Success or failure in the volatile precious metals mining industry is dependent on a variety of strategies covering the micro management of the costs of every aspect of the mining and raw materials processing operation.
Mike le Plastrier, Managing Director at Futuristix-Wonderware, says that to keep pace with the changing paradigms in this industry, including a sharp rise in input and labour costs, companies have to make dramatic changes to the management and operational methods that have been in existence for decades. "Mining companies are realising that with fixed commodity costs, set capital costs and rising labour costs there are few avenues open to them today to improve overall profitability," he says. "Success or failure is dependent on strategies used to reach the generic goal of the industry: high yields, with low overhead and managed labour, materials and utilities costs. "While these strategies must encompass the traditional purchasing, administration and delivery mechanisms, there is a key differentiator in managing these processes - many unique to the mining industry in South Africa."
Le Plastrier says one of the options is to place greater emphasis on the management of the company's assets and maintain a tight rein on maintenance costs. "Increasingly, mining companies are turning to computer technology for business process solutions because of the control it affords over cost containment. Specifically mining companies are looking to implement a complete vertical integration of plant and equipment maintenance processes with management information solutions.
"This 'bottom-up' approach to asset management allows mine management to change direction quickly and effectively, to both accurately model the existing mine environment and then to respond quickly to the changes in the marketplace or operational requirements - as is necessary. As a result of integration at this level, real-time mining data will be available to drive resource planning and asset management systems to improve decision-making and the competitiveness of certain micro areas within the mine - enabling it to maintain a stronger position of readiness compared to competitors within the market.
"The benefits of better decision-making facilitated by fully integrated technologies will soon be realised by the mine's strategic planners if the price of any key element or commodity in the complex mining process should change unexpectedly or significantly," adds le Plastrier.
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