Technology Review



Thanks to Maxwell



Jack A Caldwell

January 2007

Table of Contents

Introduction.. 3

Why “Quality” in Mining?. 3

Quality in Mining... 4

Industry perspective.. 6

Publications. 7

Software.. 7

ISO.. 8

Total Quality Management.. 9

Quality Assurance/Quality Control [QA/QC]. 9

Standard Operating Procedures. 11

Continuous Performance Improvement.. 12

Peer Review... 14

Tailings Impoundment Peer Review... 17

Loss Control Management.. 20

Consultants. 22


Quality programs in industry and mining may be implemented for one or more of the following reasons:

·       Because the competition does it and they are more successful then we are—the Toyota example.

·       Reduce cost by operating more efficiently—the Wal-Mart case.

·       Demonstrate a commitment to ethical and morally responsible behavior. 

·       Establish credibility with stakeholders that “things are done right.

·       Reduce accidents to save lives—what I call the Hendrik Verwoerd Dam case.

Why “Quality” in Mining?

One may well ask: why should a mine disrupt the comfortable tenor of daily life by instituting a quality program.  It costs money, involves changing staffs’ attitudes and practices, and sometimes disrupts old habits of comfort.  One answer may be found by referring to a web site where the practices of mining companies that loose money are compared to the practices of mining companies that make money. 

For my part, I recall the CEO of a company I worked for in the early eighties; he vowed that introducing quality programs would have to save the company money or he would quickly cancel the programs.  He set up the Company Quality Measure and demanded that it be compared to company profits.  I no longer work for the company, but the company is highly profitable and continues its quality programs to this day. 

A mine introducing quality programs does not have to go for ISO certification.  It may be enough simply to institute a quality program that applies to suppliers.  It may be good to have a quality program that applies to equipment management and servicing only.  It may be that a quality program applied to environmental compliance activities is necessary to meet the demands of the local regulators.  It behoove mine management to designate the quality program it wants and is prepared to pay for as set against an objective that any quality program must increase company profits.

Quality in Mining

Is there such a thing as QUALITY IN MINING?  Has the mining industry ever practiced conventional quality programs?  Should the average mine disturb the calm of normal life by implementing quality programs?  Certainly the Quality Control Manager, if there is one, is likely to be the most unpopular guy on the mine.  Unless he can show that the quality program saves money. 

My first exposure to intuitive quality control in mining that made money was an uneducated fellow whose company disposed of tailings under contract to the local mines for a penny a ton.  His plain attitude was that because he was getting so little, every little bit counted.  He focused on every activity that cost money, believing that every penny saved was a penny earned. 

He was, however, no skinflint.  If he needed the best new pump he put out the money; he believed that money was never saved on cheap equipment that had a tendency to break down at inconvenient times.  He investigated every little incident that cost more than it should and he changed things to make sure he never spent that extra penny again.  Today we call this process Continuous Performance Improvement. 

He paid his workers more than the mines he served; he believed that way he got the best employees who saved him more than their higher salaries costs.  He never had to complain about a shortage of workers. 

Today his company is on the stock exchange and works internationally.  I do not know if they espouse the same philosophy as the earlier generations, but they are still successful.  Visions of future success aside: there is, today, as compelling a reason as there ever was to implement good quality control programs.  This reason is liability avoidance.  How much easier today it would be to defend those old miners accused of negligence today if only they had had articulate QA Plans and had done what they wrote in those plans they did have.  Similarly how much less likely is the mine to be sued in the future if they have an implement a good QA/QC program, etc. 

Industry perspective

Here is an extract from a paper on the need for quality programs in mining.  I am indebted to Mr. Viv Preston []of Maxwell GeoServices for allowing me to use this piece.

A collection of graphs, statistics tables and reports is only a small part of what is required for a successful QA/QC protocol. Here are the main steps involved in developing a workable QA/QC protocol for the management of assay databases:

