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UNDERGROUND MINING

A global review of methods and practices

FIRST EDITION 2014


Contents

5 Foreword

6 Talking Technically

150 Case Studies


4 ATLAS COPCO MINING METHODS
Welcome to the world of
underground mining

The transition is
underway to safer,
leaner and greener
Wherever you look in the mining industry today, things are happening fast. A whirl- mining.


wind of technological development and innovation is laying the foundation for dramatic
improvements in 21st century practices.

Issues such as increased safety, automated drilling and hauling, lower energy consump-
tion, reduced CO2 emissions and minimized waste, are on the march. Moreover, a zero
tolerance approach toward accidents is being adopted around the world as stricter regula-
tions are imposed, but also as mines face the challenge of attracting a younger generation
of professionals.

Despite the fluctuating market for minerals and metals, global demand is expected to
accelerate in the years ahead. Approximately half of the minerals and metals needed
will be supplied from underground operations, where a transition to modern mining is
well underway. In fact, some model mines are representative of what is often envisioned
as smart mining safer, leaner and greener operations with semi- or fully automated
processes.

As a leading supplier of rock excavation equipment for more than 140 years, we have
gained considerable experience and knowledge of mining techniques that are practiced
across the globe. Today, in addition to providing a broad spectrum of products, our team
of application specialists also focuses on helping mines to optimize their entire processes
with a view to creating a more sustainable future.

This technical reference book examines these key issues along with the fundamentals of
underground mining. It also highlights many noteworthy companies and professionals
who contribute to the development of the industry every day.

Whatever field you belong to, or may be planning to join, we trust you will find this new
edition of Underground Mining both interesting and useful in your future endeavors.

Sincerely,

The Editorial & Application Specialists Team


Atlas Copco Underground Rock Excavation

REFERENCE BOOK 5
6 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY
Talking technically
8 Minerals and metals: A market overview
12 Geology and why it matters
20 Mineral prospecting and exploration
24 Exploration methods: RC and core drilling
28 Pre-studies: The basis for decision-making
30 Infrastructure: The first building block
32 Creating a suitable mine layout
36 Why service and maintenance is key
40 Backfilling for stabilization
46 Going deeper underground
50 Operating in seismic conditions
54 Understanding the behavior of rock
58 Matching rock reinforcement to conditions
64 Quality in charging and blasting
72 Efficiency in mine development
76 The advantages of ore passes and shafts
82 The intelligent approach to ventilation
86 Why dedicated utility holes make sense
88 Effective planning of roads and workshops
92 Providing free space for opening blasts
94 Minimizing deviation in long hole drilling
100 Dealing with oversized rock
102 Choosing the right mining method
106 Assessing the pros and cons of caving
112 The versatile benefits of stoping
118 Cut and fill for selective mining
120 A practical guide to room and pillar
124 Cost vs profit in narrow vein mining
126 Safety a driving force
130 Getting operators fit for the challenge
134 Automation the next big thing
138 Overseeing operations with remote monitoring
140 Taking action on energy consumption
146 Realizing the vision of sustainability

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 7


CIS 9.81%

Europe excl. CIS 2.35%

North America 8.32%

Asia 24.05%
Gold
Africa 10.06%
Copper

Iron ore

Nickel
Latin America excl. Mexico 21.62%
Lead
Oceania 14.57%
Zinc
PGMs

Diamonds

Other

Figure 1: Global distribution of mined minerals based on the value of mined quantities. (Source: Raw Materials Data)

Minerals and metals:


the lifeline of global growth
For skyscrapers, high speed trains, medical equipment, computers, smartphones
and an infinite variety of other elements of modern society, the world depends on a
steady supply of valuable minerals and geological materials. After a severe downturn,
global investments in mining are rebounding as economic recovery is driven by the
emerging economies.

The past decade in the mining industry has been marked by International Monetary Funds (IMF) metals and minerals
record production levels as well as serious setbacks as the price index had exceeded its pre-bust price levels.
financial crisis that struck in the latter half of 2008 put the
growth of the world economy at risk and sparked a global The global economy is rebounding and growth is returning. It
recession. continues to be driven by emerging economies, with mineral
and metal prices now stabilizing close to their pre-recession
Mineral and metal prices lost nearly half of their value levels. In 2012, the influential economies of Brazil, India,
between August and December 2008. Since 2009, how- Russia and China (BRIC) accounted for 20% of the global
ever, prices have recovered and by the start of 2011 the economic output, a figure that is expected to rise to close to

8 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


MARKET OVERVIEW

Europe + Russia 919 Mt

North America 1 146 Mt Asia 2 240 Mt

Africa 802 Mt

Total 8 707 Mt

Open pit
Oceania 924 Mt
Latin America 2 676 Mt
Underground

Total quantity of materials mined in the world by open pit and underground operations.

