For 50 years, geologists and engineers worldwide have used Hexagon’s MinePlan Software for design, modelling, scheduling and operations. For more than half that time, consultant geologist Neb Žurkić has used MinePlan to help his clients solve their toughest challenges at the surface and below it.
As Director of Žurkić Mining Consultants, Neb rotates between his native Belgrade, Serbia and his company base in Melbourne, Australia, assisting clients in some of the world’s biggest mines with deposit modelling, resource estimation, ore control and technical auditing.
In a recent podcast interview, he shared how the software has changed during the last 27 years.
Q: Tell us about Žurkić Mining Consultants and the work you do for mines.
NZ: We’re sort of a pretty small group, part of a larger loosely affiliated group of associates. The structure helps us keep the cost down for clients so we’re accessible to even the smallest of exploration companies. We can do things from planning and managing drill programs right through feasibility studies, grade control, improving practises after the operations have started and things like that.
Q: Describe some of the bigger or more complex projects that you’ve been involved with.
NZ: Outside of full-blown feasibility studies, most of the work we tend to do is fixing up underlying input data to use in the software. As we all know, most people are familiar with the GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) acronym. There isn’t any software that can fix that so to get the most out of what we’re doing and the software and the math and everything that we do, we spend a lot of time on fixing input data: sampling quality and all that sort of thing. The most notable example is that we added four million ounces to a resource estimate without even drilling the hole. The project was a big project to start with but adding that sort of quantum of ounces to any project is significant to the business.
Q: Tell us how the software has changed during 27 years.
NZ: I guess that establishes how old I am! I’ve been using it ever since it was called Medsystems – back in the days when visualization was in VBM land and we used to generate wire frames in the old 670 executables. It was a pretty clunky system back then. It would fail 4 out of 5 times but unlike today when everybody has a wire frame of their ore body, back then it was rare, so you’d persevere, and it was cool to have a wireframe back then. Then came MineSight in the mid 90’s and that was revolutionary. Probably the closest thing I could compare it to was probably a decade after that where we first played with an iPhone. It was quite a big difference when MineSight came along.
Q: So, there are a lot of software solutions on the market. Why do you use MinePlan?
NZ: I started with it. I’ve worked for mainstream consultancies and a large US-based gold company at one point. So, I’ve seen most of your competitors. There are probably two or three that can compete. The rest don’t compete and of those two or three maybe it’s a comfort thing in the end. Support was a big thing. Support was always a big thing way back when it first appeared in Australia. So, support’s probably one of the big things why I would use MinePlan.
Q: What improvements have you seen in the software?
NZ: Probably the biggest one was just transitioning from a command-driven, file-based system, into a windows-based system. Just getting everything into one spot and doing everything in one area. For example, right at this moment I’m doing some pretty high-end geo stats. Looking at some of the advanced geo statistics and running some conditional simulations for a nickel laterite. That, I had to do previously using some other piece of software and now that’s all integrated, which helps a lot.