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However, with a traditional explicit modelling approach, the process of feeding that data into your geological model, updating it, then passing it to short- and medium-term planners is so lengthy that you cannot impact the plans or the schedule in a significant or useful way. By now the material is already being mined and whatever efficiencies and associated sustainability gains you might have achieved are in the past.

A more accurate view of your ore before you mine unlocks a host of opportunities to be more efficient, less wasteful and improve your sustainability. Seequent’s ability to offer the industrial minerals sector agile visibility of impurities and material quality is the key to extending the life of the mine, argues Seequent Project Geologist James Edwards.

You’ll expend less energy moving mining equipment to another part of the pit when you unexpectedly hit a pocket where the quality suddenly drops.

When you reduce waste – whether that be in materials, energy, resources or even human effort – you boost sustainability.

And if you’re looking to mine your ore body in most effective and efficient way possible, one of your greatest enemies will be uncertainty. How accurate is your understanding of the rock you’re dealing with, and do you really know where the highest quality ore sits, and the worst impurities hide?

With a greater understanding of your product you can also be more certain of the grades you can achieve – meaning less waste.

A few years ago, the Industrial Minerals Association Europe 2050 Roadmap declared that the minerals sector was driven by resource efficiency and that waste reduction was a key part of this ambition. New technologies would increase the rate of marketable materials while saving energy and water, predicted the report. These efficiencies and the boost to sustainability they bring, ‘will trickle down through the value chain reducing consumption by improving the performance of the end product’. However, it also noted that ‘this does not necessarily mean using less. What really matters is using better.’

Wise before the event, not after

When mining for industrial minerals, that search for better is inevitably based on your relationship with the rock, which is often a reactive one. The specifications are decided only after mining has taken place. You know there will be impurities and contaminants existing in different forms, but where? Ultimately this can lead to issues in stock management, waste and supply uncertainty.

While any samples you collect are unlikely to have a dramatic impact on your overall geological interpretation, they can reveal changes to the boundary or the location of some contaminant materials. This insight into where ‘better’ lies can be invaluable in shaping your mining plan for maximum efficiency.

Using agile data to cut waste and enhance sustainability

Where Seequent’s solution differentiates itself, particularly in the operational environment, is its ability to update data dynamically thanks to the implicit nature of its modelling. You can incorporate data back into the geological model at a much higher cadence than if you were modelling explicitly.

Take a pit, blast or a post-crusher sample, Seequent’s collaborative tools enable you to get that data back into your model and flow it through rapidly enough to influence your short term mine plan and schedule. You can show the impact of new information in the same day – perhaps within hours – using all that new mine geology data as it becomes available.

Seequent’s solution automatically generates the most up to date and accurate resource models so you can estimate confidently how much and of what quality mineral reserves are available to mine. The forecast for your production budget is more accurate too, leading to a more profitable mine and less waste.

High grading products to satisfy specific markets

With a greater understanding of your product you can also be more certain of the grades achievable. Some industrial minerals customers will have a very tight set of specifications that need to be met. The better your teams can define the variability, the more accurate they’ll be on where certain concentrations of material are, and the tighter the specifications your business can deliver to.

A better understanding of your mineral resource also leads to a lower cost of operation. No more chasing the grade, instead you can confidently budget and plan for the optimal application of resources, both mechanical and human, to extract the ore and manage waste.

You’ll also expend less energy moving mining equipment to another part of the pit when you unexpectedly hit a pocket where the quality drops. You can be more proactive in how you distribute your resources rather than shifting trucks around in pursuit of the next piece of ore to take. With a clearer idea of the waste involved, there’s less risk of bringing in more trucks than required, and the operation can maintain tighter control over equipment and fuel costs.

In short, the more clarity you have, the more you can sell and the less you waste.

Collaboration can be a powerful tool for sustainability

Finally, if you’re trying to drive efficiency, reduce waste and boost sustainability, the more you can improve communications between geologists, mining engineers and planners, the better your chances.

Industrial minerals companies – unlike other sectors in the mining industry – may have a very large number of pits globally, varying significantly in size from the tiny to the vast. Standardising processes and procedures across such a diverse set of operations is enormously challenging, yet it’s in such standardisation that many of the most advantageous operational efficiencies lie.

The browser-based capabilities of Seequent Central empowers teams to easily view 3D models and have discussions wherever they are – on what’s changed, why it’s changed, what the ramifications are, and the best practice processes that will profit the most from the data.

Being able to talk about the potential benefits, share the impact and keep all stakeholders up to date with how the mining can be optimised is a major advantage in controlling costs. “By improving the short-term planning, you pave the way for being able to extend the life of the mine and ultimately improving sustainability.

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