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The Deloitte’s Sixth Annual Global Mining Report 2014 has sounded a call to mines to implement radical new innovations to curb rising operation costs and sustainably increase production by integrating modern technology. This is no different at Mopani Copper Mines (MCM). With its head offices in Kitwe Copperbelt, it is the largest integrated copper and cobalt producing mine in Zambia and one of the largest mines in the world.

As early as 2010, MCM conducted a review of its business systems on how to best embrace modern ICT. The mine acknowledged that communication technologies have a fundamental role to play in delivering good results within its finance, supply and production business processes. As a result, MCM implemented the SYSPRO ERP system in June 2011 to streamline each of these processes.

To keep a close eye on capital expenditure, the next step was to ensure meticulous control of stocks and materials moving through the mine’s warehouses. A solution that includes end-to-end consulting, implementation, training and user support services was needed.

AfriSoft Africa was tasked to deploy our manufacturing and warehouse information gathering software, TransLution™, to assist mining managers to accurately report back on all mining operations in real time, at all times and continue to produce quality materials, on time.

Connecting a spider’s web of warehouses

MCM’s biggest challenge was its spider’s web of warehouses spread out over a vast area spanning a 100km radius. Keeping track of the employees, stock and consumables that the mine needs to cost-effectively run in such a remote area is extremely challenging. This becomes an issue for operational managers, who are required to do a daily cycle count of all stock in order to stay within strict compliance guidelines.

The mine required a bar coding solution to keep track of every asset entering and leaving warehouses. But this meant bridging the vast geographical gap between remote sites in a challenging communications environment. The mine firstly required a solution that would be easy to use by employees themselves to reduce the time it takes to make important business decisions, and secondly needed to dovetail the current SYSPRO ERP workflow system.

Implementation

Implementation of TransLution™ commenced by first mapping out each and every mining warehouse and store, then connecting the dots to configure the software so that it seamlessly and securely integrated with existing processes and software. Each barcode used is labelled, validated and fed through to Glencore’s integrated world-wide copper mine tracking system.

Accurately tracking stock

A unique feature of the TransLution™ system is that it groups the production management and quality testing in one function within the entire process, which addresses compliance in particular. By using nearly 50 scanners in remote locations, managers are able to respond quicker when numeric values within reports indicate the workshop is running low on mining products, machinery or tools, therefore eliminating the risk of down time.

The solution further benefits operations in the mine’s remote location as data can be captured with ‘offline’ mobile devices, then updated to the database whenever the scanner is brought back onto the network.

 Simplicity

Training of employees to manage the solution following the handover was a fairly easy exercise. An existing mining employee was promoted to oversee the quality control function. What makes the rolling-out of the solution unique is that the system is equally simple to implement and is designed to dovetail already existing stock controlling systems. Implementation was rapidly concluded – six months to fully deploy from implementation to handover to the MCM.

The simplicity of the project above ground means that barcoding and validation can just as easily be replicated underground to benefit productivity through asset tracking and management in existing and future mine shafts, and can easily be deployed to link other copper mines in Africa.

About Mopani Copper Mine:

London Stock Exchange listed company, Glencore, holds the majority of shares in MCM. During the 2013 financial year, MCM produced 212 000 tons of copper, including refined copper from third-parties. However, the mine is facing increasing pressure due to declining prices, volatile exchange rates and imminent depletion dates.

Currently, the mine has significant expansionary projects underway which will see the sinking of two record-breaking mine shafts (of which the deepest would reach a record 2 000m). These expansions are slated to ensure mining operations remain viable in a much more efficient and cost effective manner, adding 20 to 25 years to the life of the Mindola and Mufulira mines. It will also ensure that Mopani with its seven underground and one open pit mine continues to be a major partner in Zambia’s economic development through securing employment for many Zambians.