  • Step 1: Document the QA/QC protocol – write down what the procedures are attempting to achieve. The requirements for a green-field exploration project will be very different to those for a grade-control program. Keep the protocol short and simple – bullet points are always useful for QC and audit checklists. Include tables or a spreadsheet with examples of exactly what (and how many) QC-samples need to be included in every batch of samples.
  • Step 2: Assign responsibilities – each project needs a QC-champion. The implementation of the procedures may involve several staff members, however the QC-champion needs to be the driving force to keep the procedures online in an industry which is always too busy.
  • Step 3: Get the correct assay database structure and content – make sure the existing or proposed assay database structure is able to handle comparative assays, standards, blanks and sizings data. Once the structure is complete populate the database with QC items such as: the analysis detection limits; different types of comparative assays to be used; the standard names and types to be used; and expected values and expected standard deviations for all standards.
  • Step 4: Liaise with the laboratory – whether using an internal or external laboratory it is worthwhile providing the QA/QC protocol. They need to know that the precision and accuracy of the assay data is being checked and the frequency and extent of any laboratory audits.
  • Step 5: Analyze existing QC-sample data – this step is not applicable in all projects, however where this data is available it should be imported to allow for trends to be tracked over time – it can provide a baseline for checking for improvements resulting from corrective actions.
  • Step 6: Implement QA/QC procedures – ensure that the procedures are well supported with good QC-checking tools and a well structured assay database, over time these procedures should become part of standard operating procedure and not just something that has to be done.
  • Step 7: Start measuring – QC-checking measurements need to be consistent and made at regular intervals as stated in the QA/QC protocol. Appropriate commercial tools, once configured correctly, can be used to produce the same measurements every time the report is run. To ensure that these QC-checks are performed, it is worthwhile having procedures which will not allow assay batches to be released into the main assay database until QC-checking has been performed on the batch.
  • Step 8: Institute corrective actions – QA/QC protocols should be initiated both to be able to show that the quality of assay data and to provide opportunities for improvement.


There are hundreds of books on every aspect of quality.  A site that lists books related to quality issues is world class performance (no capitals I promise).


PAS is a software provider.  They include the Performance Metrics Manager in their suite of programs—see.   I liked this statement: PAS’ Performance Metrics Manager (PMM) helps improve the performance of your People and Assets by turning raw data (”noise”) into highly valuable Key Performance Indicators (KPI).


The there are the Maxwell Datashed Logo  Maxwell QAQC programs.  In particular QAQC Reporter  described thus by Maxwell:  an easy to use assay QAQC monitoring application that rapidly and cost effectively allows you to take control of QAQC processes. QAQCR is designed specifically for the resource industry and has the ability to link to any database. Monitor laboratory performance, automate monthly reports and stay ahead of the mill, all with one simple to use application. 

Neither the publications nor the software noted above focuses exclusively on mining, therefore what follows is a very personal picture of the elusive concept of quality as I have experienced in through a career as a consultant to the civil, landfill, and legal sectors in the U.S.


ISO is ultimately the name of the game, the pinnacle of quality implementation in an organization.   Ultimately ISO boils down to three simple rules:

·       Write how you will do it.

·       Do it the way you say you will do it.

·       Have somebody independent confirm that you are doing the way you said you would. 

Like the Ten Commandments, it takes lots of text to turn this into a practical way to live, or in your case to operate a mine.   The following are some organizations that tell you more about ISO and how to apply it to your situation:

Total Quality Management

My first introduction to the concept of quality was a training session in the high mountains of New Mexico where the Department of Energy sat us engineering managers down and told us that they were about to tell us how we could produce better work at less cost for the UMTRA Project.  We were a skeptical bunch—at first—but as the week wore on and the concepts and practice of Total Quality Management was drummed into us, we changed.  To this day, some twenty years later, I still believe in what I learnt and I apply it wherever I can.  Although it is not easy to apply TQM in high pressure, devil-may-care environments. 

So I was delighted to see the EduMine Course on Total Quality Management.  I went through it, refreshed my perspective, and now recommend it to anyone coming to the topic for the first time. 

Quality Assurance/Quality Control [QA/QC]

Every construction project I have worked on in the U.S. talked long and hard about QA/QC as though it were a mantra to make things better—to produce quality. Only on one project did I see it done right.  The simple approach was thus:

Quality Control is the process (procedures) that those who do the work follow to make sure they are doing things as previously agreed. 

Quality Assurance is the process (procedures) by which independent auditors come around and check that those doing the work are following their own standard operating procedures. 

On our project, we geotechnical engineers had to test the soil compaction in accordance with the Standard Operating procedures we had written, and we had to rip out or recompact soil that was not compacted to the specified density.  We recorded all this.  This was the QC work.  Once a month or so, an auditor from the corporate group came around and audit us.  He watched us check compaction, he went through our records, he spoke to the operators to check that we were doing what we said we would do, and mercy help us if we were not doing it right, for he reported straight to the vice-president of construction.   That was the QA part of the work.

