Q&A with Maptek and its open-pit scheduling software

Maptek Evolution, which was relaunched this month, is mine planning software that reduces a mine's costs by producing optimal medium and long term operating schedules.

Robert Slade, Maptek's senior vice president of sales and marketing, explained why this product is revolutionary and how it will change they way miners mine.

Sergey Reznik is technical director at Maptek and Steve Craig is a mine scheduling manager at Maptek.

Joe Sykes/Sergey Reznik (JS/SR): Hi Steve, it was great to have you in Edinburgh this week meeting with clients and introducing us all to Maptek Evolution. How is this software going to change the way mining companies in Europe, Africa (and ) Russia CIS?

Steve Craig (SC): Maptek Evolution is going to give your local mine planners the capability to increase the value of their operations, up to ten times faster than any other solution.

JS/SR: And how is it going to do that?

SC: Well, Evolution is a flexible and agile solution, easily handling changing inputs and objectives. The interface is intuitive, the processing is extremely fast, and delivers practical and implementable strategies.

JS/SR: What makes Evolution different to other planning tools?

SC: Evolution gives planners a single piece of software with the ability to perform cut-off grade optimisation, dynamic haulage optimision, and waste landform optimisation all in the same solution. Therefore there is no need to move data between multiple solutions in order to realise the complete planning project.

To date our clients have reported that Evolution has delivered the best planning solution ever presented for their projects, with significant increases in project values reported.

JS/SR: You say that you have developed a solution for cut-off grade optimisation – how does this tool help a mine planner solve an intrinsically complicated problem?

SC: Cut-off grade optimisation is probably the most important function in maximising the value of a project in today's complex environments. The cut-off grade optimiser focuses on maximising value. Evolution provides a flexible, yet simple environment within which to undertake this process.

JS/SR: How does Evolution actually process the data?

SC: That is in the name! Evolution is driven by an evolutionary algorithm which fits the objective to a geometrically correct extraction sequence. It is a block by block scheduler that ranks blocks in order of extraction precedence. The software processes multiple scenarios of this block sequence, mating together the the best schedules so that the results improve with each generation. So it isn't a mindless process – it is actually evolving the schedule with each cycle.

JS/SR: And this is done online.

SC: Yes. The data is encrypted to the highest standard and sent away for processing on our dedicated servers. The file size is quite small, so the solution is effective even with a basic internet connection. The online processing means that the users PC is free to work on other tasks, the schedule is processed by a high power machine, and Maptek engineers can gain access to failure reports enabling them to help any customer having difficulty.

JS/SR: How does Evolution sit within the Maptek family of products?

SC: Evolution is the latest mine planning tool within the Maptek family of products. It integrates tightly with Vulcan, meaning that the raw data needed for optimising the mine plan is seamlessly opened within Evolution. The user has the option to quickly reblock the geological block model to practical dimensions before scheduling those blocks. In saying this though, the solution can also be used within any other general mine planning package as well.

JS/SR: So once the required data is ready in Evolution, there is no exchange back and forth to other programs, such as Vulcan.

SC: No, Evolution gives the engineer the ability to work off a single dataset at both the strategic and tactical level. The engineer therefore spends their time problem solving – not checking and validating data.

JS/SR: Are future Evolution users going to expect rapid autonomy, or will our clients need to have Maptek specialists at arms reach well into the future?

SC: The interface is easy to use. Typically we spend about 3 to 5 days implementing the software, before undertaking about 5 days of training. Once this is complete most users will only require standard technical support on an as-needed basis. Maptek engineers can support Evolution users remotely if required.