Planning to c


Richard and
David Marston,
Marston &
Marston Inc.,

To meet increasingly competitive coal US, discuss data that may be relevant to improving
markets, emphasis on good exploration, exploration, operations. This article describes
geological modelling and mine planning typical processes and software tools
systems at coal mines are more critical geological that constitute an effective exploration,
than ever. In response to the recent modelling and geological modelling and mine planning
downturns in coal markets and outlook, system.
coal producers must react defensively mine planning
to protect profit margins. One response in a competitive Exploration
is to reduce production as demand Exploration work should be carefully
declines. But to maximise profits in marketplace. planned to yield the key results
competitive markets, mine technical necessary for mining development
services departments should renew their work and operations at the lowest cost.
focus on improving existing operations Scrimping on exploration substantially
through excellent mine planning. are based on software products and raises the risk of lost production,
Effective exploration, geological technical procedures that allow for poor product quality and missed
modelling and mine planning systems rapid updating and detailed analyses of opportunities. ‘Shovel-front exploration’
depend on modern technology and mining alternatives. Most importantly, is poor practice at any time, but in
skilled, experienced geologists and these systems must be capable of rapidly challenging markets, competitive, quality
mining engineers. These systems storing, retrieving and analysing all production is a key element in making  Reprinted from January2009 WorldCoal
permits, mining and mine plans and
Furthermore, enterprise GIS
should be designed and implemented
to meet strict standards and best
practices. All the resource’s relevant
information should be managed
within the enterprise GIS database.
This information should include all
geological and sampling data, land and
other records, any form of imagery and
mapping that shows current mines,
limits or boundaries on mining or
mining rights, and any other spatially
oriented data that may affect decisions
regarding the acquisition of adjacent
properties or mining operations.
Proper data management should
cross all departments within a
mining company. Given the expense
of collecting exploration
information, companies should be
very strict on storing and managing
the data in the best possible way to
check and retrieve it.
One such data management
system is Marston’s Resource Asset
Management System (RAMS),
which uses ESRI ArcGIS™ software.
Figure 1. Drillhole area of influence. Projects begin with standardised data
management and organisation with
strict procedures for documenting
incoming client data, data checking
processes and any changes or revisions
to the base data. The incoming base
data includes any form of mapping,
imagery and electronic data files.
Map data and imagery is checked
and reconciled to a single map
projection and survey. Point data
is located and checked spatially
and through a standardised series
of accuracy and integrity checks to
catch and correct data entry errors or
omissions and prepare the data for
geological modelling. The database
is immediately available to all project
personnel and can be available to
client personnel via a secure internet
Figure 2. RAMS viewer ArcGIS information. connection and a customised web
portal. The database may then be
and maintaining sales. Therefore, mine system (GIS), which should be a primary archived and provided to the client, if
exploration activities should be geared concern of exploration, geology and desired.
towards providing mine planners mine planning departments.
and operations with the best possible A mining company’s fundamental Geological modelling
information to avoid potentially assets are truly clear only when tied Reliable geological modelling techniques
devastating economic surprises. together spatially. Company decision are critical to effective mine planning.
Best practice exploration data makers can then review the best For public companies, accurate
management should be built around an available exploration data within the geological modelling is a matter of
enterprise-wide geographic information context of property and mineral control, producing reasonable resource and

