A critical examination of the methods and factors affecting the selection of an optimum production rate

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 90, No. 1007, 1997

Lawrence Devon Smith, Kilborn Inc., Toronto, Ontario

The selection of the production rate is one of the most crucial decisions to be made in the development of a mineral property. However, it is not uncommon for the production rate to be decided arbitrarily, before any technical evaluations begin, and it is often not reconsidered when better data becomes available. A number of methods are used in the mineral industry to select the production rate for a project. There is general agreement that the size of the ore reserve has a strong influence on this decision, but what other factors are involved? Is there a way to identify an optimum rate? This paper examines the factors that influence the selection of a production rate from the perspective of project economics. The NPV maximum value should be viewed as a “failure” point. The “two times capital” maximum is proposed as a lower limit. A practical check is suggested to confirm that a selected rate is in an optimum range. Production rate assumptions are much more likely to be reviewed for marginal projects, but they should also be reviewed for viable projects.
Keywords: Mineral economics, Production rates, Optimum production rates.