Create a 2012 Mine Action Plan: Increase Production & Decrease Costs

Posted by on Feb 2, 2012 in Equipment, Favorites, Technology | 4 comments

Create a 2012 Mine Action Plan: Increase Production & Decrease Costs

For my first post of 2012, I though it would be fitting to write about the new year’s targets and goals for each mine. Every year, many mines are tasked with increasing production and decreasing operating costs without additional capital equipment. This blog will discuss the questions a mine manager, superintendent or operations engineer should be asking and then using the information provided to ultimately build an action plan for 2012.

This action plan will develop a strategy for implementing best practice in day to day operations for compounding operational gains. Remember Pareto, the 80/20 rule: unless your mine has gone through recent business process and operational improvement exercises, you will spend approximately 20% of effort for 80% of available operational improvements and the remaining 20% improvement will require 80% effort. This blog will focus on the first 20% of effort or as I define it, the “low hanging fruit,” which will not require a black black six sigma individual, a specialized consultant or heavy artillery. All you need is (1) a site champion who is eager to help facilitate changes and (2) upper management support of this endeavor.

The areas of improvement we will focus on are simply based on the hard rock mining cycle: drill, blast, muck & haul.



  • Are we drilling according to the designed pattern? How much is the drill deviating in the x,y,z plane from the design plan?
  • What is the average life of our drill consummables? Your local rep can put you in touch with other mines with similar abrasion index to see what their bit/hammer/pipe life is.
  • How much are we tramming our drills from pattern to pattern? Are we designing patterns to reduce equipment (drills/shovels) movement?
  • What are the drill delays? Is the drill spending too much time waiting for water, GPS outage, If so, what we can do to mitigate these delays and does the cost of doing so outweigh the gains of the drill?


  • Fragmentation – is our post-blast P80 size appropriate for the downstream process, whether it is a crusher, a leach pad? (I have read a mine to mill optimization study done in Arizona which said that for their specific application, for every $0.02/ton they spent on blasting, they saved $0.11 at the crusher level.) Are we blasting ore and waste the same way or differently and if so, why? Are we overblasting our rock? Adjust burden, spacing, charge weight, etc.
  • I consider the more complicated blasting studies which include product selection to optimize Velocity of Detonation, Vibration Analysis, and the more advanced blasting simulation products to not be low hanging fruit, because it is difficult to measure cause and effect in these cases to determine the most optimized blasting approach.


  • What is our shovel operators’ one-pass time?
  • What is the bucket fill %, are our operators filling the bucket so that a 5 pass load doesn’t turn into 6 passes?
  • Is he getting the face ready while he is waiting for the new truck?
  • How often is our loading unit sitting idle? Are we over or under trucked?
  • Are we losing shovel teeth that is jamming up the crusher? If so, should we be looking at software to detect the metal and get to it before it gets to the crusher?
  • Are we tracking shovel payload to more accurately reconcile our end of month surveyed tons?


  • What is and how long are our major haul truck delays including shift change?
  • Are we hot changing to reduce equipment downtime and if not, is this something we should be considering?
  • What is our truck operators’ spotting time?
  • How many trucks do we have running at any given time and is this adequate to feed the crusher? Do we need to start parking some trucks because there are always queueing at the shovels?
  • Do we have enough manpower for our equipment or are we parking equipment because we don’t have anyone to run it when there is no downstream restrictions (ie. crusher capacity)?
  • What is the truck profile after is loaded? Are we leaving enough room at the back so we are not spilling rock on the haul road? Are we filling it enough so that our trucks aren’t overloaded?
  • Are our truck scales calibrated? Do we check struts regularly during PM to make sure that they are?
  • Is there carry back on our trucks that we should address with a specific type of lining or a new truck box design?
  • Are we loading our haul routes along with our equipment parameters into a haulage program to determine the target cycle time? Are we achieving this cycle time? Why not?

Mining Cycle

  • When you try to reduce the delays for your entire operation, you must find the bottleneck. The lowest hanging fruit will be reducing the delays associated with your operational bottleneck is (drilling, blasting, loading or hauling) and then removing those delays as a first priority. After all, you can only mine as fast as your slowest process.


