Over the last year or so I have been working on a side project I founded within the tech industry. One of the things that recently came to the forefront was the use of interns, unpaid interns, that is. I know that interns have been used for years in other industries including legal, politics, journalism, and marketing; however I have never come across the use of interns within the mining industry.
I was recently speaking with a marketing consultant about how to undertake tech marketing and one of the suggestions she made was to hire an intern to do much of the legwork of finding contacts and making contact with them. My first question was why would anyone work for free? I was told there were three reasons:
For credit; as part of a course credit in college or university where an internship is part of the programme requirement.
For experience; one can’t get a real job without experience and so the internship teaches something, builds up experience, and creates a portfolio of work.
Networking; building up network connections can possibly lead to permanent work.
At first I was taken aback at the thought of asking someone to work for me for free. Are we that cheap? On the other hand if you are paying someone a salary, the expectation is that they should be relatively skilled at their job. Giving it some further thought, , I have come to realize that the internship may actually be a win-win for both parties.
The company gets to better know potential employees and also gets some productive service from them at no cost. The intern grows their employment experience and learns about the realities of the business world. The students are paying the schools to teach them, and now businesses can help teach them as well, but at no cost. It’s a win-win.
So how did our intern search go? We posted a free ad on indeed.ca. Within 48 hours we received eight replies, of which only 2 came close to meeting the qualifications. Some of the applicants had no relevant experience at all. Possibly in today’s job market people are willing to work for free on the chance they can get some experience on their resumes which will hopefully lead to a job in the future. We’ll maintain the job ad for a couple more weeks and see what the overall response will be.
My bottom line is asking whether the mining industry can make use of interns in the areas of geology, engineering, marketing, graphics, etc? There may be a lot of young students out there looking for opportunity and willing to do whatever it takes to help advance their careers. Even if your payroll budget cannot afford the cost of another person, you still may be able to help out someone within the industry.
I recently attended a CIM Management and Economics Society presentation discussing the differences between actual underground production versus the forecast used in the feasibility study. The presenter was Paul Tim Whillans from Vancouver Canada. His topic is interesting and relevant to today’s mining industry and Paul raised many thoughtful points supported by data. The abstract for his paper is copied below and the entire paper can be downloaded at this LINK and here are the presentation slides.
An underground mining study that is done in accordance with NI43-101, JORC or similar reporting code is generally assumed by the public to be representative, independent and impartial. However, it has been well documented by academics and professionals in our industry that there is a sharp difference between the forecasts presented in these underground studies and the actual costs when a mine is put into production.
For underground mines, the risks associated with obtaining representative information are much greater than for surface mining and the cost of accessing underground ore is also proportionally much greater. There is a pressing need to align expectations, by improving the accuracy of projections. This will result in reduced risk to mining companies and investors and provide more reliable information to government agencies, the public, and more importantly, the communities in which the proposed mine will operate.
The objective of this article and an article currently being written titled “Mining Dilution and Mineral Losses” is to:
– Discuss the dynamics of intention that lead to over-optimism;
– Provide simple tools to identify which studies are likely to be more closely aligned with reality;
– Identify some specific points where underground mining studies are generally weak;
– Discuss practices currently in use in our industry that lead to a composite or aggregate effect of over optimism;
– Describe the effects of overly optimistic studies;
– Outline specific changes that are necessary to overcome these challenges; and
– Stimulate discussion and awareness that will lead to better standards.
In my opinion, I agree with many of the points raised by Paul. The mining industry has some credibility issues based on recent performance and therefore understanding the causes and then repairing that credibility will be important for the future of the industry. Credibility impacts on shareholder returns, government returns, local community benefits, and worker health and safety; so having a well designed mine will realize benefits for many parties.
If you need more information Paul’s website is at http://www.whillansminestudies.com/
After the last few years, the downturn in the mining industry has given me time to pursue a few side interests. Writing this blog was one of those interests. The other was developing a new smartphone mobile app called Windshieldink. The tag line is “it’s the new way to leave a note on a windshield”. The website is Windshieldink.com
Here is an overview.
Windshieldink’s messaging platform allows anyone to anonymously send messages to vehicle owners registered with Windshieldink using the vehicle license plate number. Registering a license plate with Windshieldink is free. The app provides users the convenience of receiving their messages by e-mail or phone text message. You also have the option of receiving push notifications, attaching contact information, attaching a GPS location within your message, and there is also an in-app chat functionality.
Stats Canada reported 23.9 million motor vehicle registrations in 2015. Based on personal experience, the desire for being reachable via a license plate number was recognized as far back as the mid-1990’s and is becoming even more recognized as new vehicles enter the roadways daily.
