Integration is the key to success in mining
Despite a production capacity of 4.1 million tonnes per annum of concentrate per year, Peña Colorada faces declining ore grades. In response, the company had to expand production even further. This expansion created challenges that were overcome by the adoption and application of new technology and improvements in geomodelling, mine planning, and mine operations.
The successful implementation of these technologies paid for itself many times over, and has led to significant improvements in production and performance, while lowering the operating costs and reducing the variance between planning and execution.
Putting good in to get good out
The first step was to increase the confidence and reliability of the resource model. The Peña Colorada deposit comprises three main geologic structures affected by a moderate fault system. These three structures control the geology in terms of minable material characteristics.
The mineral resource model was constructed in two stages:
- Construction of the geological model
- Numerical modelling of attributes
Construction of the geological model involves three steps:
- Processing of the drilling campaign
- Accounting for the minimum scale of geological interpretation
- Construction of surrounding solids.
The drilling campaign was processed through Hexagon Mining's mine planning suite, MineSight; specifically, its drillhole manager, MineSight Torque, and its 3D visualiser, MineSight 3D.
The geological envelopes were constructed as geometric solids using MineSight Implicit Modeler (MSIM) to accurately characterise the geological contacts. MSIM has since been replaced by Geologic, which leverages the power of implicit modelling by sequencing surfaces and solids to create an airtight geological model. The numerical modelling of attributes comprises the estimation of grades by localised ordinary kriging.
Once the block model was completed, new optimisation studies were evaluated with MineSight Economic Planner (MSEP) and new production schedules were completed with MineSight Schedule Optimizer (MSSO), which improved many aspects of the mine plan. For example, MSSO was used to evaluate and optimise the dump discharge plan.
From plan to reality
The results of the optimisation generated a plan with less stripping required in the earlier periods and a combination of short and long dumps, which balanced the truck hours over the life of the schedule and reduced the number of trucks required. The estimated gains from this optimisation study amounted to approximately $35 million in project value.
Likewise, MSSO was used to evaluate the expansion project and the acquisition of bigger shovels (P&H 4100 XPC) and bigger trucks, (CAT 789C & 793F).
"Mine expansion projects cost millions, if not billions of dollars," said Jose Villa, head of mine planning, Peña Colorada. "Investing in MSSO is easy to justify since it can guide important capital investment decisions and it costs less than the tires of an off-highway haul truck."
Additionally, new geotechnical studies were prepared, which provided new guidelines for pit slope design. New technology was implemented to monitor ground movement and slope stability.
Pena Colorada implemented Hexagon Mining's fleet management system (FMS) to monitor the operation and ensure plan execution and compliance. This enabled the company to capture in the field the value of the project as forecasted in the mine plan.
"However, there is always a variance between plan and reality," said Villa. "This has been significantly reduced with the adoption of best-in-class mine planning software and fleet management system."
Before the FMS implementation the designed blasthole collars for the production drills had to be staked out by surveyors. During the rainy season, however, the weather would delay the surveyors and consequently delay the drills, which hurt production. After the implementation of the FMS, the planned/design blastholes are transferred digitally to the drill equipped with high-precision guidance for accurate blasthole location, so there is no need for the surveyors to stake out the collars in the field anymore. Now production stays on track.
"Hexagon Mining's mine planning software and fleet management system has narrowed the gap between what is and what should be," said Villa. "It has helped to unlock and realise significant project value."