Working as a team and delivering value

When it comes to mining, the mindset has often been to move larger volumes of material as quickly as possible to reduce process unit rate. While material movement is obviously very important, it can drive the wrong behaviours if the wrong material is being moved to prioritise volume movement over production requirement. This is likely to destroy value for an operation by lowering overall production yield – the number one value driver. 

So, the challenge is making sure that there is a balance between planning and operational requirements. To do this, there needs to be an operational understanding of the downstream impacts of non-compliance to plan. There also needs to be a planning understanding of the operational production targets and key performance indicators (KPIs). If the operational KPI is purely volume driven, my recommendation would be to review the KPI and refer it back to the value chain of the operation. By understanding and delivering what a process is meant to achieve, the most benefit will be seen by the operation. This way, value isn’t being destroyed by aimlessly chasing down a false performance metric. 

What can the Mine Planning team do to assist Operations? 

  • Ensure plans are available in a timely manner and produced in consultation with operations. 

Operations are more likely to follow the plan when they have input into the intricacies and understand the desired result – this will also generally result in a better plan. 

  • Ensure there are short and long dump options as well as a backup plan for when things don’t go as expected

There is nothing worse than not having a plan. The chaos of trying to stay productive on night shift or over a weekend can often cause a lot of rework in the future. 

  • Make the material movement priorities clear. 

Knowing where trucks should be allocated if a loading unit becomes unavailable is a must. It also gives guidance to the maintenance department around which loading unit. Remember, the key value driver is production yield, moving the right material at the right time! 

  • Get the trucking allocation right. 
  • Understand truck matching for loading units. 
  • Forecast accurate dig rates (allowing for excavation configuration, hard dig, water, trucking allocation). 
  • Understand haulage lengths and cycle times, and allow for circuit saturation. 
  • Understand the overall trucking capacity for the loading units. 
  • Incorporate planned maintenance availability. 

If the trucking allocation works well, there is trust and faith in the planning process as this is invaluable in building the relationship and removing any divide. 

  • Listen! 

Operational people spend the majority of their day in the field driving past the same “annoying pile of dirt” which would significantly shorten up their haul but can’t be moved because there is a circuit too close. They are masters of moving material and making things productive. Take the time to listen – they are professionals and have been doing this for a long time. 

What can the Operations team do to assist Mine Planning? 

  • Follow the plan! 

Going “off plan” will often result in significant path changes and re-work for the Mine Planning team and take up time that could otherwise be used to look at the bigger problems that lie ahead. Re-pathing and re-work cause a lot of frustration for both the operational and planning teams. No one likes a last-minute change or having to go back and fix something that was previously completed. 

  • Give feedback 

People make mistakes and things do get overlooked. When something is visibly not right or the plan doesn’t align with conditions in the field, don’t sit back and wait for it to fail. Get straight onto it! 

  • Look for opportunities and issues 

Mine planners don’t know it all – they don’t get as much time in the field as they would like to. If you find something that could benefit or hinder the operation, bring it up! They might not have considered it or known about it. It’s satisfying seeing something you suggest get taken on board and executed – even if you aren’t always recognised for it!