Canadian Mining Journal

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THE FUTURE: New Canadian research offers step change to global mining



MONTREAL – Although supported by the world’s largest miners and with 10 years of success under its belt, the COSMO-Stochastic Mine Planning Laboratory of McGill University in this city is not a familiar name to most industry followers. The lab specializes in ground breaking developments in risk management optimization for producers to help them prepare for the next downturn in the industry.

The global mining industry lost about $1.4 trillion (with a T) in equity in the last five years as the commodity super-upcycle became a disastrous downturn. COSMO will help miners learn from the past by identifying the decisions that can be used to improve performance in the face of uncertainty.

According to COSMO research, there are new technologies available to shift established mine planning paradigms to increase gains for producers through risk management. At the same time they can improve utilization of non-renewable resources, thus improving sustainability. Applying new technologies to real-world situations have shown that production forecasts improve between 5% and 25%, reserves can be increased by 5% to 15%, and net present values will rise by 5% to 30%.

The technologies simultaneously optimize when and which materials to extract from mines; how to blend and/or stockpile and transport them; how to use available processing streams; how to manage capital investments; and how to sequence rehabilitation. They have been tested in several case studies at different mining complexes and on various commodities, including gold, copper, nickel laterites, and iron ore as well as diamond mining.

COSMO reports that “Results consistently demonstrate that: (1) reliability is improved in meeting production forecasts by managing risk in supply and controlling this risk over time; (2) larger amounts of metal are produced from the same mineral resource by better understanding the spatial distribution and connectivity of high grade material; and (3) a substantially higher economic value is obtained when compared with existing approaches. These improvements represent a step change contribution to the development of a new generation of intelligent risk management concepts and technologies, as well as the sustainable development of mineral resources and reserves.”

The COSMO consortium includes the McGill lab and the following companies: AngloGold Ashanti, Barrick Gold, BHP Billiton, De Beers, Kinross Gold, Newmont Mining, and Vale SA. Together those companies represent about 75% of the world’s mining activity.

Development of the new mine planning paradigm was facilitated by NSERC research grants to Professor Roussos Dimitrakopoulos, founder and director of COSMO. Learn more at http://COSMO.mcgill.ca.