Application of Enterprise Optimisation considering Ultra High Intensity Blasting Strategies


Whittle Consulting is proud to be at the cutting edge of enterprise optimisation in the mining industry. Here we share some of our most interesting developments in technology, process and optimisation outcomes.


Introducing the Ultra High Intensity Blasting Strategy

The Whittle Consulting case study of the application of Enterprise Optimisation considering Ultra High Intensity Blasting Strategies assesses the application of Mine-to-Mill integrated unit operations optimisation and Whittle Consulting’s Enterprise Optimisation, for the purpose of economic value enhancement of open cut, base and precious metal operations. The study extends the application of these optimisation methods to incorporate the recent practice of Ultra High Intensity Blasting (UHIB), using a desktop approach on a copper/gold open cut porphyry deposit. 

Introducing Whittle Consulting
Whittle Consulting provides Integrated Strategic Planning to mining companies. A model of the mining enterprise, from resource to market, is built. This is then optimised using proprietary software Prober to produce a life-of-mine schedule. This methodology also allows the effect of any defined technology on the Net Present Value of a mining enterprise to be calculated by examining before and after cases. 

The background to Ultra High Intensity Blasting Strategies & Enterprise Optimisation  
In base and precious metal mining, capital and energy are the most significant cost types. Process plant capital is typically the greatest component of the initial investment. The comminution circuit is frequently the metal production bottleneck in a mining operation and is the largest, least-efficient energy consuming unit operation. Increasing the intensity of blasting fragmentation, typically the most energy efficient unit operation, may offer a solution.

Mine-to-Mill optimisation typically employs increased blasting intensity to debottleneck a power constrained comminution circuit. It seeks to transfer the energy requirements from the least to the most efficient component to achieve a similar result, thus saving significant costs on energy.  

This study assesses existing engineering research and industrial trials on the interaction between blasting fragmentation and comminution power consumption and extends its application into the higher blasting powder factor range (2 - 4 kg/m3) that is possible with UHIB designs.

The Enterprise Optimisation study conducted by Whittle Consulting 
The purpose of this study was to employ Whittle Consulting’s Enterprise Optimisation techniques, which dynamically link mining and mineral processing in a single holistic model, to evaluate the effect of UHIB design on Mine-to-Mill debottlenecking and enterprise value.

This evaluation was conducted through a case study that examined the influence of variable intensity fragmentation on downstream comminution processes, using conventional blast designs and the UHIB designs that are being trialled by Orica. The results from this study provide a basis for potential collaborations in Mine-to-Mill strategic mine planning and operational cash flow optimisation, with the support of mine operators and blasting service providers.

The Operational & financial impacts determined by the Whittle Consulting Study
The cost and power metrics developed in this study were used as inputs to Whittle Consulting’s Prober® Enterprise Optimisation software, to assess the life-of-mine impact of variable fragmentation from UHIB, on mine asset Net Present Value (NPV).

The study determined that:

  • Over a blasting powder factor range of 1.2 to 4.7 kg/m3 , the total unit production cost for the case study was constant at US$12.0 ± 0.2 per tonne of ore.
  • + Metal production capacity increases of up to 40% were feasible for an enterprise that was mill power constrained.
  • Increasing powder factor from a conventional value of 1.2 kg/m3 drove growth in enterprise NPV by diminishing steps, up to a powder factor of 4.3 kg/m3 .
  • NPV increased by US$0.6 billion (26%), through that powder factor increase.
  • Additionally, Life-of-mine NPV per tonne of CO2e emissions increased by 52%, driven by the difference in energy efficiency of blasting relative to comminution. 

Mining businesses can create significant increases in the NPV of their operations and development projects, by employing the economic optimisation power of the Mine-to-Mill engineering philosophy and combining it with the economic optimisation utility of Whittle Consulting’s Prober® software. Applying increased energy to rock breakage and surface area creation through conventional and UHIB blasting designs can materially increase metal production, cash flow and mine NPV while concurrently reducing Life-of-Mine carbon emissions.

Where to from here?
Future research and industrial trials on the characterisation of blasting induced microcrack formation in comminution feed ore, particularly at the elevated powder factors used in UHIB, would enable improved calibration of the data required to optimise Mine-to-Mill operations over their life. It is possible that collaboration between Coalition for Energy Efficient Comminution (CEEC), CRC Ore, Orica and Whittle Consulting may advance such research and industrial trials.

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