Open Pit Mine Planning: Analysis and system modeling of conventional and oil sands applications
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In the last decade mineable oil sands production in Canada has grown rapidly. Constraints on the planning and design processes employed by surface mining oil sands operations vary in distinct ways from other commodities mined by both hard and soft rock open pit methods. The unique waste handling needs, including tailings disposal, of contemporary oil sands mining requires specific planning considerations. It is the purpose of this research to analyze and document a conventional hard rock, metal mine planning system, and contrast this with the unconventional mine planning system used by oil sands mines. Systems activity models of both the conventional and unconventional systems are developed in support of documenting and contrasting the two systems. Constraints unique to oil sands mine planning are identified and their impact on the oil sands mine planning system are documented. The impacts of challenging waste handling and storage requirements and a uniquely prescriptive regulatory environment defining mineable ore are identified as key constraints. The research concludes with a proposal for a new planning system to better support the planning of oil sands mines. The proposed system respects the unique waste management considerations in oil sands planning and revisits the current regulatory approach to ensuring resource recovery. The proposed system is compatible with traditional approaches to economic analysis in open pit planning, and with emerging best practices to manage technical and economic uncertainty, improve project optimization, and develop robust mine plans.