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An evolutionary model for

underground mining planning

Jos Saavedra, Facultad de Ingeniera, Universidad de los Andes
Marco Alfaro, Facultad de Ingeniera, Universidad de los Andes and Metlica Consultores S.A.
Jorge Amaya, Centro de Modelamiento Matemtico, Universidad de Chile

In this work we present a methodological approach for finding near optimal solutions to the problem of defining plans for
underground mines. This problem of obvious combinatorial nature is intractable by means of traditional techniques
(Mixed Integer Programming for example). The approach proposed here is based in the mechanism of natural selection,
we construct a Genetic Algorithm to conduct the search of a approximate solution to the problem. In order to acquire
this objective, we first need a model which characterizes the gravitational flow of material from the drawpoints, the
chosen model for this objective is a cellular automata specifically designed with very simple rules of local evolution. The
model was implemented and tested, the time needed for a solution in real type cases is much less than the time human
planner needs actually for the same task. Possible extensions to this model are presented.

I. INTRODUCTION Another important source of problems in this deterministic

perspective is the combinatorial explosion of the problem.
Underground mining operations are very complex in We have the following result:
nature. The main factors that determine this complexity
(between others) are the unsuitable knowledge of ore Proposition I.1
resources contained in the mine and the parameters that
characterize them. From this point of view, we can obviously If we call Sk,l,m the number of feasible sequences in
see that human planners are unable to handling this
complexity and as a consequence very poor solutions are a sector of k blocks width by l blocks length by m
The problem of underground mining planning can be blocks height, with m k,l, the we have
defined as choosing the best production plan in order to
maximize the benefits derived from the operations. This (k l)m < Sk,l,m < (k l m)!
planning could be made in three distinct scenarios: short
term (operational), mid term (tactical) and long term
(strategical). In this paper we focus our attention to the the proof of this proposition can be found in the work [7].
operational case. As an application of this result, if we consider a sector with
Many resources are wasted in preparing mining plans. dimensions then we are in presence of at least possible
Usually this task takes two or three workers dedicated only sequences, if we take 1 second in evaluating each one of
to this work. Moreover, they dont have any tools available this sequences then we need at least
and this imposes on the final solutions the human planner 34048129883307965499746321664130 years in order to
bias. Some efforts have been made to solve this situation. resolve this problem. So an obvious conclusion is that
From the point of view of classical optimization we can exhaustive search is a very bad strategy for this class of
consider a model that has the following features: problems.
The mine is subdivided into blocks of homogeneous Of course not every sequence is feasible. One possible
dimensions that conform a domain without holes (edge choice, in order to reduce this high number of sequences, is
connected). to make an algorithm that can generate feasible sequences.
When we extract a block from a given drawpoint, the Its not hard to see that this approach faces other problems
blocks that are in the same column descend in one that are not easy to resolve, for example to decide if a given
position (precedence restrictions) . sequence is feasible.
Ore extraction is supposed to be realized in a soft manner, In this paper we propose a model that breaks this
in the sense that adjacent columns cant show high classical approach to the problem of underground mining
differences in height, this restriction prevents dilution planning. We choose as an alternative an Evolutionary
entry. Model because of the flexibility and good empirical results
Usually the objective function of this kind of models is the in problems of higher complexity (like the one presented
Net Present Value (NPV) of the economic result of the here).
business derived from the operations.
this point of view is the dominant one presented in the
work [6]. Genetic Algorithms (GA from now) were introduced by
One of the problems that isnt resolved by this approach John Holland in 1975. They are inspired in Darwins
is the incorporation of the stochastic behavior of mechanisms of natural selection. Such mechanisms
Gravitational Flow. Because of this, we call to this kind of establish that an individual is generated as a mixture of the
models deterministic. genes from his parents by means of crossover, added to this

