"I'd rather be approximately right than precisely wrong": Sustainable Mineral Development Under Uncertain Conditions
The sustainable development of mineral resources is an area of critical importance to society, as it ensures the supply of raw materials, metals, and energy. Society must meet its present needs, while preserving the ability of future generations to meet theirs.
Sustainable mineral resource development encompasses interrelated aspects of various technical, economic, environmental, and social/community issues, including those related to geology and mining, to commodity prices and market supply/demand, and to mine waste management and greenhouse effects. All these aspects are affected by uncertainty and risk.
Canada Research Chair Dr Roussos Dimitrakopoulos considers risk analysis in mine planning, design, and production scheduling based on two modelling "engines": stochastic mathematical programming for mine optimization and stochastic modelling of orebodies.
Stochastic means "uncertain" and here it signifies the ability of the models to integrate uncertainty in the form of equally probable scenarios. Thus, Dr. Dimitrakopoulos's models integrate multiple equally probable scenarios of the orebody being considered, of the metal price forecasts, of the mining possibilities, and of the environmental inputs.
Technical issues and economic sustainability play a critical role in addressing mineral resource development under conditions of uncertainty and risk. The technical literature shows that in the 1990s, there was a staggering 73 percent failure in mining ventures in Canada and the United States - for technical reasons. The need to develop risk-based mineral resource development, optimization, and mine planning is paramount to Canada, where in recent years the value of mineral production has nearly doubled that of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries combined.
Dr Dimitrakopoulos's research is drastically changing the way we now assess orebodies, plan and design mines, forecast production and manage waste, and plan mine rehabilitation. The work he instigated in Australia and is now continuing in Canada has been recognized and supported financially by numerous major international mining companies, including BHP Billiton and DeBeers, as well as the Australian Research Council.
(Title quote paraphrased from J. Keynes)