On many jobs that I have worked on, the owner retains a separate company to do the QA.  The idea is that total independence on the part of those doing the QA work is the easiest and best way to get quality work done, where quality is defined simply as compliance with specifications. 

Independent QA does not have to be expensive.  For example, on one mining project involving construction of a heap leach pad cover, the mining company that was my client retained a local retired teacher who came in once a week to check compliance with the standard operating procedures.  He was intelligent, active, responsible, and glad to have something to do.  And there is no doubt in my mind that he more than paid for himself by being there to check that the normal human and contractor tendency to take short cuts did not lead to poor quality construction. 

Standard Operating Procedures

The key to any program striving for quality is the set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that describe how work is to be done.  I have worked on large projects with as few as twenty SOPs and as many as 400 SOPs.  It all depends.  An old friend once joked that the simple act of dressing in the morning could be reduced to at least ten SOPs if that is the level of detail you demand.  So it depends on the project managers to set the standard for the level of detail you put into you SOPs and how you divide up the work into one or more or sets of SOPs. 

On a large landfill that I worked on, the manager in charge demanded that the SOPs be written so that his intelligent but unschooled technicians could take the SOP into the field and follow it exactly and get the task done correctly.  He insisted that the SOP first list the equipment needed to execute the task and then proceed almost on the basis of: go to the well, take the cover off, drop the probe down the hole, and so on.  But when it came to the SOP that specified how a report to the EPA was to be compiled, this same manager insisted on extreme vagueness so that he had as much flexibility as possibly to adapt the report writing, editing, and review to the needs of the task and the EPA interest.  What he would not compromise on was the need for independent peer review of the report before issue. 

Continuous Performance Improvement

If you go to this site you will find all the information you need to get started on CPI.

I confess to being a Continuous Performance Improvement (CPI) junkie.  Here is one link—there are thousands via Google    

A continuous performance improvement program is vital, in my opinion, to any organization striving for quality.   In essence CPI is very simple:  in a no-fault environment, continuously examine every incident and every operation to find a way to make things better.  I once dug a test pit on the side of a steep slope and a clod rolled down from the soil pile and banged into the railings around the site.  In accordance with the site’s incident reporting and continuous performance improvement program I reported the incident, and we set up a very simple way to avoid things rolling down the slope where they might well hit somebody or damage a passing truck, car, or construction equipment. 

Here is some text from one of the many Google sites:

Successful performance improvement programs integrate know-how, empowerment and execution to achieve explosive financial results.  The spark that ignites these combined elements is called a Kaizen event.

Twaddle, but fun.  Actually CPI works, that I know.  Luddites generally don’t like it though.

Mines use it-see Newmont’s web site.  Here is some text

Newmont regularly measures its HSLP performance to ensure continuous improvement against planned and actual outcomes.   Measurement and reporting indicators are critical drivers in any HSLP Management System. The work culture of the Company, defined as Safe Production, is directly influenced by what is measured and reported.  As a measure of HSLP performance Newmont monitors against defined lead and lag indicators to assess the overall HSLP effectiveness, performance, and Safe Production.

Again fun.  Again it works.  Here are some case histories:

Richard Ross, Chairman of the Mining Association of Canada talking in Toronto in 2005:    “We believe that the two fundamental business drivers for Towards Sustainable Mining are: risk management and continuous improvement.” 

From the Caterpillar website "We are establishing a relationship to build on the excellent demonstrated performance of Caterpillar support equipment in our operations," said Gary Goldberg, chair of Rio Tinto's Core Technologies Directorate.  "One of the reasons Caterpillar formed the Global Mining Division was to enable us to work more closely with customers like Rio Tinto," said Dick Benson, President of Caterpillar Global Mining, "This long term relationship allows us to combine both companies' considerable expertise to implement continuous improvement projects which reduce cost per ton."  "We are satisfied that this agreement's focus on lifecycle costs and continuous improvement supports both organizations' focus on long term growth and profitability," said Mr. Goldberg.

Bradken Mining has established a system for continuous improvement in all its operations including waste and energy management.  This system is based on a high level of employee participation.  The company is on target for annual energy and waste saving of over $800,000 in its Western Australian operations. 

Trapper Mine in Craig, Colorado has a CPI program for their equipment use.  The equipment operators themselves do most of the brainstorming and action planning; the crew are provided with objective data, and with this information the crew can remove performance barriers.  See the paper for details of the improvements made.