Massmin 2004 Santiago Chile, 22-25 August 2004 161

process of mixture there is a process called mutation Definition IV.1
(change in some segments of genetic material).
This last mechanism implies in some way evolution
because add novel elements not present in the genetic Given a set of drawpoints {i}ni=l we define a Extraction
information from parents. Finally, the adaptation to the
medium makes that some individuals survive and inherit Chart as a matrix M Mmxn with the number of
their genes to his sons. The general form of an Evolutionary
Algorithm is the following: drawpoints and m the number of turns. The coefficient mij

of this matrix is defined as:

t := 0;
initialize (P(0));
mij : = tons (expressed in shovels) to extract in
drawpoint j in turn i
While Not has been done Do
P (t) : = select parents (P(t)); Observation IV.1
P (t) : = recombinate (P(t)); Extraction Chart M dont have to be a square matrix.
P (t) : = mutate (P(t));
evaluate (P(t)); If we call to demand (in shovels) in turn i then we have
P (t + 1) := natural selection(P(t); P(t));
t := t + 1;
k =1
ik D1
In this Algorithm t is the counter of generations and
evaluate (P) implies to evaluate fitness function to every " " in the last restriction gives the choice of not satisfy
member of population P. This algorithm finish when the the hole demand, if not we could force our algorithm to
fitness value of actual population P(t) in time t dont innovate extract blocks that gives worse solutions.
or after a fixed number of iterations.
B. Chromosome Representation
The considerations in the moment of implementing GA The natural chromosome representation for a extraction
strategies are: chromosomic representation, population chart is a matrix like the one previously defined. This will be
size, fitness function, crossover and mutation operators, the formal structure in which we will define the crossover
crossover and mutation probabilities. For further reading on and mutation operators.
this technique go to references [3], [5], [7].
C. Crossover Operator
Given two individuals (matrix) from a given population, for
III. MODELS FOR GRAVITATIONAL FLOW example M;N, we define the associated crossover operator
If we want to incorporate the stochastic behavior of
granular flow in our model we need first consider models for We select randomly a number in the set {1,...,m} (i.e. we
this phenomenon. select randomly a turn). Let i* such number.
In the last decade, some efforts have been made. The
main results were obtained by chilean well known scientists, We consider the submatrices of M and N given by M1 =
Eric Goles [1] and Servet Martnez [4]. These two = (mij) i*i=1, j {1,...,n} and, M2 = (mij)mi=i* +1, j {1,..., n}
approaches are similar in the kind of technique used, both and analog for N.
are cellular automata models.
Another interesting model is the one proposed by We define the new matrices
Gregorio Gonzlez [2]. In this work the ideas presented in
[1] are refined. Applications to underground mining are M N
presented. M = 1 and = 1
The most recent development in this area is the model N2 M2
presented by Marco Alfaro [8]. This model is a Cellular
Automata that has the benefit of simple rules of evolution, This crossover operator guarantees feasibility from turn to
and as a consequence, its possible to obtain a efficient turn of extraction charts, this because we maintain demand
implementation [9]. inequality in each turn.
Independent of the chosen model, its fundamental
for the proposed methodology to have some D. Mutation Operator
gravitational flow model. As we will see in the next To define a mutation operator we have to randomly select
section, our model consider a gravitational flow model a turn (row in the extraction matrix). We proceed then to re-
in the kernel of the evaluation function of the proposed balance the selected row with a number randomly chosen
genetic algorithm. between 0 and the demand of the turn, then we distribute
randomly in to the selected turn. This operator guarantees
IV. PROPOSED EVOLUTIONARY MODEL feasibility of the selected row (the number chosen is less
than demand).
A. Extraction Charts
Operations in underground mining are realized in E. Fitness Function
turns. Such turns are usually of 8 hours each one and In order to evaluate the fitness of a extraction chart
each day is divided in three turns. Given a set of we have to run a simulation of the chart and then
drawpoints {i }ni=1 a Extraction Chart is an assignment obtain a list of blocks with laws of ore grades. With
of tons to extract for each drawpoint en each turn. We this information we can obtain the benefit given by
can if we wish consider another kinds of periods like that extraction chart incorporating NPV in this
days, weeks, months, etc. Formally: calculation.

162 Santiago Chile, 22-25 August 2004 Massmin 2004

F. The Algorithm The results of the iterations are summarized in the
The search algorithm is described with the following following picture. This picture illustrate the behavior of the
pseudo-code: best solution in each iteration:

