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Software package right on schedule

A SOFTWARE package three years in development has won Combinatorics the prize in this year’s Asia-Pacific Information Technology and Telecommuni-cations Awards mining category.

The three-man company’s product MineMax works from initial site models to schedule mine development for maximum cash flow.

Combinatorics technical director Jim Butler said a lot of people found it handy when considering downstream processing.

“The program can control the grade and quantity of ore going into the plant,” Dr Butler said.

“It can help companies decide whether new prospects are viable or can be used for the short-term scheduling of ongoing projects.

“It can also be used to help a mining company minimise its costs.”

Dr Butler turned to the mining industry after working in areas such as rostering – finding optimal shift patterns for companies.

“When I came into the mining industry I found a lot of people were planning mine sites manually on spreadsheets,” he said.

“There are countless theoretical ways you can schedule a mine but it is too difficult for a person to consider them all.

“MineMax seeks to maximise net present value of the schedule.”

Dr Butler said another problem with manual mine planning came from high staff turnover in the mining industry.

“One person would spend six months putting a spreadsheet together to plan a mine,” Dr Butler said.

“Then that person would leave. The next person to come along would have to start from scratch.

There are currently four companies using MineMax.

“We have one distributor in place and are looking at overseas markets in China and India ourselves,” Dr Butler said.

He said many software developers failed because they did not develop a market-relevant product.

During the program’s development, Combinatorics consulted to mining companies, using Mine-Max as one of its tools.

“We received feedback from mining companies as we went along on what they needed in the program,” Dr Butler said.

The company has avoided going into production optimisation because there are many big players already in that market.

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