These are only samples of some of the questions that you should be asking at your mine. The next step would be to develop an action plan to increase efficiency at the mine (continuous improvement).



#1) Data Collection

You cannot improve what you cannot measure.

This will help define what your starting point is. Data collection methods can include observation with a timer; a technology platform to measure, track and monitor the information; discussing your questions with your equipment vendor; working with engineering to provide haul routes and loading them into a program; talking to operators, supervisors, etc.; looking at data on your fleet management system; and there are many other data collection method.

2) Create Reports

Generate a report for a baseline of the status of the mine at its current state.

Beware: Too much information and you will overwhelm everyone and no action will be taken on the data. Take pertinent data and create your report.

3) Decide on Target

Take a look at your areas for improvement and based on available resources, determine the new targets you would like to mine to achieve in each initiative

 4) Create an Action Plan

The action plan needs to address “How” you will get from point A to point B. It should also list the champion for each initiative with a timeline for

The “How” could include implementation of a system,

5) Regular Review

This is VERY important. Most mines have a “flavor of the month” as a fire fighting of a recent incident or recent scrutiny. And most know that if they sweep it under the carpet, they won’t have to deal with it because upper management will forget about it. Review this Action Plan regularly (monthly) and hold your champions accountable for a status update every month.


Lastly, some words of wisdom from a random quote I found on the internet: “The motivation to change has to be greater than the motivation to stay the same.” Most people at the mine won’t want to change the way that they’ve been doing things, whether it is best practice or not. There absolutely needs to be a top down influence and ongoing support for efficiency projects.

Dear Readers: I wish you all the best for 2012 and if you ever need any assistance or advice with mine operations, technology & innovation, and equipment, please do not hesitate to contact me. My contact info is on the Abstract Page.


  • Bill Wright

    Your insights and experience are profound. Great list of pointed locations to squeeze Continuous Improvement. I have noticed a theme in your blogs recently and must pile on. Going full force at quick fix solutions without understanding the benefits associated with change will not deliver a sustainable solution to the issues. Granted my view is targeted to reliability of assets and reducing downtime focusing on APM (Asset Performance Management) – but, I see it all the time in so many projects. The effort and time (read Budgeted Dollars) to developing quantifiable benefits within a programs implementation is critical and really not that expensive. We all talk about it on the front end but, once the final number comes in for the project it is one of the first things striped from the budget. I get it – the manpower/hardware/software/implementation services/training/coaching are expensive! It takes an upper level manager and champion to not only ask “how”, but “why” the whole way through the process. I agree accountability is the answer – who ultimately is responsible for the benefits and are they willing to put their signature on the projected benefits. Keep asking the question to the solution vendors and/or internal staff – How much will it cost to pinpoint the quantifiable benefits of the solution or program and put it in the budget of the implementation/project – Then the hard part….don’t take it out! Then the KPI’s will have REAL meaning.

    • vivien214

      Hey Bill, thanks for sharing! Short term costs for long term gain. We all know it’s good to have in the budget and properly managed and executed, the transition will yield benefits for the mine. But for someone in a decision-making position, my guess is that it is easier to just approve the “need-to-have”s to run a lean and mean budget because the impact of continuous improvement projects is difficult. 1. The challenge to measure step changes due to these initiatives and 2. the short tenure time of a mine manager, for example, at some mines (ROI may occur after they’ve already been promoted or moved on) make them more reluctant to approve dollars that shorten their bottom line.

      • Tariro

        Hi Vivien,

        Good to get in touch with you again this year. I have been transferred to a new iron ore site and will be using the guidelines in your blog above. I used the same guidelines to streamline our processes on my previous site. Will keep you updated on the success from the current site.

        • Vivien

          Hey Tariro, Thanks for letting me know! I hope all is well with you this holiday season :) I just wrote a new blogpost on the upcoming 2013 mining conferences in US/Canada. Enjoy the warm weather in Australia right now :)

  • Pingback: Happy Holidays & 2013 Mining Conference Schedule | Mine Operations, Technology & Equipment Blog