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Whittle Consulting wonders whether miners have learnt their lessons

Gerald Whittle, managing director of pit optimisation specialist Whittle Consulting, says things have moved on a lot since his father wrote the first pit optimiser, thirty-two years ago.
The Aussie firm has advanced the practice considerably in the seventeen years it has been around, and pit optimisation is just one out of ten mechanisms supplied these days.
“We believe in the concept of integrated strategic planning,” Whittle explains.
“Mining businesses are very complex, and we believe that we should be optimising, doing strategic planning - long-term planning – looking at all parts of the value chain, at the same time.”
The idea is to get cross-functional co-operation on massive projects, to get integrated plans that make a lot more sense.
Whittle builds an “enterprise optimisation model” that involves the combination of 10 distinct mechanisms, which are ultimately performed simultaneously to produce life-of-mine business plans.
“It goes all the way from the mineral resource model through to the financial modelling, in one model,” Whittle explains.
Citing a topical example, Whittle pointed to Nicaraguan gold asset explorer and developer Condor Gold, where the Aussie optimisation wizards were able to increase the net present value of Condor’s La India project by fifty to seventy per cent, and increasing the life-of-mine by 29%.
Impressive stuff, and somewhat more than fine tuning. A lot of it comes down to getting the logistics sorted and spotting potential bottlenecks in advance.
Asked to comment on the current state of the mining sector, the managing director risked upsetting some of his potential clients by opining that, while the sector had undoubtedly been through a tough time, it might not have been tough enough for mining companies to learn some essential lessons.
“I am nervous that not everyone has learned the lessons and from the mistakes of the previous boom time: over-investing; focusing on tons and volumes, not on profitability. I can see the excitement building up again,” Whittle warned.
“Let’s not make those same mistakes again,” Whittle advised.

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