WorldCoal Reprinted from January2009
should reflect yields that are likely,
given mining schedules. Where in-seam
variability or variability between seams
should dictate CPP media gravities and
other operating points, the geological
model should readily provide such
information to mine planners and
operations management in an accurate
and timely manner.
Marston uses Mincom’s StratModel™
system to model coal deposits.
StratModel provides effective tools
for modelling all structures, including
the manually intensive triangulation
and wire framing tools necessary for
complex, overturned deposits, such as
those found in the Rocky Mountains
of western Canada. StratModel is
geared towards sedimentary deposits
Figure 3. Logs and correlation. where structural control is primarily
stratigraphic, although major and minor
faults and folded structures also are
handled well.
StratModel demands consistent,
orderly treatment of all stratigraphic
units to be modelled. Marston
frequently models coal seams, intra-
seam partings and waste rock units that
serve as marker horizons or that require
extraordinary care, special handling
or disposal. All modelled strata are
maintained within a single, integrated
Figure 4. Geological cross-section of existing pit and coal seams. model with full accounting and statistics
on each unit.
reserve estimates that meet securities the area to be mined. This includes The system’s design requires
exchange standards. base exploration data, pit mapping organised, consistent geological data.
Reasonable geological interpretation and surveys, drill hole data, and in-pit The RAMS database includes tools to
is dependent on accurately located, coal samples. Actual production and ensure accurate, complete data transfers
reliable base exploration data. It is critical coal quality should be systematically in StratModel’s required format,
that all relevant data is made available to reconciled with mine planning estimates while StratModel provides complete
the geological modelling team. to ensure that accurate factors are support for exporting shape files to
Though often a matter of the derived for the relative density of coal RAMS. Therefore, a project’s RAMS
geologist’s or engineer’s preference, and waste materials, total moisture, and database is regularly updated to include
software for modelling coal deposits losses and dilution due to mining. all modelled strata, coal quality and
must adequately account for seam For operations that include coal other geologically controlled features
quality variance, mineable partings, processing plant(s) (CPP), the geological pertinent to geologists, mine planners
intrusives and other deposit model should include reasonable CPP and management.
characteristics in order to facilitate product yield and quality predictions. StratModel also includes a wide
reliable mine planning. The multiple- Coal washability data should be number of analytical tools for resource
seam, complex deposits prevalent in completely integrated into a coal characterisation and analysis and
western Canada, South America, Russia producer’s data management system. mine planning. These tools include
and Indonesia require significantly Washability data and CPP simulations stratigraphy-controlled block modelling
different modelling techniques to the should be carefully reviewed and and the capability to program custom
flat-lying deposits mined elsewhere. analysed to reflect actual CPP manipulations of the geological model
Reliable mine planning begins efficiencies given as mined coal plant for engineering analyses; for example,
with a reasonable geological model feed characteristics. simple strip ratio maps or underground
that accurately accounts for geological One key to optimising mine plans and opening and pillar sizes based on the
variability within the deposit. maximising clean coal product yields is Salamon Formula, which is prevalent
Operational mine planning should to understand and model the processing in South Africa. Whenever possible,
be based on all available data within plant capabilities. The geological model geological models should be used to  Reprinted from January2009 WorldCoal
map coal and other relevant strata, coal
quality and related information that is
essential to reliable mine planning.

Mine planning
Mine plans should be the primary
deliverables of a mine’s technical
department. Such plans should be
practical and sufficiently detailed to
clearly illustrate objectives and major
machine assignments to all of the people
responsible for achieving the plans.
Mine plans should reflect all available
geological information, mining limits
and management goals for achieving
profitable sales.
Mine plans should be well thought
out and incorporate practical advice
from operations regarding access and
unit operations scheduling. They should
Figure 5. Stripping ratio map.
also integrate all ancillary operations,
including mining equipment and CPP
maintenance programmes, waste and
tailings disposal and land reclamation
and environmental compliance. Every
mine plan should reflect all relevant
facts and circumstances as of the date of
the mine plan.
Mine planning should be systemised,
beginning with a long-term plan that
may be regularly refined in medium
and short-term plans produced for
budgets and operations. A long-term
schedule should be updated annually or
whenever market or mining conditions
change significantly and outside of the
base assumptions of the plan.
A long-term plan should account for
an acceptable range of market volatility.
That is, for any mine, a coal producer
should establish plans that will weather
expected changes in market prices
without changing the basic approach to
mining a deposit in the most economic
manner. These usually take the form
of sensitivity analyses to demonstrate
positive mining economics even if
market prices are reduced below the
base assumption.
Whenever a producer believes that
demand or prices have moved and are
expected to linger too far from the base
assumptions, the plan should be revised
A long-term plan should provide
basic mine development and mining
sequences as general guides for the
shorter-term plans. Concepts and
Figure 6. Area mine plan.
plans should be included for access,
mine layouts and key geotechnical

