Counting on bigger mining returns


Published: 26May2011

Mining companies need to make long-term strategic plans about how and when to produce raw materials and metals from the ground, despite uncertainty about the mineral deposits to be found there.

Because of computational advances over the last decade, McGill Professor Roussos Dimitrakopoulos, Canada Research Chair in Mining Engineering, has developed new mathematical modeling techniques for mine planning and production forecasting that take into account uncertainty in the supply of minerals. The result of this research has been both a much higher return on investment for the mining companies but also more metal production from the same asset.

Now, thanks to a Collaborative Research and Development Grant of $2.7 million spread over five years from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and co-funded by six major global mining companies, Dimitrakopoulos will be able to build upon earlier research to produce global mine-optimization models which will be able to factor in uncertainty in all aspects of mine management in order to determine the best production schedules. The companies involved are Anglo Gold Ashanti, Barrick Gold, BHP Billiton, De Beers, Newmont and Vale.

The models will be able to take into account multiple mines and material types; multiple ore/waste processing streams; and both stockpiles and products, while at the same time taking into account uncertainty in demand and hence in the commodity prices for minerals.

The new uncertainty models of mine management will promote more sustainable development and use of mineral resources, while managing and reducing risks and maximizing the return on investment. Dr. Rose Goldstein, McGill’s Vice-Principal, Research and International Relations stresses the importance of this research and the benefit of collaboration and partnership between the granting agency, the university and industry, “This work will position McGill well, as a research and practical leader in this field, both in Canada and on a global scale. Given the importance of mining to the Canadian economy, we are very proud that Professor Dimitrakopoulos’ work is attracting this level of attention and support. We’d like to thank NSERC and each of our industrial partners for the funding which makes this research possible. In addition, thanks to the proviso that the research will be shared within a year, we are confident that the results will prove of significant benefit to the global mining community.”

The unique and long-standing partnership of Prof. Dimitrakopoulos and his laboratory with the six mining companies, which together represent about 75 per cent of all mining activity on the globe, underscores the importance the research undertaken not only for Canada, but also for the global community as a whole. Indeed, one of the conditions of the NSERC award is that all partners have agreed that the developments will be placed in the public domain without restrictions within a year, so that the outcomes of the grant research will become accessible to both academics and practitioners around the world.

“Dr. Dimitrakopoulos is an outstanding researcher with renowned expertise in the optimization of mining complexes,” said NSERC President Suzanne Fortier. “Given the importance of mining to the Canadian economy, his research has the potential to generate significant economic and environmental benefits for Canada, and to enhance our position as a world leader in this field.”

The research is funded by Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)

Contact Information

Katherine Gombay
Media Relations Office, McGill University
katherine.gombay [at]
Office Phone: 
514 398-2189