Determine the Feasibility of a Mine Expansion
Located in Northern Ontario, Xstrata operates Kidd Creek Mine which has one of the largest deposits of massive sulphide ore in the world. It began operation in 1966 and has greatly expanded from its original surface pit mine, operating at over 6,800 feet below the surface with the future possibility of extending to 10,000 feet – one of the deepest mines in the world.
Looking to extend mining operations beyond the current level, Barry Federchuk, Head of Engineering required an answer to a single question, where the outcome of the decision would cost several million dollars and a significant number of man-years to build:
What size of storage bin will be needed to support the proposed mine expansion?
The proposed expansion of the mine places significant demands on the hoisting capacity currently available. Could the additional transportation of labour, materials, and waste be handled by their current operation, or would additional capacity have to be added?
Xstrata’s engineering team looked to Visual8 to build a Mine Expansion Capacity Simulator that would help them clearly understand the impact of proposed changes to the mining operations.
Initially, a simplified simulation model was developed using SIMUL8 simulation software to investigate storage at an aggregate level; however, this was soon expanded in both detail and scope. A detailed production model was built to capture the flow of material through the mine as well as the utilization of materials handling equipment. The model accurately simulates the flow of ore from the stopes through to crushers; from underground storage bins to hoists up to the surface all on a ton-by-ton, minute-by-minute basis.
The operations of resources and equipment within the mine are all governed by user-defined parameters such as:
- Shift patterns,
- Efficiency levels,
- Processing rates and
- Storage capacities.
Users are able to view and manipulate this information through a series of custom inputs that includes LHD, truck, rock breaker, ore pass, and hoist operating parameters, as well as surface configuration, materials specifications and production plans.
From the production plan and waste production forecasts, the model generates a stope schedule governing which areas of the mine came on-line at any given time. Again, as with the parameters above, this schedule could be reviewed and altered by the user. The model would then run through the simulation period and feed collected results into a number of reports.
After each simulation run, the engineering team could quickly evaluate the mine’s output when different operating parameters and rules were implemented. The impact of a particular rule or parameter could be analyzed based on the monthly planned vs. actual amounts of ore actually hoisted to the surface, as well as the effect on the performance of the materials handling equipment (i.e. whether a piece of equipment was backed up or blocked for significant periods of time).
Training and extended support were also provided to ensure the successful usage and interpretation of the simulation model results.
The Mine Expansion Capacity Simulator model has transformed the company’s ability to predict future mine output, and thus the feasibility of mine expansion, to a risk-free, flexible, and intuitive process. Xstrata was able to determine that their target ore throughput could be reached within their current capacity as well as allow their planners to calculate the correct levels of equipment and staffing that would be needed to reach these goals. Through improved management of materials movement and improved coordination of hoisting, Xstrata was able to avoid building an additional Shaft at a cost of over $10, 000, 000 .
Also, what started out as a simple capacity-planning tool designed to answer a single question, has developed into an important management tool for planning and long term mining operations. The “Deep Ore” team now employs the model to investigate future mine expansion requirements, the Ore-flow Supervisor co-ordinates production across the mine and the Supervisor of Hoisting uses the model to plan equipment maintenance, people and materials movement with ore-flow requirements.