What exactly do you mean by Best-in-Class? That's one of the first questions I get from people I meet, whether they're Barrick shareholders, government partners, or industry colleagues.
I'll try to provide some clarity here. When we talk about Best-in-Class at Barrick, we're not just talking about changing the way we do things, we're talking about changing the way we think. So think about Best-in-Class as a mindset that demands total focus on operational excellence. Our ultimate objective is to design, operate, and close mines in the most efficient, cost-effective, and responsible way possible. That, of course, encompasses many things, such as how we allocate capital, manage our people, mine our ore bodies, deploy equipment, communicate with each other, and measure performance.
When we talk about Best-in-Class at Barrick, we're not just talking about changing the way we do things, we're talking about changing the way we think.
On a practical level, there are three pillars to the Best-in-Class program. The first is optimizing processes currently in place with the aim of eliminating waste and inefficiency. At our Goldstrike mine, for example, we're reducing haul truck down-time by using hot-seat crews to keep trucks operating when drivers take breaks or change shifts. This may not sound sexy, but a simple change like this could add many thousands of ounces to annual production.
The second pillar is implementing step changes across the business. These changes will be based on technologies or methodologies already in use in our industry or a related industry and, as such, will not require a lot of adaptation to generate value. One such change is currently playing out at our Cortez mine where we're converting some areas of the underground operation from cut-and-fill mining to long-hole mining—a move that will reduce our costs.
Many of the step-changes we're looking at for 2017 involve digitization of the mining process. This might involve implementing real-time fleet monitoring, creating new reporting tools that track energy usage across our operations, or developing a database tool that allows us to better analyze prospective ore bodies. By digitizing our operations, we can dramatically increase the rate of communication, the accuracy of what is communicated, and our ability to use predictive analytics to understand what is occurring and to solve problems.
The third pillar is using innovation to adopt technologies that are in most cases already developed to further leverage efficiencies. We recently held an underground mining workshop in Las Vegas that focused on innovation. One of the things discussed was the possibility of using road headers or tunnel borers at some of our underground operations. This would allow us to engage in continuous mining instead of relying solely on blasting and drilling to advance our underground mines. One road header could cut four-to-six metric tons of ore a year—more than twice the current mining rate.
We plan to hold more workshops and discussions on topics like open pit mining, license to operate, mine processing and other key aspects of our business. We will also engage and partner with external companies who are leaders in their field to create novel ways of working.
All of this will enable us to operate the most efficient and low-cost mines in the world, and leverage value in ways that others can't. We're at the beginning of a journey that will help us realize Barrick's vision to generate wealth through responsible mining for our owners, our people, and the countries and communities with which we partner.