Machine and Process Management

Top challenges faced by the mining industry and its implications (Part 2)

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.

There are multiple regulations for each mining operation – from permitting to closure and land restoration

 

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. 

Schneider Electric Process Solutions

Any mine operation with low grade or quality is by nature much more “process intensive”

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.

 

 

5 Responses to “Top challenges faced by the mining industry and its implications (Part 2)”

  1. John Clark, P.Eng.

    THEME: [Regulations and compliance] = (a) New mine proposal; (b) Environmental Assessment (EA); (c) permitting; (d) construction, (e) operation, (f) closure. In BC Regulations and Compliance is initiated at the EA phase.
    BC CANADA: You mention the US as providing an onerous process to get from (a) to (f). (a) to (f) = “the life-cycle phases”. I have been involved with the BC Canada process for 40 years as regulator and am now a consultant exploring/using solutions for (a) to (f). BC has a very “onerous” process too, but is moving ahead with tangible solutions, as follows.
    THE SCENARIO EVOLVINGin BC: the EA process must contain and address the permit application (PA) phase crucial information, and also for the “the life-cycle phases”. The BC government are embracing this in a process One Project, One Process (OPOP) – item (1) is structured in a “synchronous” permitting system, by including (a) to (f) in the EA process and report submissions, and needs no legislation changes to do this. Synchronous permitting can be based on existing common ground between the mining industry and regulators: Environmental Sustainability (ES) = Compliance with BC Receiving Water Standards (BCWQG, http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wat/wq/wq_guidelines.html) and federal Metal Mine Effluent Regulations (MMER) = Application of BAT (best achievable technology, defined at the Ministry of Environment website : http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/industrial/factsheets/pdf/bat.pdf ). Canadian Mining Association ES website: http://www.mining.ca/www/media_lib/TSM_Documents/principleseng.pdf (adopted by the BCMA).
    THE FOUNDATION TO MAKE THIS SCENARIO A REALITY: The EA reports must show details on BAT application and compliance with BCWQ and all other environmental standards, using a system of management plans: e.g. erosion and sedimentation control management plan (MP), sediment pond MP, selenium management plan, receiving water MP, etc., etc., etc. The many MPs facilitate efficient EA review and by-in by EA-reviewers. All the MPs allow for efficient synchronous permitting, permit writing, permit issuance, and so on for the life-cycle phases. BAT must be addressed by the mining company and regulators: e.g. in BC – sediment ponds http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/industrial/mining/pdf/settling_ponds.pdf ; erosion control https://circle.ubc.ca/bitstream/handle/2429/43375/Clark_J_et_al_BC_Mine_2012.pdf?sequence=1 .

    THE WORK ON BAT AND MP-GUIDANCE DOCUMENTS requires much more work and needs government-industry-mining association collaboration to move it forward faster. Proposed 2013 World Mining Congress proposed presentations on this topic:
    1. Designing Science Based Effluent Permits for the Mining Industry.
    2. The Need for a Mine Erosion and Sedimentation Control Plan Guidance Document
    for Exploration, Construction, Operation and Closure.
    3. Regulation Versus Voluntary Standards for Designing Sediment Ponds and Complying with Discharge and Receiving Water Standards for Total Suspended Solids.
    A BC conference, September, 2013:
    1. A Review of Available Selenium Reduction Options and Developing Regulatory Compliance Strategies to Achieve Receiving Water Quality Standards
    2. Estimation of Minesite Runoff, Soil Loss and Soil Characteristics as Decision Tools for Erosion and Sediment Control Efforts and Compliance with Minesite Regulatory Discharge and Receiving Water Quality Standards.

    Reply
  2. Indira Singh

    I agree with the challenges identified above. These are real challenges.\one of the other challenges is the cost associated with the reffed, canceled, delayed mining projects due to conflicts related to land claims and or lack of community engagement and consultation in the early stage.
    Can I please get a copy of the part 1.

    Thanks

    Indira Singh,

    Reply
  3. shahrukh

    myself undergoing a project on optimization techniques in mining .pls do offer a mine probleblem to solve it by linear programming

    Reply
  4. shahrukh

    myself undergoing a project on optimization techniques in mining .pls do offer a mine probleblem to solve it by linear programming

    Reply

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