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Planning Ore Extraction

Sequences in Open Pit Mines

2012 Dr. B. C. Paul
Note These slides contain screen shots from the program MineSight
developed by Mintec. Credit for the program is given to its developers. Also
note that these slides have been based on earlier work by the author and may
have content similar to training classes conducted by Mintec.

Maximizing Returns

NPV is usually increased by bringing

more early earnings and delaying
Sequencing pits for high grade ore with
lower stripping ratios tends to do this
We Need A Method of Finding the Best
Grade Ore to Mine First

How to Make That Happen

Method #1 - We try to Fake Out the Learch

Grossman Routine
Lerch Grossman will Find the Juiciest set of ore
blocks that keeps producing more value
Obviously this must mean that it either finds the
maximum metal pit or the most lucrative ore
Because not all ore is equally easy to process it is possible
that a set other than maximum metal will be selected

We Need to Get Learch Grossman to Pick the Best

of the Best

To Do This We Perform What I

Call A Price Fake

We tell the computer we have a dismal

market and then ask it to find the ultimate
Under unfavorable economics only the better
grade ore will get included in the fake
ultimate pit
Learch Grossman however has picked us the
set of blocks that yields maximum value per
ton which is just what we wanted.

We Will Gradually Raise Our

Fake Price As We Do Multiple
Each Run will start with the previous pit in place

Each Run will have the real final pit surface as a

limiting surface
The result will be a series of nested pits that go
from the best ore to ore of progressively lower
We have just tricked Learch Grossman into telling us
how to optimize our NPV by sequencing our mining

Terms in Open Pit Benches

Catch Bench
Toe to
Crest Slope

Final Pits Slopes allow

Benches to be wide enough to
Catch rocks and accommodate
A berm. (This is often less than
Than 10 meters).

Geometry of a Working Bench


Truck Width


Berm width


A bench big enough

To accommodate
Equipment working is
Much wider than one
Only intended to catch
Rolling rocks.

Impact of a Working Bench


The over-all slope of the pit is drastically

Reduced if one must accommodate wide
Working benches.

The Pit Slope Problem

Our Ultimate Pit Was Calculated at Our Final

Pit Slope

A final pit slope has benches wide enough to catch

falling rock and allow for a road to get equipment
A bench 10 to 15 meters wide will usually catch
falling rock
But that may be just barely enough for a truck to drive
forward if the bed drags the highwall and the tire runs
over the berm
No room for maneuvering the truck for production.

A Final Pit Slope cannot account for equipment in


Price-Faking A Learch-Grossman
is Easy, But at What Slope?

A Final Pit Slope Can be 50-65o

(Depending on rock mechanics slope stability)

A working Pit with all working benches

would likely have an over-all slope
under 20
How do we reconcile this?

Usual Open Pit Practice

A less than 20 slope would cause the pits stripping

ratio to be very high making the mining method
economically infeasible for a lot of ore
Why does every bench have to be a working bench?
Usually it doesnt have to be
Mines have enough working benches to allow ore blending
and to keep shovels enough apart to keep them from
tripping over each other
Many open pits will have only 2 to 4 large shovels

This suggests only about 3 to 6 working benches

(One for each shovel and then some extra working places)
If you can keep ore mixed well for the mill it requires less costly
road work if all the shovels work on one bench

Reconciling Factor 1

Not all Benches have to be working

This will often allow over-all slopes over

(Your very first initial pit probably does

not have very many benches so it may
really have a very low slope with almost
every bench being a working bench)

The Direction of Pit Advance

If our 23rd bench is a working bench does it

have to be working width around the entire
A pit is 360 around 2 to 4 shovels cant move in
all those directions
Digging out ore also digs out roadways you dont
want to be disrupting your roads everywhere at
the same time
(Ok you do if this is a conspiracy to make your short
term mine planning engineers have a nervous breakdown)

The Push-Back Reality

Mines may focus mining on only one side of

the pit
Starting at the top the widen benches in this
direction as the mine
At the end of Pushing Back the side of the
pit in that direction they re-steepen the slopes
to keep move the advantages of a low
stripping ratio forward in time and make the pit
more economic.

