Gauteng-based mine planning and engineering consultancy group Ukwazi maintains that its opencast coal mining turnaround strategy unlocks value by combining the interrelated processes that exist on a mine.
“As commodity prices are at an all time low and markets are under pressure, we believe a cheaper alternative is available in the form of a turnaround strategy. We believe that significant value is unlocked through a collaborative management platform that aligns the objectives of the role-players in control of daily mine production processes. This process is transparent, easy to maintain by mine personnel, and delivers tangible improvements on the face that result in overall production rate and product quality improvements and, therefore, improvements to the end product unit cost,” elaborates Ukwazi.
Ukwazi’s mining turnaround strategy is based on an integrated and transparent process that aligns the objectives of all those involved to collaboratively execute the mine plan.
“An opencast coal mining turnaround strategy must be a simple, but a well controlled and defined process with the short-term operational plan as its basis for execution. This short-term plan is guided by a peer plan with the aim of reaching the company’s longer-term strategies,” the company explains.
Execution of the short-term plan by the operational team is a well coordinated process and is planned within a formal planning meeting. The aim of this planning meeting is to create unrestricted flow within the operational mining processes. This can only be achieved by setting common executable goals with inputs from all stakeholders, which typically include the mining production team, and planning, plant, survey and engineering personnel.
The role of the operational team is to timeously execute the collaborative short-term plan by honouring its authority. The operational team confirms that the targets are reasonable and that they have proactive support from all the role-players to prevent negative impacts to the operational process. Strong management support to operations is critical to allow the mining process to continue without destroying capacity and operational flow.
To achieve transparency in the mining plan, an engine room is established to create continuous operational flow, team behaviour and track and protect production capacity and quality.
“The engine room is not a backward looking or blaming platform based on reasons for nonperformance. It is a forum to track progress, share success, share failures and decide on the way forward to the credit of the participants,” comments Ukwazi.
Those typically involved include the mining production team, plant and stockpile management, survey, maintenance and infrastructure engineers, safety personnel, the environmental management team, geotechnical specialists and production geologists.
Generally, when operations encounter difficulties to deliver the planned quantity of product at the required quality, a range of initiatives are identified and loosely driven by individuals without a clear understanding of the priorities and potential impact. “Within the engine room forum, these initiatives are identified and executed by the team, the value add is clear and in everyone’s interest, making successful outcomes much more realistic,” Ukwazi states.
When moving a mining plan into execution, it must be backed by an inclusive planning process, and the coordination of objectives to create and protect operational flow and capacity. The execution of the plan must be fully transparent in a process that allows all role-players to partake and belong.
The implementation of such a process starts with an operational review of the complete on-mine production and technical value chain by commodity and mining-method-specific experienced turnaround specialists. The outcomes of the review are a proposed structure for implementation and timelines thereof.