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Operational Excellence in Underground Development: 100 little things [Presentation at CIM event]

Updated: Sep 7, 2022

Straight from site observations, Andrew is making a list of a hundred things that seem basic yet often overlooked in the pursuit of other exciting goals (like Net Zero and cool tech).

Operators, check in and see what in Andrew's list could improve your sites.

Investors, time to demystify tunneling and see how development stage can impact the project value.

Date, time & location

Event: CIM Convention

Time: 11am- 11:25am, Monday, May 02, 2022. Technical Session - Room 110.

Location: Vancouver Convention Centre

Presenter: Andrew Pocock, P.Eng. - Manager, Corporate Advisory (Canada)

The concept

Often, companies approach operational improvements as a huge project with major shifts and changes. This time, we invite you to reflect with us on how and which small things can make a significant difference to the overall process and mining project value.

This presentation argues that excellence in drill & blast tunneling (development) is a matter of the cumulation of 100 little things, with some of those being bigger than others. It will cover both quick wins that could happen overnight and longer term adjustments that are not difficult but take longer to enact.

Abstract & Content summary

Content Summary

  • The importance of development rates to project value

  • How to desktop review Development Rates

  • Development Cycle

  • Quality Feedback Loops and how to pick a right one

  • Possible improvements by categories: - Logistics - Mine Design & Planning Standards - Diligence & Communication - Drilling - Loading - Blasting - Load & Haul - Ground Support - Prepare & Mark

  • Trade-offs to be considered in the process


Mine development is a primary driver of a mine’s value. It can shorten mine life, increase Net Present Value, and de-risk a mine in almost every conceivable mining constraint. This presentation argues that excellence in drill & blast tunneling (development) is a matter of the cumulation of 100 little things, with some of those being bigger than others. By extension, this concept applies to all processes that rely on the combination of people & equipment to execute processes at a specific time and place. The development cycle referenced typically entails ground support, drilling, explosives loading (charging), blasting, load and haul to remove the blasted rock, with many logistical activities between. The observations are from the perspective of an operator, supervisor and engineer across dozens of mines in Australia and the America’s.

Excellent development is not a function of the mine design, a special machine, one manufacturer’s equipment, optimized logistics, or one person or team. It is the many ways in which these and other themes interact moment by moment, and accumulate over time.

In mines underachieving to development targets, there seems to be a bias towards focusing on processes at the development heading and ignoring what happens in between. For example, concentrating on shaving 20 minutes off the 2 hours it takes to install ground support; by looking at only the bolting process itself, at the face. Never mind the hours of inactivity before and after, and between all other processes.

In contrast, high-performing mines execute primary processes well, but the difference is a focus on getting everything in between right. In this manner, a driller can just arrive, set up, drill, and leave. Not go looking for a pump, an extra drill bit, a hose fitting, etc. Everything is where it should be when it needs to be. There is no hurry, and no pause. Just consistent, thoughtful, small steps through the cycle. It actually looks slow, but slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. As French composer Claude Debussy said, music is the space between the notes. In this analogy, the notes fit the musical scale (the development cycle), and the timing is between them just right; enabled by 100 little things.

This presentation describes the intricacies of the development cycle, and provides a list of (approximately!) 100 little things that enable fast, reliable and safe mine development, and hence, optimize the value of the mining project at hand.



Andrew's 10 year career as a Mining Engineer has spanned mine design, production & project engineering, risk management and consulting.

His experience spans underground mine operations as an operator, supervisor, engineer and superintendent in Australia and Canada. He is particularly interested and experienced in rapid underground mine development practices & operational excellence. As a trained Six Sigma practitioner he has assisted operations across North America with comprehensive operational audits and actions plans for improvement.


Interested but cannot make it? Please email Andrew Pocock ( and we will send you a link after the event.


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