Push-Backs and Pit Slopes

Because push-backs open wider

benches from the top down and then
steepen over-all slopes at the end of a
We may be able to take snap shots of
where the mine will be at the end of each
Those pit slopes at the end of a push-back
may have about the final pit slope

A Potential Solution

If we phase our mine advance in Push

Backs we may have about final slopes at the
end of each pushback
Design your mining phases using a final pit slope

(There may be cases where push-back

stages in a particular direction are not
Your very first pit when you start the mine probably
will need all working benches in all directions

A Side Effect of the Push-Back


Relying on Push-Backs allowed us to look at

our pit at final slope at the end of each phase
But it also meant that the distance we Pushed
Back had to be big enough to accommodate our
working slopes during the mining that we dont

Thus to work a Push-Back must advance

the mine a minimum distance in a given

So How Far Would That Distance


Suppose we have 10 meter wide catch benches.

Next we layout the size of our trucks and shovels and
the amount of room they need to turn and manuver.
Suppose from this we find a working bench needs to be 100
meters wide

Then we find out that for ore blending reasons we

should have working benches on 3 levels

To widen from 10 to 100 meters takes 90 meters extra

We need this 90 meters extra 3 times
3X90 = 270 meters our push back must be 270 meters

Well After that Philosophy

Lesson We Are Ready to Get
Back to Price-Faking Our LearchGrossman
Which Panels of Our MSOPIT program
will we change with Fake Prices

Of Course the Economics Panel

We Would Have to Change

Where We Stored Our Result

We Would Probably Change Our

Output Report Titles

Lets Think About What We Are

About Ready to do

We will pick 3 panels where we will

change numbers
We will fill out new numbers for say 12
price sets one at a time
We will run our MSOPIT about 12 times
Sitting there and watching for results

Does This Sound Fun!

I Didnt Think So Lets Try

Another Way
We Will Get the Computer
To do our repetitive runs
Using something called a
Start MineSight Compass
Pick the Options Tab
Under Multi-Run pick new

Then click on the open folder


A Set Of Procedures to Run

Automatically is Called A Package
Your set of responses
Is called responses
We need to give both
A name
Ok so much for my
Naming creativity
Next we need to
Identify procedures to
Put your curser in the
Procedures box.

If Youve Had Way to Much Time on Your

Hands you have the Procedure Name
If not position the multi-run window so
You can also see the compass
Procedures list
Then click on the compass procedure

And it appears in the multi-run


Now Click On Set-Up

We Will Assume You Already

Have Basic Input Because You
Already Got Your Open Pit

The trick of a multi-run is to enter variable names with incrementable numbers

Preceded by a question mark (note the ? Is different than the $ used in Excel)
When the multi-run operates the variable will be changed according to a list.

I Will of Course Vary Which Pit My

Incremental Pit Surface is Stored in.

Ill Leave Audit Options Blank When

I Will Automatically Run Multiple

I Will Not Save Fake Price

Results into the Block Model

But I will save each output

Report separately under a
Different number.

An Unusual Exit

After entering needed

Needed information and variable
Characters in the procedure
Click File
Then click Save and Exit
Multi-Run Setup

You Are Taken Directly to a Panel

Where Your Enter Your Variable
My ?01 and ?03
Are fake copper
My ?02 is the fake
Molybdenum Price
?04 tells me which
Pit surface to send
The result to
?05 is the name of
The report extension

Enter the Values for My First Run

After smelting and refining charges copper bring 25 cents a pound and electrowon
Copper brings 35 cents. Moly in concentrate is 75 cents a pound. I will load my fake
Small pit into shell 27 and use an F1 for my report extension
Now Click Add value for my next run

After Entering the Values for 12

Runs I Return to Procedures

I Designate 12 runs and Enter My


In this case I only

Needed one
Procedure, but
Multi-runs can be
Used for sequences
Of different

I Will Next Save My Package and


This allows me to use the same sequence to do something in the same way each time
Or to come back and selectively edit for changes without having to redo from scratch.

