The Five Stages of Project Management in Mining
by Fabricio Crego
The mining industry has many intrinsic characteristics. We often work in remote environments, following some form of mine-to-mill process, with plenty of technical knowledge among the operations and maintenance teams. When we identify an opportunity for improvement, we often hear something like: “It’s mining. We’ve done the same thing at another mine site; we can replicate it here.” With our extensive list of mining engagements, we’ve seen that the outcome in these scenarios is not always the desired one… so how can we address this gap?
When taking on a new mine site maintenance or reliability project, the outcome goals might be similar to a past project in terms of reducing costs or improving asset availability. However, the reality is there will be different people involved in a different geographic, political, and cultural business environment than the previous project. These factors play a significant role in the result and will drastically alter the outcome, even if the same processes are implemented.
Let’s discuss the five key stages of mine site project management that can turn opportunities into results.
Yes, factor zero – gathering the data, studying financial feasibility, and extracting meaningful insights are mandatory steps. These should be well documented before the project takes off. Spend the time to cross-check and consult your stakeholders. If you see a project without a defined or necessary outcome, red flags should be raised. This stage is also where you will determine a baseline with which to compare your end results.
A clear timeline for the project’s scope and defining the process are critical in keeping the project to its defined resource limitations (time, cost, etc). Every addition to the scope must be submitted and evaluated in due time, based on the project priorities and business risks before the scope is frozen and preparations begin.
There needs to be a clear and concise vision of what the team is trying to achieve, documented in one or more SMART goals. Writing these goals as a dollar value will ensure you are not gaining availability at a higher cost than projected.
Ensuring due process in scope definition and having a clear goal will highlight to project stakeholders the project focus and, maybe more importantly, what’s not in the project’s scope.
Accountability is vital in remote mine sites with rotating teams. From the project onset, the team must be assigned their respective responsibilities, considering their skill set and comfort level with the topic. Finding the best match across the team is crucial to creating a sense of ownership, a key motivational ingredient.
Remember, it might not be in their role title, but if it motivates and fulfills the desire of an individual to learn, whether are a human resource professional or a front-line supervisor may not matter.
Project Management Toolkit
The project management toolkit helps the project manager keep track of meetings, documentation, quotes, drawings, and time distribution. These can be tricky if they are not completed consistently throughout the project. To ensure everyone can access the most up-to-date files, project management should make the best out of the kick-off meeting, timetables, meeting minutes, action lists, and KPI reports. Plan communication strategies, frequent checkpoints, and resource usage and compare against real-time data. There is a multitude of applications that can be utilized to expedite tedious, or time-consuming tasks, and these should be utilized whenever possible.
The mining industry as a whole isn’t known for being top-tier communicators. Often, an urgent matter may arise that requires our attention elsewhere. Or you may receive the cross-shift notes on a board with fewer words than needed.
An improvement project is an excellent multidisciplinary platform to move away from that culture and highlight that when actions are communicated effectively, they tend to happen faster and with better quality.
Process improvement professionals in mining and other industries have learned these project management fundamentals the hard way. Focusing on these key points allows Outliers Mining Solutions to make lasting improvements with our client partners.