Shape your future: Miners of tomorrow, excelling today

Faced with a problem statement and a couple of curveballs thrown in along the way, mining engineering students from the University of Arizona created a mine plan in two sleepless days with a little help from Hexagon. It was good enough to finish second among 16 schools at this year’s SME/NSSGA Student Design Competition in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Not bad for a team that had never previously made it to the top six!

Register for HxGN LIVE in Las Vegas, June 12-15, and learn how the team pulled it off in Sleepless in Minnesota: How to design a mine plan in 48 hours, by Wildcat Mining Consultants (June 14, 10.30-11 a.m.).

In the meantime, listen to our podcast with team spokesman, Garrett Anderson.

BK:  Welcome to HxGN Radio. My name is Brian. Thank you very much for joining us today. Backed by Hexagon Mining Mentoring and Sponsorship, the University of Arizona senior design team—Wildcat Mining Consultants—finished second among 16 schools at the SME/NSSGA Student Design Competition in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Not bad for a school that has never placed in the top six before. Joining me from the Wildcat Mining Consultants is Garrett Anderson, a senior mining engineering student at University of Arizona, and Garrett and I will be exploring the U of A’s recent success at the SME/NSSGA Student Design Competition held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Garrett, thank you very much for joining us today.

GA:  Well, thank you.

BK:  Appreciate it.

GA:  Glad to be here.

BK:  Garrett, first of all, tell us a little bit about the competition and what it all entailed.

GA:  So, every year SME and the National Stone, Sand, and Gravel Association put on mine-design competition for college undergraduates. There are two phases: one that’s held on your college campus and one that’s held wherever the SME national conference is that year. In Phase 1, we could field the team of six people, and work 35 hours per person maximum, over 21 days to develop a comprehensive mine plan around a problem statement that they gave us. And if we were selected among the top six teams worldwide, we’d get to go to—it was Minneapolis this year for the SME national conference—and compete in Phase 2. And in Phase 2, we have about 48 hours to take a curveball they throw at us and kind of edit our mine plan and create a presentation for judges from that second problem statement.

BK:  Well, that sounds really exciting and also a little intense. Well, tell us how U of A came to be involved in this competition and also what your role was on the team.

GA:  So, the U of A has sent teams in the past to this mine-design competition—or attempted to—and the last couple years we hadn’t fielded any teams. So, last year, myself and two members of our team, Miguel Pugmire and Chris Deuel, formed a team of six people, and we decided to try and compete in Phase 1 and get a team to Phase 2. We weren’t quite successful, so this year we picked three more guys, and we’re all seniors. We were able to get to Phase 2 this year. We just decided to do it to try and get more name recognition for the U of A and get a shot at that prize money, too.

BK:  Nice. Now, you were originally up against 15 other schools in the competition. How was, you know, the team’s mood and spirit during the whole weekend, what was it all like?

GA:  It’s certainly competitive, but we also recognize that everyone’s trying to do their best as well, so it wasn’t hostile at all. It was a sense of competition, but also we were cheering on the other teams.

BK:  Nice.

GA: It was very stressful for sure. Probably the most stressed I’ve ever been in my life.

BK:  Really.

GA:  Yeah. I was the team leader, so it was challenging to try and coordinate all the work, and we only had 48 hours to do our Phase 2 work in Minneapolis. But I would say kind of stressed but optimistic was the mood there.

BK:  What sort of hours were you putting into it, by the time you reach there?

GA:  So, of the 48 hours, we basically got our challenge on noon on Friday, then we had to present before noon on Sunday morning. So of that 48-hour time window, I think we worked about 35 hours—

BK:  Wow!

GA:  —within there.

BK:  Got a little bit of sleep.

GA:  Yeah, they were long days and short nights.

BK:  Yeah, I’m sure. I’m sure. So, what were some of the challenges set by the judges?

GA:  The challenge for Phase 2 was to take our existing plan for an aggregates mine from Phase 1 and incorporate some new data and new challenges that they wanted us to look at. They wanted us to look at shipping material out by rail to an out-of-state customer and do an economic analysis, and they also wanted us to look closely at mining underneath their existing processing facilities and moving those processing facilities down to the bottom of the pit from Phase 1, and getting at that material there and doing an economic analysis on that as well.

BK:  What do you think the most difficult challenge was to overcome?

GA:  The economics were certainly tough. We had one—Miguel, on our team, was great with that, and I know he worked pretty much the entire time trying to do the cash flow and clean up our economics, and so in that sense, it was very difficult. Also, trying to model two different phases.

BK:  Mm-hmm.

GA:  We used MineSight to do all our modeling. And we had to take our MineSight model from Phase 1, that was working perfectly, and then try and edit that for Phase 2 in that short amount of time. So, that was also very challenging.

