David Plowman – MEC’s Experienced and Versatile Principal Mining Engineer

With more than 20 years’ experience in the coal, copper and gold-mining industries, David is a highly experienced and versatile mining operations and technical professional. He joined MEC in February, 2015 as a Principal Mining Engineer and is highly adept at delivering successful mining projects. Prior to joining MEC, David has held high-level operations and technical roles such as Mining Superintendent at CST Minerals Lady Annie Pty Ltd and Operations Manager and Superintendent Operations Planning at BHP Billiton.

Here, David shares some of his highlights and personal insights on his career:

What do you specialise in? I have 20 years’ experience in the coal, copper and gold mining industries operations in both Australia and developing countries. I have a high level of technical and operational expertise as well as project management and leadership experience in both open-cut coal and metalliferous mining. I also have extensive experience managing contract mining operations and specialises in open cut optimisation and design in open cut metalliferous deposits.

What has been your most memorable project to date? My most memorable project with MEC has been working with the team on the Nicaragua Grand Canal Project. It is the largest civil earthmoving operation and biggest dredging venture in history and will be w230m wide X 30m deep. The project will require the excavation of approximately 5,000 Mm3 of material. MEC Mining has provided HKND with the earthworks strategy and engineering expertise for the canal’s alignment and design.

Have you noticed any new trends in the Open Cut Coal world? More mines are looking at bulk dozer push as a way to quickly and cheaply produce more coal. Dozer fleets can potentially offer a lower capital cost alternative to expensive rebuilds of existing draglines. The flexibility of bulk dozer offers a viable and cost effective option to producing some extra coal tonnes.

How has technology helped or enhanced your scope of work? Mine planning software is definitely getting smarter and more useful. Lots of processes where you once said “I wish someone would fix this” are being fixed. Smarter programming is taking things that required a few hours and 20 button clicks to doing them in a few seconds. This is allowing more time for strategic review and analysis.

In your opinion, do you think the mining industry has overcome the downturn? I think the mining industry has made massive improvements in costs and productivity since the mining downturn.The focus on costs and productivity has improved across the industry and at all levels of the operation. The industry still needs to have the discipline to maintain a focus on these areas when prices improve.

One area I think the industry still needs to address is the setting of stretch budgets and targets. While this is a way of setting aspirational goals it can have a negative effect that can lead to excessive churn. Also, Mine sites can get stuck in an endless loop of consistently changing plans and schedules; chasing tonnes and implementing improvement projects. It is easy to lose focus on the job then actually running a mine.

What is your favourite past time? I love watching the North Queensland Cowboys, Australia playing Test Match Cricket and playing touch football and golf (badly).My team has played in the past 4 grand finals in Townsville Men’s Fifth Grade touch football competition and my old knees are surviving so far. I probably should also mention that I love the time I get to spend with my family and our menagerie of animals. Oh and I don’t mind enjoying a cold beer on a hot day.Who inspires you?

Who inspires you? My Dad was a carpenter for 50 years working in Far North Queensland, I remember the first time he took me to do some real building work in the middle of a tropical summer. Not sure if it was a brilliant motivation technique, but at the end of the day I had decided to use my brain rather than my brawn as a way of making a living. I also hear his voice every time I think about cutting a corner or doing something dodgy.He set himself a standard for quality when building a house and I try to do the same whether I am doing a pit design or explaining a plan to a pit supervisor.

What advise would you give to a graduate engineer? To spend as much time as they can out of the office and in the mine. Cameras, improvements with survey, mine monitoring systems and even drones have improved the way we can visualise the mine, however it can reduce the interaction with and understanding of the mine.Spending time with operators and supervisors looking and talking about how your plans and schedules work in the real world is invaluable.

Some friendly sledging on a pit tour in the car with the supervisor builds a relationship that will aid with the development and buy to future plans.