WorldCoal Reprinted from January2009
capability that allows mapping of
various planning factors, ranging from
simple in situ and product stripping
ratios to financial projections of cost/
delivered heat unit.
In MineScape, a wide range of
integrated mine design tools are
available to address the detailed design
of excavation, material storage and
impoundment structures, haul routes,
dewatering and drainage structures, etc.
Regularised block models are integrated
with the stratigraphic models for use in
external pit extent analysis programs,
such as Whittle or Lerchs-Grossman-
based packages. Finally, a full suite of data
import and export formats are available
for interface with any specialised software
suites required for a particular project.
For simulation of mine development
activities, Marston typically utilises
Minescape’s Schedule module.
Figure 7. Ultimate pit plan.
The package is integrated with the
design parameters for openings and and operating criteria. This includes MineScape design and modelling
excavations, coal and waste transport geological and analytical data, current tools and includes extensive tools
routes, mine, facilities and CPP pit configurations and any productivity for equipment and fleet productivity
operating schedules, labour and mining issues affecting the mining fleet. Because assignments, data storage and
equipment requirements and land short-term planning cycles are frequent, accumulation and production
reclamation plans. updates to the geological and quality reporting. Because it is an integrated
Although a long-term plan is models with the latest data must be a package, the results of each sequence
typically performed using a relatively rapid, though controlled, exercise. As are readily combined with model and
large time interval (months, quarters, part of every short-term plan, the mine design surfaces for the rapid, accurate
years), the geologic, mining and design planners should update geological data, production of mine status mapping from
data forming the plan basis should be as current productivity and maintenance proposed sequences. The basic database
detailed as possible to ensure a realistic schedules for equipment and any for the long-range plan (LRP) system
simulation of the work efforts required significant variations in waste and coal then provides the initial database for
to achieve desired coal production and haulage routes. ongoing short-term planning efforts.
quality over the plan period. Ideally, mine design and scheduling
Medium-term and annual mine software should be integrated with Conclusion
plans are normally used for capital database and modelling systems In past market downturns, technical
budgeting and development activities to ensure easy access to base data, services departments were often the first
required in advance of operations. modelling results and engineered to suffer from staff and other reductions.
Generally, five-year plans and annual structure designs during planning Geologists and engineers who are in
budget plans should be used to analyse efforts. Compatibility tools are high demand in a booming market
and respond to medium and short-term essential for efficient data transfers for new projects are even more critical
issues related to equipment and plant between independent packages, to maintaining and improving profit
needs, land acquisition, permitting and especially software for specialised margins in a down market. Producers
similar matters. These plans respond design applications, such as Lerchs- should ensure that their mine planning
to specific lead time requirements; for Grossman or Whittle pit shell analysis, departments and systems are fully
example, environmental permitting Earth Technology’s 3d-Dig excavation modernised and honed to optimise
application periods or potential market simulation package or the Ventsim mining and coal products, enhance
opportunities. ventilation simulation software. operations and minimise risk. The keys
Short-term operations planning Marston uses a variety of tools to an effective planning system are
should be detailed and establish for various mine planning functions, software tools and processes that allow
assigned mining areas and monthly, primarily the MineScape© suite for rapid updating and detailed analyses
weekly and daily production goals for of software, including database, of mining alternatives. Most importantly,
all mining crews. A key requirement modelling and design modules. The these systems must be capable of
for short-term mine planning is to modelling systems provide a wide storing, retrieving and rapidly analysing
continually update and incorporate range of analytical tools, including all data that is possibly relevant to
all prevailing exploration, pit design a comprehensive surface expression improving operations.  Reprinted from January2009 WorldCoal