Avgold's Target Mine has awarded Futuristix-Wonderware System Integrator, Advanced Software Technologies - Abraxas (AST-A) the contract for the development, integration and implementation of the mine's production management system. Target mine is located in the northern extent of the Welkom goldfields.
After an exhaustive selection process that commenced during 1997, Wonderware's Protean was selected for production modelling and monitoring and Wonderware's IndustrialSQL Server for the realtime relational database aspects of the system - both of which had to be integrated to the existing Wonderware InTouch scada system. These systems also had to be integrated with other leading industry solutions that addressed the business, planning and asset management requirements of Prostar.
Built with leading edge, object-oriented technology, Protean is Wonderware's open client/server solution for process manufacturing companies. Its robust architecture enables customers to change or customise their applications, according to their evolving requirements, without rewriting software code. The Protean solution provides advanced functionality and agility for managing customer orders, logistics, production, financials and maintenance. It is structured to work with leading platforms and operating systems, including Windows NT, HP-9000, RS/6000 and AS400.
The Prostar (production system for target) project has an estimated value of R35 million and includes many new approaches to gold production and management. Not least of which is a fully integrated information and control pipeline. This will help Avgold achieve its ambitious business objective of reducing production costs to under $200 an ounce.
"With today's gold mining production costs ranging from $240 to $270 an ounce in a less-than-favourable world market, Avgold's Target mine is aiming to reduce this figure to under $200," says Geoff Bamber, Manager Finance, Administration and IT Services at Avgold Target -Division.
"In order to be recognised as the world's leading deep-level gold mine, we have to meet or better the production and cost performance of the world’s leading producers," continues Bamber. "Accordingly, the division is implementing leading-edge mining technology and aims to control production, productivity and resources by means of a highly sophisticated IT-driven production control system. This system will ensure that the division achieves consistently high productivity at the lowest possible cost."
"This is a bold new venture based on innovative mining concepts and an integrated approach to production as well as business processes. It also includes a bottoms-up approach to the management and control of information so that Avgold can achieve its business and operational objectives and compete with the best in the world in terms of productivity, cost of production and technical excellence," says Futuristix-Wonderware MD Mike le Plastrier.
Prostar was founded on three precepts, mechanisation, information and organisational design. It was to be made up of best-of-breed solutions that would normally be used predominately in stand-alone mode but, in this case, would be integrated together to create a complete solution. The component parts would include production management and planning, maintenance and materials requirements planning, a scada system as well as the recording of actual data via a control room which, by means of the integrated solution information facility, was to be made available to any stake-holder.
These all had to address the various aspects and requirements of underground mining operations that would include, amongst other things, fully-mechanised and trackless facilities (wheeled as opposed to railed vehicles for flexibility of movement and routing).
It was an important requirement that information be recorded or entered into the system only once, irrespective of where it originated or where it was to be used. As a result, it was estimated that this degree of automation would eliminate at least 200 nonproductive jobs and result in major savings in electrical costs. But this was only one aspect of the drive towards improved efficiency and productivity.
Needless to say, Avgold's selection of solutions had to be integrated to work together in a harmonious and productive way in order to help the company achieve its business objectives.
"Protean is a major player in achieving our objective," says Geoff Bamber. "Protean was chosen not only because its functionality as a production system best suited to our needs, but also because of the ease with which it fitted into our total business and system architecture together with the fact that we had the confidence in the Protean team that would support the implementation process.
"The initial implementation of Protean went extremely well and quickly," says AST-A's Prostar Project Manager Jerry Harris. "Within the first three months of being commissioned to start the project, we had Protean configured for its modelling and monitoring role. As such, it became the integrated foundation for the rest of the project implementation. This highlights Protean's natural role as the bridge between real-time processing, process modelling and monitoring and the business systems that will eventually allow management to make informed, reality-based decisions in realtime.
"One of the key aspects of this project was the methodology we used in its implementation. We planned and structured it in a way that took cognisance of the capabilities of each component part and what had to be done in order to structure this to meet Prostar's operational requirements as well as Avgold’s business objectives - all this was done before starting any implementation. This included planning the synchronisation of data exchanges between systems based on time and event-driven criteria. Protean's flexibility was put to the test when it came to integrating the flow of information between all systems. It was not found wanting.
"In the next phase of the project, we plan to implement Protean's production costing facility which is unique in its ability to attribute accurate overheads based on consumed or produced resources according to defined production models (Protean will be used for all production modelling in Prostar). This will be done in conjunction with the implementation of Protean's financial suite which will help Avgold go that much further towards a totally integrated solution focused at achieving its business goals," concluded Harris.
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