Achieving Excellence in Sustainable Operating Efficiency
The mining industry is always seeking to improve productivity and reduce costs. Orebodies are becoming progressively more complex and lower in grade. Energy costs continue to increase, while in some parts of the world water is becoming scarce. There are also increasing pressures on the industry to become more sustainable. These factors, combined with lower metal prices, mean that optimizing operating efficiency is essential for profitability.
As a means of maintaining long-term profitability, optimizing efficiency across the entire operation is well understood, and has been widely applied in those countries where the methodologies originated. However, uptake has been slower in emerging countries. One reason may be that operating costs in these countries are lower than in more developed countries. As a result, investment in operating efficiency has been a lower priority. As economic conditions become tougher, there is a growing need for even low cost operations to become more efficient.
Hatch is aware of these issues and is driving efforts to help mining operations achieve excellence in sustainable operating efficiency. This is being achieved through implementation of more resource and eco-efficient processes, and full optimization and integration of mining and processing plant operations. For example, pre-concentration (possibly using bulk ore sorting technology) has potential to increase metal production while reducing operating costs. Geometallurgical modeling and throughput forecasting provides an understanding of ore variability and its effect on mining and processing, allowing long term strategic planning to maximize profitability. Geometallurgical modeling in conjunction with integrated optimization provides a powerful tool to maintain an efficient and sustainable operation.
The technologies and practices used by Hatch will be discussed in this paper with some examples in which the authors were involved. A list of case studies by the authors and others is included with the aim of creating awareness that improving efficiency across an entire operation ensures that it remains profitable and sustainable, even in the current depressed market.