Mines should invest more in effective operational plans to counteract high off-site costs, which, in some bulk commodities, could be as high as one-third of the product’s total free-on-board product cost, says consultancy Ukwazi director and principal mining engineer Jaco Lotheringen.
He notes that useful operational plans encompass aligned and collaborated planning meetings, a holistic short-term planning process and excellence in operational execution that is controlled in a transparent and accountable manner.
“Operations that invest time and effort in setting up a mine planning and operational execution process that continuously, strategically and authoritatively guide operations have a higher chance of success in the ever-changing mining climate,” he informs Mining Weekly.
Lotheringen states that a mine operational plan must be facilitated by an ‘engine room’, further noting that it requires the appropriate support and participation of senior management integrated into the daily operations of the mine, thereby securing its intended outcomes.
He also notes that mines that create technical enthusiasm and pride in what they do, based on the fund- amentals of production, geology, mining engineering and processing technology, are the ones that do well in the current environment.
Mines that achieve low mining unit costs have high levels of compliance with operational plans, which are also continuously measured through the fostering of partnerships between the production and operational planning teams, Lotheringen explains
He says that the on-site mine planning team should be responsible for all modifying factors, constraints and risks.
“This team should be the authority to deliver a pragmatic mine plan that has buy-in based on all the fundamentals. This is where all the technical factors, such as production equipment, production efficiencies, environmental and social constraints, geotechnical factors, pit access and cost estimates, must be consolidated in a transparent way which can be reconciled.”
“If this is not executed correctly, conflicting information from various parties will create a blaming culture, undermine compliance and accountability and ward off potential investors,” he adds.
Lotheringen notes that the African mining sector has resorted to corporate activity, the centralising of operations, mine closures and aggressive cost reductions, as well as the high grading of deposits in response to challen- ges faced.
These challenges include low levels of infrastructure development and changing regulatory costs, as well as overall uncertainty in the market and economic and political environments.
He states that, as a result of these challenges, mines often make desperate decisions that have a detrimental effect on the medium- and long-term sustainable operation of the mine.
Such decisions include delivering run-of-mine products to a plant not designed to efficiently beneficiate the quality of the material delivered, which results in a loss of high- value product.
Waste stripping in an openpit mine is reduced, requiring the mining production team to deliver the same amount of product from the same floor space that cannot be sustained at the same mining costs.