The Windshieldink messaging platform is available worldwide, however we are concentrating marketing efforts in North America due to our limited marketing capacity.
The app is now free to download from Google Play Store and App Store and hopefully simple to use.
Here is a video link to how the app works.
In many of the past mining studies that I have worked, stockpiling strategies were discussed and eventually implemented. Sometimes study team members were surprised at the size of the stockpiles that were generated by the production plan. It became apparent that not all members of the team were clear on the purpose of the stockpiling strategy or else they had preconceived ideas on the rationale. To them stockpiling may have seemed to be a good idea until they saw it in action.
In this blog I won’t go into all the costs and environmental issues associated with stockpile operation but will focus simply on the reasons for stockpiling and why stockpiles may get large or numerous .
In my experience there are four main reasons why stockpiling might be done at an operation. They are:
1. Campaigning: For metallurgical reasons, there may be certain ore type(s) that can cause process difficulties if mixed in with other ores. Therefore the problematic ore(s) might be stockpiled until sufficient inventory is built up until it makes sense to process that ore (i.e. campaign) through the mill. Such stockpiles will only grow as large as the operator allows them to, before processing the material and eliminating the stockpile. Be aware that if the mine operations are still delivering different ore types to the crusher area, then those ores may need to be stockpiled during the campaigning period. More different ore types may mean more stockpiles.
2. Grade Maximization: This stockpiling approach is used in situations where the mine delivers more ore than is required by the plant, thereby allowing the best material to be processed directly and the lower grade material to be stockpiled for a future date. Possibly one or more low grade stockpiles may be used, for example a low grade and a medium-low grade stockpile. Such stockpiles may not be processed for years, possibly remaining in place until the mine is depleted or until the mined head grades are lower than those in the stockpile. Such stockpiles can grow to enormous size if accumulated over many years.
3. Surge Control: stockpiling may be used in cases where the mine may have a fluctuating ore delivery rate and on some days excess ore is produced while other days there is underproduction. The stockpile is simply used to make up the difference and provide a steady primary crusher feed rate. These stockpiles are also available as short term emergency feed if for some reason the mine is shut down (e.g. extreme weather). In general such stockpiles may be relatively small in size since they are mainly used for operational surge control.
4. Blending: blending stockpiles may be used where a processing plant needs a certain quality of feed material with respect to head grade or contaminant ratios (silica, iron, etc.). Blending stockpiles enables the operator to ensure the plant feed quality to be consistent and uniform. Such stockpiles may not be large individually; however there could be several of them depending on the orebody character.
There may be other stockpiling strategies beyond the four listed above but those four capture the bulk of the situations.
Using today’s automated production scheduling software, one can test multiple stockpiling strategies by applying different cutoff grades or using multiple grade stockpiles. The scheduling software will have algorithms to determine whether one should be adding to the stockpile or drawing from it. It will track the grades in the stockpile and sometimes be able to model stockpile balances assuming reclaim by average grade, or first in-first out (FIFO), or last in-first out (LIFO).
Stockpiling in most cases will provide some potential benefits to an operation and the project economics. Even if metallurgical blending or campaigning is not required, one should always test the production schedule and project economics with a few grade stockpiling scenarios. Unfortunately these are not simple to undertake when using a manual scheduling approach and so are another reason to move towards automated scheduling software. Also make sure everyone on the team understands the rationale for the stockpiling strategy and what the stockpiles might ultimately look like. They might be surprised.
There are numerous sources of mining information on the internet, encompassing topics such as technical articles, analyst opinions, and company press releases. It can be overwhelming sometimes. Now if your main interest is just seeing company news releases in a timely manner then what is the best way to do this?
One way is to go to the individual company website and sign-up one their email list. This approach generally works well but it forces you to sign up on a myriad of websites if you intend to follow a lot of companies. There are alternatives however.
One option is to sign-up for a free account with a newswire service where you can select the specific companies that you want to follow and then will get emailed news releases as soon as they are disseminated. The nice thing here is that you can select mining companies, non-mining public companies, as well as entire industries. Here are a few that I personally make use of.
Since different companies may use different news release distributors, the three websites that I track are:
Marketwire: There you can create a “Hot Off the Wire” account and then select your companies of interest. You can also select entire industries to add to your company list.
CNW Group Ltd. Create an account there and search various companies to add to your “My Subscriptions” list.
Junior Mining News is another source to get general news updates via their daily newsletter, a screenshot is shown below. Their daily email gives a brief summary of events that happened recently and includes “Read More..” links if you want to read the entire press release. This website accesses some of the same news release distributors as mentioned above so there could be some repetition from time to time.