Short-term Forecasting in Open Pit Mining Using Simulation Modelling

Simulation modelling has long been used to as a decision support tool in the mining industry. This is typically done to address issues on the strategic time horizon, with a heavy focus on experimentation and sensitivity analysis. These issues include mining equipment selection, design and operation of the mine-plant interface, testing the robustness of a mine plan and blending.

A number of changes have occurred in open pit mining over the past few years. The availability and quality of data has improved substantially. Integrated operations centers have been established to improve coordination of decisions across the value chain. The alignment between mine planning and scheduling has improved across multiple time horizons. The capability to adhere to mine plans and the potential impact of improvements to short-term decision quality has substantially improved.

Against this backdrop, simulation modelling can be used to forecast production in the short term. It can be used to test the quality of truck dispatch decisions (allocation of trucks to loaders) and evaluate the value of alternate scheduling rules. It can also be used to produce a forecast of the likelihood of achieving a shift target and allow operators to test what-if options to reduce the risk of production loss or reduce costs by putting excess equipment on standby. Being able to make these decisions with confidence helps to drive improvements in operations efficiency.

The simulation model was developed using the AnyLogic modelling software and represents the load and haul operations of an open-pit mine. The model evaluates the ability of a given set of mobile fleet to achieve a target mine schedule. It includes a discrete-event simulation of load and haul operations and is integrated with a dispatch scheduling algorithm that allocates trucks to shovels.

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