BK:  Mm-hmm. So, what did you present to the judges on the final day, then?

GA:  Our final presentation was a PowerPoint—

BK:  Mm-hmm.

GA:  —that we presented to a panel of six judges, and we made it a very clean PowerPoint. There’re actually no bullet points in the entire thing. We used SmartArt and other graphics, and MineSight graphics were a fundamental part of it. We also had a MineSight animation at the very end that kind of show our mining process from year one to the end of mine life. And all that really contributed to making it a great presentation.

BK:  Nice. And what was the feedback that you received?

GA:  We were very professional, that’s what we heard. That was our number-one feedback—

BK:  Good.

GA:  —and also that our data and numbers looked great. So, we were happy to hear that.

BK:  Anything specific that you could learn from to be better for next year?

GA:  I think, at least every year we kind of get a sense of what they ask, and every year there’s something new and something to pass on to future teams. So part of the reason we were successful this year is because some of us did it the year previously, and so we kind of knew what to expect. And now we have two years of that. So for the team next year, we’re going to help them out and give them a little more training on what to expect and also how to use MineSight really effectively, even beyond what we were able to do this year.

BK:  Excellent. So, how did Hexagon Mining become involved and help you out?

GA:  We were looking for a sponsor right before Phase 1 started, both financially and also with learning and tools and teaching. So Hexagon was a perfect sponsor in that sense because they were able to help us out financially, but more importantly, they were able to provide training on the Hexagon MineSight software and also provide access to the software. We were able to take the training that we all had had at the U of A, expand on that with some Hexagon personnel, and then use the MineSight software throughout the competition. That was a critical part of what we did and allowed us to get really accurate data and an accurate model and schedule with mine life. And so it worked out beautifully to have Hexagon as our sponsor.

BK:  Nice. So, any unique advantages using that software, to get you to where you got to?

GA:  Oh, for sure. So, last year when we didn’t make it, we had used AutoCAD to do our geologic model. And that was not very accurate, and we got comments from the judges about that, that it wasn’t a very effective way to model our deposit, and that was a weak area for presentation. This year, it was the opposite, where the strongest areas of our presentation were our geologic model. And we couldn’t have really done that in a program like AutoCAD. You need the tools that MineSight offers to do a good mine schedule. And also, MineSight generated the beginning of a cash flow for us—

BK:  Mm-hmm.

GA:  —so that made less work for Miguel. And all those things you just can’t do using AutoCAD or other software.

BK:  That’s awesome. So, Hexagon’s mine-planning software’s the way to go, definitely, in the future.

GA:  Oh, yeah.

BK:  Love that. So, what does the team’s success mean to you personally, and then also to U of A?

GA:  For me, I’m just very proud of my team. The other members of the team that I didn’t mention were Jorge Loya, Sean Klasen, and Nathan Kraft, and they all—we all—contributed a great amount, and we all presented really well. And for me, it’s just a point of pride that we were able to get second place. And I think for the school as well, having never had a U of A team advance to Phase 2—ever—until us, and then we also got second place on top of that I think was something that was great for the school, and I know all the faculty are proud of us.

BK:  Excellent. And I like how you said you’re going to be helping to mentor the future team next year as you graduate, and that’s great. I think that’s a very cool thing, to set a legacy on that. So, how helpful do you think this experience has been for you personally in shaping your career in mining?

GA:  It’s been very helpful. This was also our senior design project, so I think compared to other seniors’ design projects, this was as good or better at preparing me for my career because I got to do some of the leadership that I’d like to do in my career and also use MineSight software that I’ll be using in my career, probably in copper mining. And also, when you’re doing this challenge, you have to keep in mind so many different aspects because it’s a comprehensive mine plan with the environmental and the processing side as well as the geologic modeling and mine scheduling. Getting a sense of trying to keep all that together in your head all at once I think was also a helpful thing that I hadn’t been able to do until now.

BK:  Excellent. So, are you hopeful that you’ve been noticed now and might have a nice entrance into a great company here soon?

GA:  Yeah. There’re a lot of—I know the VP of a large copper miner was in attendance in the audience during our presentation, and a lot of higher-up personnel from a lot of the aggregate companies that helped sponsor the challenge were also in attendance or judging. So, they all asked us for our resumes before we presented, and they have those now, and hopefully we’ll hear something back from them. But I think it is a great path into the industry as well.

BK:  I love that. Wonderful. Well, Garrett, congratulations to second place. That’s so awesome. And thank you so much for your time today and being on HxGN Radio.

GA:  Oh, well, thank you, and thanks to Hexagon for all your help.

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