The sustainable development and utilization of mineral resources and reserves ensures the continued supply of raw materials, metals and energy we rely upon. Sustainable development is a critical global problem, particularly given the fast growth and demand of emerging economies and increasing environmental concerns. Several sources of uncertainty impact sustainable mineral resource development: technical, financial, and environmental. Technical and economic uncertainties include the ability of orebodies to supply raw materials, operational mining uncertainties, fluctuating market demand for raw materials and related commodity prices. Based upon our research and learning to date, a new five year research program has commenced to explore and further develop our new stochastic mine and production scheduling paradigm, through: new computationally efficient stochastic optimization methods, new high-order stochastic models, and risk-based financial models. This will include expanding the field of research, addressing new problems encountered in our past research, full-field testing of new methods, and increasing our understanding of the new stochastic framework and related technologies.
Modelling and optimization techniques have become a standard core aspect of mine design and production scheduling (MDPS) because they maximize the economic value contributed by ore production from a mine and define a technical plan to be followed from a mine’s development to its closure. MDPS optimization is a complex problem to address due to its large scale, the unavailability of a truly optimal net present value (NPV) solution, uncertainty in the key parameters involved (geological/mining, financial) and the absence of a method for global or simultaneous optimization of the individual elements of a mining complex. To take our past research developments to the next level, research efforts focus on developing optimization that integrates uncertainty in a global sense and simultaneously considers all elements of a mining complex.
Founded upon our research outcomes to date, global optimization of mining complexes id based on two complementary elements: (I) A new stochastic combinatorial optimization framework for MDPS that integrates multiple mines, material types, ore/waste processing streams including stockpiles, and generates different product specifications suitable for a diverse group of commodities and mining complexes. (II) New ‘high-order’ spatial mathematical models of uncertainty for multiple material types generating inputs for Point (I), suitable for modeling complex nonlinear, non-Gaussian geologic formations and spatial architectures. Research aims to contribute new methods to the Canadian and global mining industry that aim to change the way problem-solving in the field is approached and impact on: (a) risk management and maximization of return on investment; (b) economic performance and sustainability; (c) enhancement of production and product supply; (d) objective and technically defendable decision-making; and (e) training highly qualified personnel.
This research program focused on exploring a key element of sustainable mineral resource development, namely a new risk-based framework for holistic mine planning, design and production scheduling founded upon stochastic optimization and modelling. This framework aims to drastically changes the way we currently approach problem-solving in the field and impacts on the: (i) economic performance and sustainability; (ii) risk management; (iii) maximization of return on investment; (iv) enhancement of production and product supply; (v) management of mine waste and remediation; (vi) minimization of environmental effects from mining; and (vii) objective and technically defendable decision-making. The program has explored new areas of research that, in our view, assist generate new concepts and research avenues, future research projects, as well as has trained qualified students. Research in Programs 1 and 2 stem from this one.
Open pit mine design and long-term production scheduling is a critically important part of mining ventures as it deals with the efficient management of cash flows in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars. Mine design and production scheduling determines both the economic outcome of a project and the technical plan to be followed from mine development to mine closure. It is an intricate and complex problem to address due to its large scale, unavailability of a truly optimal net present value solution, and uncertainty in the key parameters involved (geological and mining, financial, and environmental). Geological uncertainty is a major contributor in failing to meet project expectations in projects, as recognized in several studies worldwide, while mining costs and equipment availability are additional contributors.
This research project focused on two key interrelated elements of open pit mine design: (i) A new risk-based mathematical framework for designing the so-called pushbacks within an open pit under geological uncertainty, and (ii) new ‘high-order’ spatial mathematical models of geological uncertainty generating inputs for (i), suitable for modelling complex non-linear, non-Gaussian geological processes and orebodies. The aim of the above research was to contribute new methods to the Canadian mining industry that would contribute changing the way we currently approach problem-solving in the field and impact on (a) risk management and maximization of return on investment; (b) economic performance and sustainability; (c) enhancement of production and product supply; (d) objective and technically defendable decision-making; and (e) training highly qualified personnel. In addition, the outputs from this research program contributed major aspects of “stochastic mine planning”.
Research in Program 2 stems from this one and also Program 3.