How to optimise your mine

Optimise: to make the best or most effective use (of a situation or resource)
How to optimise your mine How to optimise your mine How to optimise your mine How to optimise your mine How to optimise your mine

I don't think there is a business on the planet right now that isn't striving for this in one way or another. When times get tough, the tough look very hard at their balance sheets and at how they can make the most of their existing assets/operations.

We have saved the most timely (some might say the best) topic for the last of our special issues this year. And I think it's important that we speak openly about this from the start; traditionally, optimisation is not something that miners have been very good at. The collective mindset, even after the 2012 market crash, was to just keep digging that dirt. The more the merrier. And if you needed really huge expensive equipment to do that then so be it. Never mind the long lead time.

I have noticed a clear change over the past five years. Let's call it a pivot point. The industry, as a whole, has finally noticed that this approach- the one it has been using for hundreds of years- just isn't going to work any more. New equipment, however exciting and innovative, just isn't going to cut the mustard unless we look to drastically change the way we mine resources and the fundamental principles underpinning the mining business.

It's no longer enough to be good at digging dirt. Miners must also be stewards of the environment, champions of local communities, carbon neutral, greenhouse gas conscious and, perhaps the most tricky one, offer investors longevity and profitability in uncertain markets.

So what do you do when asked to perform in arenas you maybe don't understand, or those you know aren't your strong point? You look outside and take note of those companies which are successful. Look to those which have found ways to survive, new ways prosper, in difficult circumstances. Those which dared to think outside the box and try something new. You know who they are: Toyota, Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, Tesla. The list is endless. Miners, we need to get down off our high horses and ask for some help.

Beg, borrow or steal ideas if need be, or even just use these companies' approaches to inspire your own transformation. Embrace all of the tools available to you, even if they do require some serious homework and appear pretty scary at first (algorithms anyone?). And open your doors and minds to the little guys. Even the biggest, most advanced tech companies in the world were small start-ups once (I bet some people laughed at Steve Jobs when he turned up at their office with a picture of the Apple 1, and look where that company is now), they might just have an idea that could give you an edge.

Because when your competitors hit the wall and start to really struggle - and that point is coming, sooner than you might think - you will be glad you took the plunge.

In that spirit, we are using this issue to bring you some ideas and success stories from companies around the globe which have excelled in optimising their businesses.

Got an ageing mine which needs a new lease of life as well as a serious injection of digital technology? See our mine of the month, Chelopech. If Dundee can do it, then why can't you? Want a more efficient way to handle your parts inventory and keep your miners safe during shifts? Cortez has some great ideas. Or perhaps your operations are a bit clunky and need streamlining? Try implementing some lean mining principles, Dassault explains how.

Or, alternatively, if you're already well advanced with your own optimisation programme and seeing impressive gains, then dare to think bigger. Ask others what a mine might look like in 2050.

After all, Barrick just had the Space X team round for tea. Just saying.