Block Model
Location of Drawpoints
Population Size n
Parameters: Crossover and Mutation Probabilities
Probabilities for Cellular Automata
Optimal Extraction Chart
Initialize Extraction Charts Population
(n Extraction Charts):
Fitness Evaluation(P(0));
For t = 0 To V FIG. 1: Best Individual Evolution.
Crossover (P(t)): P(t + 1); As we can see, the algorithm generates a sequence of
Mutation (P(t + 1)); solutions in which each one is at least equal or better than
Fitness Evaluation (P(t + 1)); the previous.
Next Generation Selection (P(t),P(t + 1));
End For B. Calibration of Model Parameters
In order to operate this GA, we need calibrate the
Function Fitness Evaluation(P(t)); functional parameters. The used example was the previous
For i = 1 To n one. We will vary crossover and mutation probabilities.
Begin To denote the instances of the problem we will use the
Simulate(Extraction Chart i(t)); notation An1/n2M, where n1 is crossover probability, n2
Cellular Automata(Extraction Chart i(t)); mutation probability, selection method A (Parents and Sons:
Economic Evaluation(Extraction Chart i(t)); PH; Only Sons: SH) and parent selection M (Roulette: R;
End For Drawing: S).
End Function
Each instance was runned 30 times and we determine in
V. NUMERICAL RESULTS which generation we reach the optimum. The following table
resumes the results.
A. Trivial Case
This case is a sector of 4 by 4 by 4 blocks, all of them with Instance Mean Standard Deviation
grade 0, i.e. sterile. This simple example has only two
extraction points, one in coordinates (1; 1; 0) and the other
in coordinates (3; 2; 0). The obvious solution to this problem PH80/20S 64.93 22.89
is to extract nothing from drawpoints. This example was PH90/30S 50.17 21.55
tested with the following parameters: PH80/30S 45.70 20.36
PH80/40S 38.33 20.33
Application Parameters PH80/50S 35.40 15.70
PH90/20S 61.13 27.64
Turn Number 5
PH100/20S 55.23 27.17
Max. Demand in each Turn 10 PH100/0S 100.00 0.00 (*)
PH100/100S 31.70 9.50
GA Parameters SH100/100S 100.00 0.00 (*)
SH80/20S 100.00 0.00 (*)
Iterations Number 100
PH100/100R 28.97 15.01
Population Size 10
Crossover Probability 0.8 (*) means that instance doesnt converge
Mutation Probability 0.2 never in 100 iterations.

Selection Policy Between Parents and Sons C. Another Factors

We prove many others effects: Maximum Demand,
Selection Method Drawing
Number of Blocks, Population Size, Drawpoints Number.
Almost all of them gives a linear dependence between the
The solution to this problem was obtained in 63 iterations. number of iterations needed to reach the optimum and the
increase of the values. The only factor that shows
exponential behavior is Maximum Demand, i.e., if we vary
0.02 0.10 0.02
the Maximum Demand parameter then the number of
0.10 0.51 0.10
iterations needed to converge grows exponentially. We
0.02 0.10 0.02
summarize this effects in the following table:

Massmin 2004 Santiago Chile, 22-25 August 2004 163

Effect Variation Result constructed with the same philosophy so we can expect
some kind of integration and scale economies between +
Max. Demand Grow Exponential Grow both models.
Number of Blocks Grow Linear Grow In the future we hope to construct a model that
Population Size Grow Linear Decrease incorporates gravitational flow simulations and downstream
Drawpoints Number Grow Linear Grow operations.
Another source of extensions to the model is to consider
operational events as stochastic processes. In this way
D. Real Scale Example simulations of extraction charts would be more realistic. In order
This example was runned with the following parameters: to accomplish this objective is needed historical data to calibrate
the parameters of the involved stochastic processes.
Application Parameters
Turn Number 12
As an obvious first conclusion we have that this problem
Max. Demand in each Turn 100 has a very large number of involved variables.
Number of Drawpoints 171 In this moment its really very difficult consider the hole
complexity of this problem. For example at the moment
Number of Blocks 400000
there arent appropriate models to handle the breaking of
the solid rock.
GA Parameters Another important conclusion is that the stochastic nature
of the phenomenon is hard to include in the modeling
process. Some attempts have been made but at the
Iterations Number 34
moment this efforts are in initial development. The proposed
Population Size 8 methodology could be applied in real type situations. The
Crossover Probability 1 response times are good compared with human planners.
The most important advantages of the methodology is that
Mutation Probability 1
we can test in an efficient way many choices and that the
Selection Policy Between Parents and Sons search procedure is well conducted.
Selection Method Drawing With this methodology we are in presence of a flexible
model that can be customized to satisfy the planner needs.

The results are summarized in the following table: VIII. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Results J.S. wish to acknowledge the support of FAI (Fondo de

Ayuda a la Investigacin), Proyecto Ingeniera 2004,
Execution Time 3:11 Universidad de Los Andes.
Iterations Number 34 REFERENCES

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164 Santiago Chile, 22-25 August 2004 Massmin 2004