Automated Pit Designer Streamlines Long Term Planning

As a software company, Maptek is always looking for ways to help our users automate their processes to save time and increase efficiencies. However, sometimes this poses a dilemma: automate too much and you have an “easy button” that eliminates the critical thinking necessary to achieve a great result, automate too little and you’re left with manual processes that consume valuable time and resources. The Vulcan Automated Pit Designer is a tool new to Vulcan 10 which helps reach a balance between these two extremes.

Vulcan Automated Pit Designer is designed to automate processes to greatly speed up tedious work, allowing more scenarios to be evaluated resulting in better, more informed decision making. Rather than replacing traditional design methods, Automated Pit Designer is a tool that compliments them to aid in long-term and strategic planning.

Take, for example, one company who uses Vulcan’s Automated Pit Designer in its long term planning (LTP) process. The LTP process needs to be completed for over 80 different mines, totaling nearly 400 phase designs. The amount of work to design and evaluate this many pits is simply overwhelming.

Mining engineers at this company previously adhered to the typical manual mine design process:

  • Manually design a pit
  • Reconcile it with the block model
  • Make adjustments to maximize net present value (NPV) while respecting geological and other constraints
  • Repeat these steps to try to get better and better results each time

This time consuming process previously took 2-3 days for this company to design just one phase. A combination of the Vulcan Pit Optimiser and Automated Pit Designer was implemented to quickly and effectively design pits with multiple phases for long term planning and evaluation. The 2-3 days for one phase design has now been reduced to approximately 30 minutes. Using the old method, all 400 phases would take about 1,000 working days to do every design. With the new process, all of the designs can be completed in about eight days with potential for further time savings once engineers develop a standardized process.

Being able to design this many phases so quickly means that more scenarios can be evaluated. Sensitivity studies can be performed in more detail as commodity prices vary. Should more drilling be done in the future and the block model updated with new data, it is very easy to re-run the optimization and evaluate a new pit.

While Automated Pit Designer currently does not design pits with ramps, it can be useful in long term planning to evaluate different scenarios and understand the life of mine strategically. As it becomes time to mine certain pits, more traditional manual design methods will need to be employed, but for a long-term outlook and mine-life forecasting, Automated Pit Designer offers engineers significant time savings.

I believe the mining industry is entering a new era. We may never be able to replace critical thought and meticulous design with computer algorithms, but we should strive use new tools that help us gather more information to make the most informed decisions.

Want to see Automated Pit Designer in action? Sign up for my webinar on July 27!

Ann McCall
Mining Engineer
July 22, 2016

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