Kay Sever is the consultant to go to if you want CPI programs at your mine.  See her website and the papers she has written for InfoMine. 

Peer Review

Peer review is the simple act of an individual or group that knows a lot about the subject, reviewing the work product of another individual or group.    Peer review may be informal or formal; rapid or prolonged; on-time or regularly repeated.  The following are some essentials of peer review:

·       The Peer Reviewers should be independent of the peer reviewed.

·       The Peer Reviewers should know as much as or more than the peer reviewed about the work being reviewed.

·       The Peer Reviewers should have no stake in the outcome of their recommendations. 

The peer reviewers may come from the same company as the peer reviewed as long as they report up the chain-of-command to somebody with more authority than the highest ranking member of the peer reviewed group.   Peer reviewers may be outsiders assembled only for the review at hand.  Written procedures and a scope for the peer reviewers should be established before they begin their work.  And preferably they should provide a written report on their review.

Personally I would rather be peer reviewed than peer review.  It is difficult to review work.  At one level the peer reviewer degenerates into a simple word editor who quibbles about the location of the comma.  At another level, the peer reviewer becomes the lazy buffoon who simply demands that all the important stuff be “brought up front”.  I have had to deal delicately with the peer reviewer who read only Section 5 and then complained that we did not adequately explain information provided in Section 4.  Another peer reviewer on my little list is the one who starts reading the document the night before it is due to be issued.   The most comprehensive peer review is the one to which I was subjected when compiling large proposals for a national engineering company.  They would bring in a team of peer reviewers lock them in a luxury hotel and only let them out when they had formulated recommendations.  We inevitably won the job when the peer reviewers were good.

The following is a quote from a three-page document that crossed my desk recently:

A Review Board is highly desirable for major civil and mining engineering projects.  Those working on such a project can often become so involved in the details of the work that they find it difficult to stand back and take an impartial view of alternative approaches.  The Review Board, with its requirement to be impartial and its years of practical experience on similar projects, can usually pin-point problems and possible solutions very quickly.  Once these problems have been brought to the attention of the geotechnical team, it is surprising how often an effective solution can be found.  Even in cases where a highly competent geotechnical team exists, an occasional independent review can provide the Mine Manager with the assurance that all is in order.

The author of these words is Evert Hoek.  The paper on my deck notes that he is adapting from a paper entitled “Consulting Boards for Large Civil Engineering Projects” that he wrote with Alan S. Imrie and published in International Water Power and Dam Engineering (No dates provided). 

Hoek continues:  A Review Board should be composed of a small number of internationally recognized authorities in fields relevant to the principal problems encountered on the mine.  The purpose of the Board should be to provide an objective, balanced and impartial view of the overall geotechnical activities on a mine.  The Board should not be used as a substitute for normal consulting services since members do not have time to acquire all the detailed knowledge necessary to provide direct consulting opinions.  

The use of peer reviewers from outside of the organization seems to be gaining favor based on the travel schedule of some of my friends who seem to visiting South America to participate in yet another review board meeting.  The construction of ever-larger tailings impoundment reaching unprecedented heights in areas prone to earthquakes is perhaps a reason for the interest in review boards.  Peer review of large dam design and construction is as old as my tenure in civil engineering—nothing new there, but the use of outside peer reviewers in mining has undoubtedly to meet critical mass as a practice in the mining industry.  There are some commenters who believe that independent peer review is the only way for the mining industry to maintain reputations with regulators and the public in general as we move into ever more areas not yet the site of productive and accepted mines.

Tailings Impoundment Peer Review

In a recent presentation Safety Audit & Risk Management of Tailings Dams (accessible here) are the following interesting points about peer review in the design and construction of tailings impoundments.

Technical Audit is as essential, for the control of liability arising from failure of tailings impoundments, as Financial Audit is essential for the financial control and good stewardship of companies.

Technical Review of tailings impoundment design, operation, and closure provides opportunities for the optimization of plans and the minimization of liability risks.

Review by independent specialists, with appropriate expertise and broad experience, ensures objectivity, application of 'international standards' and state-of-the-art technology and approaches.

