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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

Print version ISSN 0038-223X

Abstract

ORTIZ, J.M.; MAGRI, E.J.  and  LIBANO, R.. Improving financial returns from mining through geostatistical simulation and the optimized advance drilling grid at El Tesoro Copper Mine. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2012, vol.112, n.1, pp. 15-22. ISSN 0038-223X.

Grade control and short-term planning are usually based on the samples obtained from blastholes. These samples may carry a large sampling and sample preparation error. At El Tesoro copper mine in northern Chile, an advance drilling grid is used for short-term planning and grade control. These drill holes are sampled well in advance, and a short-term model that incorporates several variables and sophisticated estimation methods can be prepared for decision making. An additional advantage of the advance drilling samples is that reverse circulation can be used instead of conventional downthe-hole equipment, and a very careful sampling and sample preparation process can be implemented, reducing the total sampling error. Advance drilling can be performed on a wider grid than blasthole drilling, hence the decision about the grid requires assessing the economic benefit of different sampling grids. Furthermore, this process allows the cost of poor sampling and the effect of different estimation procedures to be quantified. We demonstrate the optimization of the drilling grid for shortterm planning and grade control at El Tesoro mine by means of the economic evaluation of the performance of different drilling grids, with different drilling techniques (which differ in the sampling error). The methodology is based on creating dense (exhaustive) geostatistical simulations of the grade distribution over a volume defined for a production period in respect of the geological model, and assuming each simulation as the true grade distribution. Then, samples are obtained from the exhaustive simulations at a spacing similar to the advance grid to be evaluated, and a sampling error is added. The short-term estimation procedures used on the mine are applied to determine the destination of each block and the profit obtained. This profit can be compared with the maximum profit (unachievable) and with the profit under different sampling errors and grids. The results show that the current 8 × 8 m drilling grid is appropriate and by reducing the sampling error, misclassification is also reduced, leading to an increase in profit of about US$ 5 million in 4 years.

Keywords : geostatistics; conditional simulation; misclassification; grade control.

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