I Click Run and the Multi-Run

This may take a
While so now I
Can go take a
Break instead
Of tediously
Re-running things
Again and again.

Looking at Our Price Sensitivity


Observation Our Price Fake Method did indeed get us stage pits

The Push-Backs Dont Look Very

Initial Pit Might Work
(except finish slope is too steep)

360 M
120 M

130 M

Remembering that a practical push-back distance is 90 to 270 meters

Depending on the number of active levels it appears that most slices
Are too thin to be push-backs

And That is One Heck of a Gap

In fact the tendency of price-fake pits to make huge jumps is called The Gap.
It is a common problem (and mathematically a feature of Learch-Grossman
Which defines solutions only at certain points)

The Gap

Large jumps are impractical to schedule as a

Learch-Grossman infact solves an altered
problem that only has solutions periodically
Thus you may raise the price and nothing
happens till the pit jumps.

Lets try a floating cone and put smaller price

changes in the range where the jump occurs.

Check for Our Price Jump Point

50/lb Cu
45/lb Cu
65/lb Cu

Looks like we jumped between 50 and 65 cents

Well That Wasnt What I Hoped

Initial Pit has 21 Slope

110 M



We could mine the 50 cent pit top down, and 58 to 65 cents make a practical one
Active bench push-back

Here is Another Try




OH GIVE ME A BREAK that gap is ridiculous

Some Realities About Price Fake





We still have our gap. In a long term planning environment we have widely
Spaced drill holes. Our grade estimation variances or the market fluctuations from
A butterfly in Nepal stretching its wings are larger than our gap. The ability to get
Price fakes to completely define our mining sequence is an illusion.

Tools We Have For Getting A

Real Push-Back Plan

We could always use the price shells and

then try to use our own guesses about
pushback direction to design pushbacks with
the Pit Expansion Tool
We will ultimately have to do this but we can get
more guidance

We could run that Floating Cone with

geometric and price constraints to get so
realistic push-back shells before we use the
pit expansion tool.

Enter the Multi-Pit Option

Its a single radio button on the Design Strategy Panel.

As We Would Guess We Now

Have to Fill Out an Extra
Geometric Constraints Panel

Practical Constraints
It wants to know about your
Production rate and
Pushback requirements
It wants to know either our
Yearly ore mining or total
Ore mining capacity
(ie how much material
Can you move in a year)
Note it is in Ktons
Units of 1,000 tons
If you are really foggy
About your mining capacity
At this point relax, this
Only becomes critical if you
Apply a discount rate in the

Here is an important constraint

We can impose a minimum

Tonnage or number of
Blocks in a push back
(this would eliminate some
Of those paper thin 10
Foot push-backs that could
Only be mined by the
Seven Dwarfs from Snow
We can also control
Push-back width (sort of)

What Does Sort of Control PushBack Width Mean?

The control is not direct

What you actually control is how many new benches
the pit can go down in a push-back
Of course this is useful of itself because sometimes a PriceFake only routine will try to open 15 new benches in a year.
Most operators would find that very hard to do.

The indirect effect is that as one goes down they

usually have to push back at a certain slope thus a
push down usually also implies a push-over distance.
Remember this control works best along with
imposing a tonnage that must be mined in a pushback.

You Have a Direct Control on

Which Pit Shells will get
information and how many
phases will be planned.
This identifies the pit
shell Numbers to get
the Information.

You Can Control Pit Expansion

As a practical matter
Pushing back a pit in all
Directions at once is
Difficult what would be
Happening to all those
Roads that carry material.

Note that here I can contro

Which parts of the block
Model are considered
In a push-back step.

Many times you can look at

Economic Shells and Decide Which
Way to Push.

