Whittle Consulting specializes in helping mining companies develop an Integrated Strategic Planning capability. With a combination of advice, consulting services and software (from Dassault Systèmes GEOVIA) as required, Whittle Consulting has undertaken approximately 150 Enterprise Optimizations across all commodities and continents.
Whittle Consulting also runs Money Mining Seminars around the world, which takes attendees through the Whittle 10 step process and the most recent advances in Integrated Strategic Planning and Enterprise Optimization.
This week, we sit down with CEO Gerald Whittle to talk about the current mining climate, how companies have adapted to the fluctuating environment and optimization challenges around the world.
The resources sector has been doing it tough for the past few years. Have mining companies adapted to this “new normal” and if not, what can they do?
The “new normal” means embracing complexity and variation, and having a more holistic view of the total system. We have the tools and the techniques – we just need the courage and the energy to do it.
At Whittle Consulting our focus is on Integrated Strategic Planning, which involves cross-functional cooperation to develop plans that respect, or rather exploit, the variation in the ore-body and the flexibility in the system.
The concept of “Steady State Operations” is worthy in terms of eliminating unplanned performance variations in the short-term, but can be misleading if applied to long-term plans. The ore body changes as we work our way through it – don’t fight that.
Another point is to focus on the primary bottleneck in the system, which moves from time to time over the life of the mine. Management energy spent on other parts of the system is of minimal returns, is probably a distraction, and can be destructive when the productivity is increased in parts of the system where it is not needed.
Assuming that there are common issues amongst all mines, what are the bottlenecks you see in mining companies around the world?
Where the primary bottleneck in a mining and processing system is really depends on the structure of the system and the orebody involved. By design, it should often be the most capital-expensive part of those systems – it is dysfunctional to allow it to be anywhere else.
We often observe that mines are run with a mining bottleneck to keep mining fleets fully utilized which appears to be efficient from the mining manager’s perspective, but is not efficient from an overall business perspective.
More often, the primary bottleneck should be mill power, leach volumetric capacity, rail/port capacity – or it can be the market itself.
Many mining businesses are partially optimized, but can you tell us what enterprise optimization entails and how it goes beyond just pit optimization?
An Enterprise Optimization model takes Integrated Strategic Planning to its logical conclusion. It involves modeling the geology, geo-tech, mining operations, plant metallurgical and operational performance, logistics, product options and the market, in one model – and then optimizing it simultaneously to achieve financial and sustainability objectives. It is a well-proven, but not yet universally practiced, process. It therefore remains an opportunity for many sectors of the mining industry.
The Whittle Money Mining approach proposes a view that runs counter to commonly held mining beliefs and practices. What is the biggest hurdle to overcoming these beliefs and adopting this approach?
The industry tends to be run in organizational silos, pursing objectives that make sense if you have silo-based blinkers on such as:
- Geologists – maximizing resource and reserves;
- Mining Managers – maximizing availability and utilization of the fleet, to minimize mining unit cost;
- Plant Managers – maximizing recovery or metal production;
- Commercial Managers – maximizing product price; and
- Finance Managers – Minimizing Capital.
The sum of these behaviors is seldom the best plan for the overall business. We have to think about the bigger picture and how these silos can work together for the benefit of the entire enterprise.
To find out more about GEOVIA Whittle (software), visit the GEOVIA website.