Defining, modeling and enabling a remote, autonomous mining operation through advanced techno-economic visioning, modeling and scanning


Kate McLaughlin, Stantec Consulting Ltd; George Hemingway, The Stratalis Group; Andrew Gibson, Stantec Consulting Ltd

Faced with closing an underground mine that was considered a marginal asset, a leading global diversified miner sought support in understanding and modeling the impacts new technologies would have on their operation. With significant negative yearly cash flows predicted, and major capital expenditures required over the next 5 years, the mine owner looked to technology to improve the situation.  The need was clear: without new and innovative approaches, the mine would have to shut down. The study started by understanding the operations and executive team’s vision for the future.  An exhaustive industry-wide technology scan was performed to understand available technologies and their potential impacts on CAPEX, OPEX, productivity and time to implementation. This data, combined with observations of the underground environment and a thorough understanding of the life of mine (LOMP) and exploration plans, led to the design of a techno-economic model to simulate the mine production and model the impacts of technologies on production, cut-off grade and most importantly, net present value (NPV).  The model then identified how the new technologies created new bottlenecks in the quest not for maximum throughout, but maximum NPV. This study revealed benefits of grouping innovative technologies into naturally occurring suites and assessing the total impact of the suites of technologies to the mine operation. The techno-economic model demonstrated a NPV improvement of 50% over the Base Case LOMP.  This increase in NPV required an increase in CAPEX of 5% versus the required CAPEX from the LOMP.  Individual technology modeling would not have demonstrated such impressive results. By looking at innovation in a holistic manner integrating the theory of constraints, the impact of technology suites over machines, and the focus on NPV and value over production, we established a technology roadmap for an operating mine that led to a strategic reinvestment instead of closure.
Keywords: innovation; technology suites; NPV; technology roadmap, technology scanning