Push back 1
Push back 2
Push back 3
Push back 4
Push back 5
Then down to
The bottom.

Multi-Pit is not the only way to

control expansion direction
The first panel of
MSOPIT allows
Me to consider
Only part of the
Blocks in my
Block model

The thing unique

About Multi-Pit
Is I can control
This while at the
Same time
Imposing ore
Tonnage and push
Back distance

The Last Part of the Multi-Pit

Control Panel
Some of these
Just restate waste
Mining costs and ore
Densities found in
Other parts of the
Run (they can be
Over-ridden here for
Some fine tuning

Sometimes You Want to Impose

that no rock outside the Ultimate
Pit will be considered.

You can set the

Ultimate pit as
A surface where
No block outside
Will be considered
As ore to mine.

(just identify the

Shell that contains
Your ultimate pit)

But Wouldnt I Always Use My

Ultimate Pit as a Limiting Surface?

Often an ultimate pit is designed using the

mineral prices and operating costs believed
to be most likely
If you let the multi-pit shells go out of
boundaries later routines can look for
conditions where you might get a little more
If pits beyond the ultimate are not economically
feasible this will show up that mining the last few
phases may not be economic.

Minimum and Maximum Factors

Control How the Routine
Generates Pits
The values are set
Between 0 and 1
(unless you want
To generate pit
Shells outside your
Base Case Ultimate

Who ever put in these

Factors needed help
1.5 is more than both
1 and the point 0.4

How Multi-Pit Avoids the GAP

with even tiny price changes

Lets say the minimum is 0.1

Multi-Pit looks at each column of blocks
in the block model and designates the
top 10% to be ore all others are
treated as waste
Pit Line
(no ore

Ore blocks
(actually the top
10% of blocks)

Note that the Program has now

made a clear incremental step in
what is the best rock and what is

The program then attempts to generate a pit

using only the top 10% for ore blocks
After generating a pit it checks to see if
tonnage and pushback size constraints have
been made
If yes it declares it found a pit phase advancement
and outputs the result.

If Not?

The program then takes the top 20% of

blocks as ore (it moves in 10%
It trys to generate a pit
It checks the pits against the constraints
If it meets the constraints it reports the pit
as the next phase

If not it tries the top 30% of blocks.

So What Are Maximums More

Than 1?

1 is all the oreblocks that were

considered ore in the base ultimate pit
1.1 is the 10% of the blocks beyond that
These blocks have to have their earnings
boosted by 10% to appear to be ore

1.2 is for a 20% boost appearing to be


The Discount Rate Blank

This allows you to

Impose the time
Value of money
On your ore
Sequence planning
If I wanted a 15%
Discount rate I
Would input the
Number 15.

You Can Also Apply Discounting

By Time from another panel

What is Discounting?

Using Engineering Economics

principles, money received later in time
is work less than money earlier in time
The discount rate is the percentage of value
lost each year

MineSight will consider your mining rates

and when certain ore is likely to be
mined and then lower the value of the
block accordingly

Why Would I Do This

Sometimes when you calculate an ultimate pit

or stage pits you want to tell people very
quickly about what the Net Present Value of
the Pit is
If you use the direct value of ore you will tell
people how much money will ultimately be
Discounting lets you approximate NPV before you
have a more complete mine design and cut-off
grade optimization strategy.

I Made A Nasty Remake About

Discounting Earlier

Whats the Harm

If you want a quick NPV estimate nothing
But if you are going to do a more detailed
design it will distort the results
As I discount later mined ore I actually will cutback on ore I would strip to get
Ore 20 years in the future has little NPV impact
today, but 20 years from now $50,000,000
dollars will be $50,000,000, I probably will not
just walk away

Putting Discounting into Blocks

Leads to Double Counting

After we get our pit stages we will try

different mining rates and cut-off grades
to see what produces the best NPV
If the blocks have NPV estimates built into
them on general assumptions it will
interfere with NPV accuracy when we
make more detailed assumptions.

