Reducing costs in the open cut mining industry through technology advancementsMaintaining control of costs and efficiency in an open cut mining operation requires close scrutiny of geology, planning, scheduling of earth-moving equipment, drill and blast technology and safety. Technology advancements that have decreased costs have been slow. While, underground mining operations are increasing productivity through plenty of technology advancements.
According to Hans Hayes, GM Open-Cut Mining Excellence, Anglo American, a focus on technology is needed in open cut mining operations in order to cause a positive change in operations that will enable a better operating cost profile. Hans kindly provided us with a blog that explains why he is of this opinion below.
Open Cut operations are essentially employing the same equipment and techniques as has been in play over the last 20 years (draglines, trucks, shovels, excavators, etc).
Whilst the cost of these open cut operations has been reduced through equipment productivity improvements and efficiencies, these reductions have essentially been offset by labour increases.
Underground operations have increased productivity through technology advancement (eg coal longwalls) and are now becoming extremely productive units. Also, the impact of labour on an underground operation has been less than an open cut as there are typically less FTE’s/product tonne than an open cut, as minimal waste is moved.
As a result of the above factors, the cut-off strip ratio between an economic open cut operation and an economic underground which used to be of the order of 15:1 is likely to be reduced to 8:1 without step change in the open cuts.
Whilst some deposits are only suitable for open cut mining (heavily faulted, etc), there is still a need to look at what technology/paradigm shift can be implemented in the open cut environment that will provide a step change to its operating cost profile.
– Hans Hayes, GM Open-Cut Mining Excellence, Anglo American