The front–end planning phase of a project potentially has the biggest impact on the outcome of the implementation phase. Globally, significant research has been conducted into the relationship between the quality of front–end planning and the success of the implementation phase of a project. Several tools have been developed to assess the level of readiness of a project study to proceed into detail design and implementation. However, no such commonly available tool existed for mining projects. The available assessment tools are either generic, not specific to mining projects and therefore do not include many of the elements which are critical to mining projects, or the property of consulting firms.
In order to create an Assessment Tool for Mining Project front–end planning, the first step was to evaluate the mining industry and identify all of the elements which should be addressed during a mining project study. This was done through a literature review (which included existing front–end planning evaluation tools), as well as focus groups and surveys. The result was a list of 180 elements which should be considered during a mining project study. To incorporate a metric structure for quantitative evaluation, the Project Definition Readiness Index (PDRI) format as utilized by the Construction Industry Institute (CII) was used. This resulted in the 180 elements being divided into four sections and 18 categories.
Since not all elements contributed equally to project success, weights were assigned to each element. The weighting process involved asking experienced mining project professionals to assign weights to each element. After the data were reviewed and adjusted for normality, a weighted list of elements was created which would comprise the Readiness Assessment Tool (RAT) for mining projects. The weighting also provided a quantitative assessment value, based on which a decision can be made about whether or not to proceed to the next project phase.
To validate the instrument, the completed RAT for Mining Projects was tested against completed projects. The validation process indicated that there was a significant correlation between the RAT score of a project, and the eventual implementation success. The validation process also highlighted some dominant performance indicators that could influence project results.
The performance indicator relating to the performance of the completed project against expectations was found to have the most significant correlation with the RAT score and accounted for 39% of the variability. This was closely followed by the impact of change orders, which had the second–highest correlation to the RAT score (36.2%). Similarly, 8% of the variability in Cost Performance and 7.9% of the variability in Schedule Performance could be explained by the RAT score. The RAT score can explain 3.02% of the variability in the Operating Score of a project and 3.86% of the variability in the Customer Score.
By creating a comprehensive, weighted list of elements to be addressed during the front–end phase of a mining project, the RAT for mining projects can assist project team members in coming to a common understanding of the areas which need to be studied, as well as the relative importance of the various elements. The most significant contribution of this study is that project teams can use the RAT as a self–assessment tool during any stage of the project study and identify the areas of the study which require more definition. Teams can also use the RAT to calculate an overall RAT rating at any stage, which will indicate the overall level of readiness to proceed into the next phase of the project.
Through assessing the completeness of each of the 180 elements to determine a single RAT score, the RAT can assist project members, as well as decision–makers such as Boards of Directors, to make informed decisions regarding the approval of projects.
Finally, depending on the accuracy and reliability of input data, the RAT should improve the probability of a successful project.