Discussion - Computer-aided schedule optimization in room-and-pillar and longwall operations - by P.K. Chatterjee, G. Johnston, and S. Holguin Technical Papers, MINING ENGINEERING, Vol. 39, No. 6 June 1987, pp. 433-436

Gershon, M.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 1
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1987
The article is an excellent one, providing a basis for the conduct of the major tasks in underground mine planning and scheduling. I object to only one word. Since that word is featured in the title, it is a strong objection. The word used erroneously is optimization. There is no optimization performed in the article. By definition, an optimization is an approach that yields the best of all possible solutions. We can limit this definition to its narrowest sense, the optimization techniques of operations research such as linear programming, or broaden it to include less sophisticated search procedures that find the best mine plan or schedule. No such claim is made in the article. No optimization of any kind is performed. The major tool used is a simulation, which, in truth, is probably more appropriate for this problem than any optimization. But simulation does not optimize. It only allows for quick evaluation of many options, leading to the selection of the best plan "of those tried," not "of all possible plans." This article, of course, is not the first mining paper to make this error. It seems that the word optimization is used more to impress people than to refer to any act of optimizing. It is used in a way that implies "try to optimize" or "come close to optimize," but not to really do it. It is usually appropriate to quietly ignore this error. But when Dr. Chatterjee, who has done so much good work in true optimization projects and whose work I have come to admire, makes such an error, it is time to publicly dispute it. Having discussed this very point with him in the past, I am sure that he will agree. If he can support this position in his response, perhaps people will start to listen and we can reduce the number of false claims of optimization. This should be easy for him in this case since the approach he used, simulation, is the more appropriate one anyway.
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