How Mackay man became mining giant's $44 million secret

20th April 2017 4:30 AM

LEONARD Gould is on track to make his boss $44million.

The Mackay-raised Hail Creek Mine control system engineer came up with a computer code that makes sure the coal handling and preparation plant at the mine site runs at maximum efficiency all the time.

After first coming up with the idea in 2012, it's now working so well mine owner Rio Tinto is likely to secure a $44m windfall, which required no upfront investment costs at all.

In fact, the 38-year-old came up with much of it during his spare time.

"When you live away from home there's not too much to do at site sometimes," Mr Gould said. "So at times I'll log into things at night."

The code basically monitors all the inputs going into the coal handling and preparation plant, and makes adjustments, to ensure it is being operated as efficiently as possible.

Previously, the system would overload if it was fed coal too quickly, which would then impact the coal's quality or even cause the plant to shut down.

"After looking at it continuously I saw there was an opportunity to design a type of code that can dynamically monitor multiple variables and then it continually alters the plants feed rates," Mr Gould said.

"That's the basic idea about it, that it dynamically monitors those multiple variables and then adjusts the feed rate."

Leonard Gould
BIG IDEAS: Leonard Gould is on track to earn Rio Tinto $44m.

He first started toying with the idea in 2012.

But as trials were not very successful it was put on the back-burner.

When the mining industry hit "a bit of a lull" Mr Gould said his general manager started looking for some "out there" ideas, and he returned to the code.

After reconstructing it, making it more robust and "adding some more bells and whistles" it was trialled for nearly a year, before Mr Gould calculated it had the potential to make the company "big dollar values".

"I took it to my leaders to show those dollar values," he said. "So we went ahead and actually turned the code on. Instantly we saw a change."

The technology has now been taken down to use at Rio Tinto's Hunter Valley mine, where it's expected to continue bringing results.

Mr Gould said he was continuing to work on smaller projects for the company now, but nothing of quite the same scale. During his seven and a half years in the Rio Tinto job, Mr Gould said he's come up with a number of different ideas through the plant.

"This is just one of those ones that actually got some attention on a larger scale," he said.