In this part of the discussion I’d like to review how “regulations and compliance” along with “grade and quality decline” present additional challenges for the mining industry.
Regulations and compliance
In the U.S. (as an example) there are multiple federal and state regulations for each mining operation as part of the complete mine “life cycle”, from permitting to closure (including land restoration) and regulating (safety, water quality, emissions, environmental, land, wildlife, dust, noise, etc.)
Some companies state that it can take a full year just for the permit document preparation required before submitting to the agencies. The review and processing time can take from 18 to 36 months, or even longer. The cost of permitting process itself can easily reach millions of dollars.
I believe manufacturing suppliers can help mining industries deal with this myriad of regulations using the best technology and supporting tools available including automated reporting systems, sustainability tools, weather information, monitoring and control tools, training, safer systems, sustainability strategy, and compliance guidance.
Grade and quality decline
Grade decline has direct and indirect implications for mining operations. For example, some studies from Codelco and Brook Hunt, point toward an average decline in copper grade (%Cu: open pit and underground) from 0.95% in 1985 to less than 0.70% around 2015:
- Remote mines/extreme mining: Increasing the need to go to remote areas in order to find larger, better deposits. As a result, remote/automated operations are required, and employee retention in those areas is more difficult.
- CapEx / project cost escalation: Exploring in a remote location with a low grade impacts the cost of new projects since it requires more intense and complex operations for mineral extraction and beneficiation.
- OpEx cost escalation: A more complex mining operation will impact operational costs throughout the process ranging from energy to maintenance.
Any mine operation with low grade or quality is by nature much more “process intensive” since it requires more from the mine and its unit operations to get the same amount of minerals as a high grade mining operation. Such operations must work at optimum capacity to be as feasible and profitable as possible through planning, scheduling optimization, scenario simulation, process optimization, energy efficiency, and water efficiency.
How are regulations and grade decline impacting your mining operations? Please leave your comments and let us know how you are solving these challenges. And please, click here to go to the Part 1 of this blog.