Audits and reviews are typically completed by professional specialists and consist of:

·       Information collection, review and analysis of all site investigation (geotechnical, hydrology, hydrogeology, geochemistry, environmental and socio-economic), design and 'as-built' plans and reports;

·       Field inspection of the sites and structures;

·       Review of the operating history and compliance of the structure/facility, operating plans, management systems, emergency response plans and closure plans;

·       Identification of the relevant risks for each of the structures;

·       Completion of an FMEA for the structure/facility;

·       Development of recommendations to mitigate the risks and address issues identified;

·       Prioritization of the mitigation measures into a 'Risk Management Plan';

·       Preparation of a report summarizing the work and preparation of a Plan; and

·       Follow-up on execution of Plan

Audit and review should commence early, during initial project planning, selection of design engineers, definition of design, operating and closure objectives and establishment of contact workscopes.

Audit and review should be maintained through all stages of design, construction, operation, closure and, if necessary, post closure monitoring.

Audit and review should be independent to ensure objectivity and avoid conflict of interest concerns from stakeholders.

A review board of one to three specialists is usually required. A small review board should be permitted to consult with specialists for technical support.

Audit and review costs are small by comparison with liability risk reductions

There are different types and levels of review, viz:

·       Audit Level: Independent checking of all sources of key information and calculations

·       Review Level: Checks for reasonableness on information and calculations - optimization recommendations

·       Discussion Level: Review and discussion of only some key topics and design elements

·       Interim Reviews: Conducted between more formal regularly spaced reviews, during periods when there is rapid change in the designs or construction of major geotechnical structures.

Loss Control Management

On a one-hundred million dollar construction project, the project manager made all employees and consultants (including myself) complete a self-study course in Loss Control Management.  There were no fatalities on this project and minimal accidents.  But control of quality and health and safety were strict.  I had to remove from site an employee when the scraper operators complained that he was not paying attention to their passage over the fill.  A fellow engineer was banned from site for not wearing his safety belt.  A competing consultant’s employee was removed from site for not using his harness when he went on a roof to do repair work. 

I still have the book “Loss Control Management Practical Loss Control Leadership” on my desk and recommend it to whoever I can.  A copy is available on line.

By way of background: the book is but one of the products of DET NORSKE VERITAS a company founded in 1864 as an independent foundation dedicated to safeguarding life, property and the environment.  According to information on their website, DNV has over 4,000 employees operating in more than 100 countries working in partnership with many of the world’s most successful companies. 

In Canada DNV is associated with BURNELL & ASSOCIATES INC., a safety/loss control management consultants who since 1985 have been an independent distributor of safety, environmental and quality products and services for DNV.

The only mine I could find that has used DNV’s approaches is New Boliden, who state on their website that they are a leading mining and smelting company with operations in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Ireland.  Boliden’s main products are copper, zinc, lead, gold and silver.  The number of employees is approximately 4 500 and the turnover amounts to approximately EUR 2 billion annually

The International Safety Rating System, ISRS, was first introduced at Boliden Tara Mines Limited in 2000 by Det Norske Veritas, DNV. The ISRS is a Management System for Safety and Loss Control.  Now the mine has an established Loss Control Management System.  The mine reports major improvements in lost time accident frequencies and advances in developing risk assessments.


Kay Sever CQIA runs OptimiZ Consulting .  I so liked her site the first time I saw it that I phoned her and talked to her and in return she has sent me an article to post on the Infomine library.  If this paper does not persuade you to contact her about quality issues at your mine, then go to her website and decide for yourself.   I quote the following to give you some idea of her approach:

Changing a Culture requires that people “own” their recurring problems, believe that they can be eliminated, and track losses caused by lost production and excess costs. I specialize in removing barriers and demystifying the improvement process. This helps employees recognize a problem as an opportunity, take responsibility for it, understand their role in the solution, and “experience” a growing feeling of empowerment as this occurs.

As good a reason as any for the mining engineer to travel to Malaysia (and who would pass up such an opportunity), is to consult with Belmah Strategies. 

Their core business include Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP), Six Sigma (6 Sigma), Total Quality Management (TQM), Research and Development (R&D) and Service Quality (ServQual). 

An impressive list of reasons to go to Malaysia and get these services for your mine and apply them to your mining operations.  From their website—for I have not been to Malaysia--it appears they will develop software to your prescribed functional requirements, they will facilitate your implementing quality programs, they will undertake in-house research of your manufacturing processes, and basically help you apply modern principles of quality management and control to your operations. 

Their key software is iCT-M which is short for Information Communicative Technology aided Manufacturing for AFTA and Economic Competitiveness.  They say it “integrates quality, productivity and cost improvements without the need for detailed mathematics, statistics, engineering or other hard-skills.”