Multi-Pit in MineSights most

Powerful Anti-Gap Tool

There are Other Choices

I Will Use the MultiV Option

The rest of the panels
Are set for ultimate pit.
I click the radio button
For MultiV instead of
For stage pits Im also
Considering floating
Cone as good enough
For my approximation.

This Requires Me to Fill Out A

Special Panel to Control the
Remember my file 13
Has a number of
Pit surfaces from 0 to
50 available. I have
To say which ones I
Want to fill.

Im Trying for 21 Steps to Go in

Pits 10 to 30

The bench and block

Range allows us to limit
How much of the block
Model we run calculations
On. (Were not going to
Do this. You would do it
If your block model
Covered a large area and
The ore was only in one
The value factors need some explanation.

How MultiV Works

It calculates the value of each block at full metal prices

Then it multiplies the value of each positive block by the
minimum factor
It then will run a floating cone to pick the pit it will mine

Next time around it increments the factor one even

step up from the minimum value to the maximum
It remultiplies the value of each positive block
It runs a floating cone to pick the next pit surface

And so on
Of course a prices really change which blocks are even
positive will change
This is a different way of trying to pick the most valuable ore.

I Will Let My Values Go From

Almost Nothing to Full Value

Lastly I will order the computer to make sure all my pits are nested
Inside my Lerch Grossman ultimate pit (which I have stored in pit
Surface 2).

Some Multi-V Observations

Multi-V is really incrementing the value

of blocks
This is similar to what we did by stepping
through metal prices with a multi-run (Of
course we know the Gap nailed us good when we did this)

Multi-V does not recomputed the value of

blocks every time
Instead it multiplies an already computed value
by a constant
Its kind of a cheap version of a multi-run

The Other Choices

Multi-Z increments the depth of ore

Bottoms takes a series of base strings that
you entered projects pits up from them and
then puts the pits in value order
This can be useful if your orebody produces a
bunch of little pits instead of one big one

Resources is not a pit design tool at all it

just reports the ore content a value of an
already developed pit.

At the End of the Process We

Will Have a Series of Practical

Where Do I Go From Here?

I have two tools ahead

MSVALP lets me consider what mining rate will
give me the best NPV or PVR
It also lets me consider that I can improve my NPV
and PVR by changing the cut-off grade with time

MineSight Strategic Planner

Calculates in detail where you will be pulling ore
from each year of operation

Completing a Long Term Mine


By taking your stage pits and using MSVALP

for general optimization
And then using MSSP to get a detailed plan
You end up with a detailed year by year plan
of where you will mine and what it will be
worth in the end
This plan then becomes the basis for day to day
operating decisions when the mine is actually built

Our Decision Now

When do we use the pit expansion tool

and detail in our roads and benches for
these mining phases we created?
We could do this before or after we run
Since benches and roads alter slightly the
exact ore we mine if we do it now we feed
more detail to MSVALP

Decision Time

On the Other Hand

MSVALP assumes we will mine each
phase from the top down
If it finds it needs to prestrip ore to keep the
amount of equipment we need steady it will just
assume it can be done without figuring where
the material will come from

Since MSVALP is not really specific about

where the material it is mining comes from
being real specific about roads might not
be important.

Some Educators Observations

If you are doing a Sr. Design Project you have

a team
There is a lot of CAD work to put in roads and

It is hard to have a lot of people working on different

phases at the same time
This can mean a bunch of team members sitting idle
while the benches are done and then everyone hurrying
to make up for it.
MSVALP will also be used to consider different mining

If one of those rate decisions changes your truck size that

could change the road width and ruin a lot of work someone
else has done.


Break up the team

Send someone to work on phase bench
and road designs (to be used later in
Then have other team members use the
rough phases you have now to run the
mining rate and cut-off grade optimizations

Assignment 1

Using the File for Which You Did an

Open Pit design a minimum of 7
practical stage pits
Your first should be a practical top down
initial pit.