What do all iron ore mines have in common? Perfect production days! Yes, those harmonious
24-hour periods when the stars align and the daily output number rockets past the long-term average to hit new heights. While perfect days are always welcome, the focusing question is…was that just a ‘flash in the pan’ (due to a special cause) or an indication of the process’s capability (with clues to the common causes) which, if addressed, could make every day perfect? In the context of today’s operating environment, with the need to maximise productivity at minimum cost, it’s an important question.
Investigations reveal that the throughput difference between a perfect production day and the average is often in the order of 40 per cent, and that bulk solids handling (BSH) system deficiencies are the largest (>50 per cent) class of lost opportunity. Root causes for underperformance of elements in BSH systems can often be traced back to the detailed design and even study-stage oversights. Essentially baked into the fabricated plant, operations are effectively forced to accept them at the point of practical completion and then deal with the consequences for the life of the mine. Subsequent normalisation of these defects in the planning process reduces visibility and hence the impetus for long-term solutions in favour of lower targets and quick fixes to keep the show on the road. On an industry wide basis the design processes and assumptions responsible for BSH system underperformance become enshrined as common practice and hence repeated across sites and organisations.
In addition to making the case for action, practical steps that can be taken to help realise the significant productivity prize and avoid the problems in first place are provided.
Wellwood, G A, 2017. One perfect (production) day – a bulk solids handling perspective, in Proceedings Iron Ore 2017, pp 443–452 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).