is much
easier to spot problems as they happen,” Godresse said.
“It is easier and quicker to make decisions and change plans as required.”
A click of the mouse
According to Godresse, it was that ease of use that was one of the main drivers in Gemcom’s development of the Minex 6.0 software.
“We made it so that the users can drive the whole scheduling process easily at the computer and they can basically do everything by just clicking the mouse,” he said.
“If users hover the mouse over 3-D equipment, a window will pop up and tell them what the equipment is doing, how much capacity it has left, how much it has mined so far, where it is going next, and other information like that.
“The user can also right click on the equipment to move it around to the next block and perform tasks directly on it through the 3-D graphics environment.”
Before finalising the software and introducing it to the market, Gemcom went to great lengths to get feedback from industry users and see just what they did and didn’t like about Minex 6.0.
This was done through a four month beta program in which the company released early versions of the software to existing clients so they could get their feedback.
The bet program differed for Minex 6.0 in that it was far more extensive than previous similar programs.
“Previously we have had beta programs where we have had maybe 5% of the user base take them up, but this time we had about 25% of our entire user base take up the beta release,” Godresse said.
“That way we had a lot of people using Minex 6.0 very early and giving us a lot of feedback, and we have built a lot of that into the program.
“There have been a lot of ideas that we have built in over the last few months that we got back from those early programs.”
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