Pit Optimization: A Model Collaboration between Fort Knox and the Business Optimization Group

Our Fort Knox mine in Alaska is the latest Kinross operation to add value through continuous improvement, increasing haul truck payloads by 7% and cutting shift change times by an impressive 23% in the first quarter alone.

The improvements were achieved through a close collaboration with the Kinross Business Optimization group. Last summer, Victor Scheibehenne, Director of Global Strategic and Operational Improvement Programs and his team visited Fort Knox and studied the blasting, loading and hauling processes at the mine. Together with General Manager, Eric Hill and Operations Manager, Mark Fullenwider, they honed in on areas where there was room for improvement. These included the payload on the trucks, which were not being loaded to full capacity, and improvements in equipment utilization.

“We are seeing improvements on many fronts because the solutions are coming from the experts on the ground including the team members and operators.  As we experience successes early on, our momentum is building to fully achieve our 2015 goals.  The workforce reviews the KPI wall on a daily basis to see how they are improving and contributing to the success of our operations,” says Operations Manager, Mark Fullenwider.

With the support of Mine Manager Clint Nebeker, Mine Superintendent, Craig Natrop, CI Manager, Julie Higbee and Project Manager, Brandon Holm, they came up with a couple of basic changes:

  • better aligning the mining and mine planning departments so that operations people are more involved in defining the mine plan
  • increasing the training efforts for operators
  • increasing transparency so that all employees can see how their performance compares with others.

Implementation of these changes began in January. The line-out room, where workers wait at the beginning of the shift to be bussed out to their queue points in the mine, was plastered with Key Performance Indicators (KPI) showing the main indices of each shift: how many tons were moved, how many trucks were available and how quickly the shift change was executed.

The Fort Knox team continues to check in with Victor and the Business Optimization group, providing updates on performance and discussing future modifications. 

“It has been a great experience working with the team at Fort Knox across the different functions. Going forward we want to formalize this process as part of the Continuous Improvement toolbox,” says Victor Scheibehenne.  “While each mine is unique, analysis and best practices at one site can be applied to others. We’d like to roll out some form of Pit Optimization at all our sites.”

Increased payload

Shift change at the queue points

Operations Manager Mark Fullenwider, Mine Manager Clint Nebeker and Mine Superintendant Craig Natrop attending the new daily production meeting

The new KPI wall which captures key performance indicators daily

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