"If you think about the end use and reclamation requirements early on and incorporate solutions early, it makes the project much more efficient and improves the final environmental outcome."
What services does Practical Mining offer the mining industry?
We provide geological and engineering services to clients with projects in the exploration stage through production. Geological services include 3D digital modeling, mineral resource estimates and drill planning. Mine engineering services include open pit and underground mine design, cost estimation, ventilation systems engineering, economic analysis and geotechnical engineering. Our work requirements have covered everything from in-house scoping studies to feasibility reports. We can provide complete Canadian NI43-101 or US SEC S-K 1300 reports. We also provide LIDAR mapping services for surface or underground mines using multiple deployment methods.
How does Practical Mining leverage new technologies?
New technology needs to improve accuracy and/or speed up the project. Our LIDAR mapping unit can be mounted on a drone with completely autonomous capabilities and fly underground without GPS assistance. The unit can fly beyond the line of sight and communication range without operator control. It will map obstructions as it progresses, and employ obstacle avoidance measures to reach its destination and return. While doing this it is monitoring battery levels and will automatically return to the launch point when the batteries have only enough energy left to return to the launch point.
Compared to other mapping systems, our LIDAR system gathers higher-quality data in a shorter time frame without interrupting operations. The drone can reach and map areas unsafe for personnel entry. The data can be used to produce more accurate mine plans, improve mine-to-mill reconciliation, and map structures for further geotechnical analysis.
We also designed and built a system to measure and record temperature, humidity and barometric pressure when performing pressure/volume ventilation surveys.
To what extent do you help improve clients’ safety and sustainability processes?
Safety and productivity go hand in hand. Both start during the mine design phase; choosing a mining method or selecting equipment will have implications for both for years to come. By selecting the right combination of mining methods and equipment, consistent with geological conditions and mining requirements, safety and productivity will follow.
Our sustainability contribution is early in the design process, where we can lay out in a manner to enhance the final reclamation product. How you design a waste dump determines how well it will be reclaimed. If you think about the end use and reclamation requirements early on and incorporate solutions early, it makes the project much more efficient and improves the final environmental outcome.
How do you see the current labor shortage evolving going forward?
For technical staff, attracting talent starts at the high school level: we need to encourage students to pursue the STEM curriculum and the reward that comes from seeing a mining project move from exploration to production. For the trades, it is crucial to get people on board at the entry level and provide on-the-job training. Concurrently, companies must have a retention program that recognizes employee performance and dedication. The challenge for Nevada at present is finding quality people. It’s not just about introducing new technologies but finding people that will use them in innovative ways, and people that are independent problem solvers.
What current challenges do you see in Nevada’s mining jurisdiction?
The regulatory area is a big challenge. It is a multi-year undertaking to obtain project permits and begin construction. The industry needs to work with regulators to find ways to shorten that timeline while addressing the environmental aspects of a project. It can have an enormous impact on the return on investment.
Another area that we need to work on is taxation. There has been a lot of political push for royalties on mineral production from federal land. Severance taxes, gross royalties, and net-smelter return royalties flow right into the unit cost of production, which increases the cut-off grade. Mineralization that could have been economic would be sterilized and left in the ground.
Do you have a final message?
Practical Mining will focus on the things we do well: Geological modeling, mine engineering, and public disclosure reports. We constantly have an eye open for new technologies that can improve our product, such as autonomous drone-deployed LIDAR systems. Our roots are in Nevada, and we have decades of experience working in and building mines here.