I Mining Future- Technology I

“Our data citizen program provides an opportunity to any Trevali employee to upskill themselves and understand the importance of data, how to analyze it using a variety of tools, and how to use it to make fact-based and informed decisions to improve the business.”

Derek du Preez,
Chief Technical Officer,
Trevali.

| Photo Credit: Trevali

Background

The Rosh Pinah underground zinc-lead mine and 2,000 tonne per day milling operation is located in southwestern Namibia, approximately 800 km south of Windhoek and 20 km north of the Orange River, at the edge of the Namib Desert. The Rosh Pinah mine has been in continuous operation since 1969 and currently produces zinc and lead sulphide concentrates containing minor amounts of copper, silver, and gold. The zinc and lead concentrates are transported by road to Luderitz, a port on the Namibian Coast, and then shipped to the international spot markets.

In August 2020, Trevali announced positive results from the NI 43-101 Pre-Feasibility Study based on a scenario to expand the current throughput to 3,600 tonne per day through the modification of the processing plant, construction of a paste fill plant, and development of a dedicated portal and ramp to the WF3 deposit. The Feasibility Study of the RP2.0 Expansion has recently commenced and expected to be completed at the end of Q2 2021.

The Rosh Pinah mine is 90% owned by Trevali and 10% by Namibian Broad-Based Empowerment Groupings and an Employee Empowerment Participation Scheme (EEPS).

Trevali strategy and digital

Digital transformation is a key enabler of Trevali’s business strategy and is anchored on a “Mine-as-a-Service” concept, whereby functional platforms provide standard building blocks that can be delivered through standard processes, allowing rapid mobilization and value realization in support of the T90 business improvement program.

Our digital portfolio is structured around three strategic themes:

  • Digitization of assets, and automation of physical processes
  • Data-driven planning, control, and decision making
  • Functional platforms and automated support processes

Rosh Pinah’s transformation

The Rosh Pinah operation is our flagship digital mine. We pilot our strategic platforms and technology here first, and then lift and shift the technology to our other operations. This allows us to focus on site specific value, leverage lessons learned, and improve our speed and quality of implementation on new sites (repeatability)

The portfolio of projects is balanced to include both investment in long term strategic enablers as well as rapid return on investment use cases. At Rosh Pinah, we are targeting dilution control and blending as key value drivers of the operation.

The graphic below shows a selection of key initiatives in our program at Rosh Pinah. These projects are in various stages of the project lifecycle, with some of them already completed and near completion, and others recently starting implementation.

 

Underground connectivity

The establishment of an underground communication network at Rosh Pinah is a key enabler of several initiatives requiring real-time, high-bandwidth and high-availability networks. It will be like having Wi-Fi and internet connectivity underground. The network will allow the efficient transfer of data between machines, humans and systems, which in turn enables operational improvements in both mine planning and execution functions.

Autonomous drone surveying

Autonomous drone surveying will increase the scope, accuracy and frequency of underground surveying and enable faster turnaround times between surveying effort and information required to make important decisions. This will ultimately lead to effective dilution management and control through more accurate extraction strategies. The use of drones also reduces the risk to human safety that is associated with surveying.

Drilling machine telemetry

The drilling telemetry project allows for real-time access to drill machine data so that operators can see drilling performance and progress as they do the work. The information is also made available to our mine planning and execution teams through the underground network so that they know at any time if work is being delivered according to plan, and so that blast planning can be done using to accurate as-drilled data. This will assist with improving dilution control at Rosh Pinah.

Data citizen program

Our data citizen program provides an opportunity to any Trevali employee to upskill themselves and understand the importance of data, how to analyze it using a variety of tools, and how to use it to make fact-based and informed decisions to improve the business.

Integrated planning, scheduling & execution

Our spatial data platform will allow us to integrate long- and short-term planning and scheduling efforts by creating a master business schedule. It will also improve our ability to execute plans by enabling ‘short interval control’. This means we’ll be able to track and analyze the extent to which teams comply with planned activities on a shift-by-shift basis, understand the reasons for deviation, and then improve the way we do things in the short term. Better planning and execution practices will help reduce unit cost of tons produced and uplift the quality of the feed material to the plant.

Short term grade control modeling

Short-term, high-resolution grade models will enable us to access on-demand ore body knowledge by using the latest available mining data. This will allow us to make faster, more accurate decisions on how we drill and blast, which will assist us in improving dilution control at Rosh Pinah.

Blending analytics

The blending analytics project will help to provide a more stable mix of material to the Rosh Pinah plant. It will analyze available stockpile material data to inform decisions about how much material to draw from which stockpile in order to create the target plant feed blend. By providing a more stable mix of feed material, overall plant performance should improve.

Digital forms

Replacing paper-based data capturing with digital forms provides a source of more accurate, timeous data that can get leveraged for reporting, insights and analytics.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system update

A centralized enterprise resource planning system will enable standardization across Trevali’s operations; it will allow for efficient system integration and improved control across departments; it offers us more functionality; and it will improve the security of our data in the cloud. The Microsoft D365 platform will be easy to use by people who are familiar with Microsoft applications.

Our transformation program is approached holistically to include people & processes:

People:

  • We believe in having the right leadership to drive real transformation on the ground. Leaders with relevant experience and a mature mindset that can help create a culture where change is bravely embraced.
  • At Rosh Pinah we have introduced new roles into the operation. A data steward has been placed in the mine technical team to support mine technical data processes, systems, and analysis. With the introduction of integrated planning, scheduling, and execution we’ve created an Execution Centre with new roles to support the new way of working. New roles include an Integrated operations scheduler and Senior shift schedulers.
  • Across Trevali we are encouraging teams to be more data lead in their day to day work and decision making. Our data citizen program helps to develop the mindset, skills, and tools while encouraging practical application.
  • Each project has a change enablement component to ensure that people are both willing and able to change. We want our people to be part of the journey to create the future of mining with us.

Processes:

  • Planning processes are changing from a top-down approach to a bottom-up, activity based planning process. Mining activities, along with their required resources and sequencing are used to develop both short term and long term plans. This helps us develop more accurate plans and improve overall efficiencies.
  • Execution processes are enabled with an accurate, activity base shift schedule as well as short interval control capability to address deviation from the schedule in a shift, and use data to make better in shift decisions.
  • We want to change the way that enabling functions service core operations so that effort on core operations maximizes value delivery.

Trevali ‘s recipe for success

Various mining companies have started their digital transformation journeys with a mixed set of results, many of them having had false starts and not getting the value they expected. What makes us different? Our recipe for success is in creating the right environment for successful transformation.

  1. We believe in leader lead, on the ground transformation leveraging agile ways of work.
  2. We have a mature culture & collaborative leadership team. We believe we have a good balance between pushing hard for change and being patient to allow change, learning, and growth. The senior leadership of the company can be seen as a horizontal structure rather than a vertical structure, to create a collaborative team that excels by working together.
  3. Our ecosystem of partners plays a valuable role. A business partnership is a two-way street and should be mutually beneficial. We expect our ecosystem to work well together so that we are all part of one team that works towards the same goals. Some of our ecosystem partners currently are MineRP, Deloitte, Microsoft, BDO, DataCloud, Dwyka, and Epiroc.
  4.  Getting the fundamentals right during project execution is very important. Project management and change management fundamentals are continuously embedded in our way of work. We have dedicated resources that complement our operational teams and support them with both the development and application of best practices.

Article By |

Derek du Preez,
Chief Technical Officer,
Trevali.

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