Smarter, quicker solutions emerge for measuring and controlling stockpile size and quality

By Russell A. Carter, Contributing Editor

In tradition-driven industries like mining, deep-rooted habits and customs die hard. Pre-digital-world miners might have mistakenly equated task familiarity with productivity, while managers could lean heavily on institutional memory to plan projects and budgets. But things change: Big Data is driving the industry down a path in which old policies and practices are regarded with suspicion and new sources of information shine bright lights into the dim corners of conventional mining business intelligence. In the process, one of the most mundane links in the mining chain, stockpile management, is being polished by technological tools to a higher level of operational luster.

Stockpiles fulfill a number of functions ranging from alleviating feed-flow interruptions at process plants, to blending of various ore types or storage of low-grade or problematic ore for future disposition. At one end of the application spectrum, existing stockpiles at defunct mines are processed to provide an early source of income for new mine exploration and development, while at the other end, shipping-terminal stockpiles represent a near-final step in the quality-control chain before mineral products are delivered to the customer.
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