Published: June 14,2024

Changes in mine design are challenging to execute because mine design is integrated into the type of equipment being used. Currently, a lot of underground mine designs are based on technology that has not fundamentally changed in years. But mines have become larger, some of them have become electric, and for future mines, they are going even deeper. There is a call for thinking of new ways to design for those deeper depths and for better optimization of new technologies.

This project will be led by the Underground Mining Working Group.

Mining technologies are evolving and planning for the implementation of new technologies and processes in both existing and new mines can be tricky. The industry will have to rethink their mine designs for the future.

Underground mines have unique design, infrastructure, and safety challenges, especially in deeper mines. Additionally, they also require sophisticated communications technologies to support other technological advancements. Mine planning will have to be flexible enough to incorporate not only current technology, but also the technology of the near future (the next 5-10 years).

Identify and Define Who Impacts Mine Design 

The first step is to identify and define the related roles that influence mine design and the type of guidance that would be required for them. Considerations include:

  • Define the specific roles and responsibilities of the different groups involved in mine design (e.g., mine design engineers, executives, technology teams, operations).
  • Identify the information and guidance the different groups would need to develop a new mine design.
  • Assess the priorities and concerns of different stakeholders involved to communicate the benefits and drawbacks of a new mine design.

Framework for What Impacts Mine Designers 

Mapping out and defining a framework that captures the various factors that impact a mine designer’s ability to innovate can help explain what needs to change. Considerations include:

  • Look at how mine designers are rewarded and recognize the significance of clear directive from top-level management for making changes and motivating engineers to use new technologies in their designs.
  • Examine existing protocols, standards, regulations, and guidelines that designers must follow and how they may need to change to allow designers to take a new approach.
  • Review the training and education that mine designers are given.
  • Explore the challenges and considerations related to integrating and adopting new technologies in mine design, addressing engineering, execution, and change management concerns.

Risk Reduction Strategy 

Developing a risk reduction strategy is an important part in getting companies to try new ideas. A de-risking roadmap can identify the potential risks to operations and provide information for mitigating them. Considerations include:

  • Categorize and identify the risks associated with implementing new technologies in mine design (e.g., environmental, safety, and financial)
  • Understand the risk profile of trying new technologies and ideas.
  • Provide a list of common risks that need to be considered during the mine design process.
  • Develop a de-risking roadmap that outlines strategies to mitigate risks, ensuring alignment with the overall business case.
  • Highlight the importance of reducing single points of failure including having standards in place, proof of concepts, and backup plans.
  • Engage regulatory authorities and governments to ensure alignment, address policy roadblocks, and build confidence in the safety of a new design.
  • Share case studies and lessons learned from companies who have integrated new technologies into their mine design.

Define the Toolsets to Enable Change 

It is important to then identify the toolsets that can make these changes possible. Considerations include:

  • Leverage advanced simulations, cost modeling, AI, and machine learning to assess potential solutions for mine design and planning optimization. (Simulations could be used as way to validate a new mine design).
  • Understand the relationship between new technologies and new mining methods.
  • Consider the technologies that enable change, such as autonomous and tele-remote systems, collision avoidance, isolation, advanced communications protocols, cutting machines, conveyances (continuous material handling), etc.
  • Systemic innovation tools, such as roadmaps and visionary statements, to outline adoption plans, simulation strategies, mine design approaches, and technology used.
  • Processes to assess technologies and solutions, and making sure there is alignment with project objectives, especially because technologies are constantly changing.
  • Skillset and expertise required to deploy and maintain new technologies and the importance of experience and training for successful implementation.
  • List the common reasons people have for not changing mine design and explain different solutions that could address those reasons.

We’re looking for:

  • Participants to contribute expertise and knowledge as subject matter experts
  • Members to join the steering committee to lead the project

Contact us here.

March 26 | Virtual Workshop

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