25% by 2017. Of the expected growth in the world economy Summer Olympic Games, its infrastructure spending will
in the next five years, nearly 40% will be accounted for by increase. Russia has ambitious plans to spend USD 1 triliion
these emerging countries. on infrastructure between 2007 and 2017. Such increased
demand for urbanization, infrastructure development, con-
The Chinese, Indian and Brazilian economies, like many sumer goods and energy will contribute to increased demand
other countries in a state of rapid development, are pass- for minerals and metals.
ing through a resource-intensive stage of economic growth.
They are consuming larger amounts of minerals and metals
per percentage increase in economic growth relative to the Mining sector continues to expand
traditional industrialized economies. The factors driving Compared to the slowdown in the global economy, the mining
this demand for minerals and metals range from increased industry has stood up well and continues to expand with the
urbanization, investments in infrastructure, and increased total value of mineral and metal output increasing from USD
manufacturing of both consumer and capital goods. 680 billion in 2010 to USD 850 billion in 2011. Asia continues
to be the largest producer of minerals and metals (excluding
For the first time in human history, roughly the same number coal), and accounts for 24% of the global value of the indus-
of people live in urban areas as in rural areas, and by 2030, try, followed by Latin America (22%) and Oceania (15%).
60% of the global population will be in urban centers. The Africa and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)
largest increase in this rural-to-urban migration will be seen account for a further 10% each of the global value, with North
in cities in emerging and developing countries. America (8%) and Europe (2%) accounting for the rest (see
Figure 1).
China alone intends to urbanize 350 million more people by
2025, resulting in 221 cities with over one million inhabitants.
Chinas 12th five-year plan continues, like its predecessors, to Investments maintain upward trajectory
include a range of infrastructure expansion goals. As Brazil Investments and capital expenditure in the mining sector
prepares to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 have continued on their steady upward trajectory since 2003.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 9


MARKET OVERVIEW

450 250
400
200
Capex total, billion USD

350

RMG price index


300
150
250
200
100
150
100 50
50
0 0
0

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09
01

12

13

14
10

11
0

20

20
20

20

20

20

20

20

20

20

20

20

20

20

20
Capex total, billion USD RMG price index

Figure 2: Capital expenditure in the global mining industry and Raw Materials Group price index.

Although the financial crisis and economic recession did Ore grades
dampen expenditure in 2009 and 2010, industry expenditures The increase in metal and mineral prices over the past decade
is expected to stay above the USD 300 billion level over the has pushed for higher output in the sector, but this has led
next few years (Figure 2). to lower ore grades to be mined to fulfill such demand, as
shown in Figure 3.

Open pit vs. underground


Around 1 billion tonnes of ore was extracted in 2011 from Recycling
underground hard rock mines worldwide and closer to 1.2 More sustainable use of metals and minerals has encouraged
billion tonnes if taken together with industrial minerals. In recycling of a number of these products, but recycling rates
South Africa, underground mining accounts for nearly half still remain low. The United Nations Environment Program
of the sectors output, but in other regions such as the U.S. (UNEP) estimates that for 30 metals the end-of-life recycling
Peru and Brazil, the majority of the output is accounted for rate is above 30%, while for another 34 elements this rate is
by open pit mines. below 1%. There are differences for ferrous and non-ferrous
metals; for example, iron and steel have an estimated end-
Among the economically most important metals, zinc and of-life recycling rate between 7090%, while for copper it is
lead are primarily extracted using underground mining lower (4353%) and lower still for zinc (3560%). In terms
methods, with over 70% of all zinc/lead ore deposits of recycled content (fraction of secondary metal in the total
being excavated underground. While the majority of coal metal input of metal production) between 28 and 52% of iron,
is produced from underground mining, open pit mining 2037% of copper and 1827% of zinc production includes
accounts for the majority of the production of iron ore, scrap metal.
gold, copper and nickel. Open pit mining accounts for the
majority of the production. Overall, the the ratio of open While the importance of recycling metals is increasing, both
pit to underground mining will remain stable or increase in the public and private spheres , which is in line with pro-
towards open pit for the major metallic ores. Globally, the moting sustainable use of resources, the share of this sector
increase in volume of ore extracted through underground is still outweighed by new production. Given that the major
mines, has not been higher than volumes extracted through consumers of metals are now to be found in emerging econo-
surface and open pit mining. The higher costs associated mies, metals in use in these countries are at the beginning
with underground mining have instead encouraged com- stages of their life cycles and it will be decades before they
panies to take advantage of scale and operate deeper open enter their recycle phases. For example, new construction in
pits instead. Thus the ratio of ore volumes between open China consumes metals and on average it takes 40 years for a
pit and underground mining has not seen a major change building to be replaced. Hence these materials will not enter
over the last decade. the recycled metals category during this time.

10 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


MARKET OVERVIEW

1.4 7.0

1.2 6.0
Ni
1.0 5.0
Zn
0.8 4.0
Cu
0.6 3.0
Pb
0.4 2.0

0.2 1.0

0 0
00

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09
8

01

12
10

11
9

9
20

20

20

20

20

20

20

20

20

20

20

20

20
19

19

Figure 3: Falling ore grades (%) for nickel, zinc, copper and lead.

Trends for the future While the global economy, particularly the global financial
2012 was a difficult year for the global economy; however, markets, has, to some extent, affected the ability of explora-
with anticipated improvements in Chinas economic growth tion and mining firms to raise capital, the vigor of the mining
(the Chinese economy accounting for almost half of global sector remains robust. Commodity prices are expected to
consumption of metals), a stronger Eurozone and continued continue to remain strong and above their pre-2003 levels.
restoration of the U.S. economy, the future is expected to Mining firms have been cautious in the last few years and, in
improve. As global growth heads towards more positive num- some cases, have responded by scaling back planned expan-
bers in the future, drilling and exploration activity is expected sions, but overall the underlying demand for metals remains
to follow suit. A mining project has a long gestation period. strong. Even for projects that have been currently mothballed,
It can take more than 10 years from the start of exploration an increase in price will solicit their return to operations
through project development and construction to eventual quickly. As global economic growth recovers, mining activity
output. Therefore, by fully utilizing current capacity, the and investments will continue expanding. The mining sector
response to an increase in metal and mineral prices can be will remain in good health in the future.
met with a small increase in supply in the short term.

For more meaningful supply to come online, a longer time


period is required. Therefore, the full impact of the price
boom that set off in 2003 will continue to be realized in the
next few years. New mines have often been located in remote
areas and away from traditional metal markets. They are often
in developing economies with fewer well developed road and
port facilities. In addition, the orebodies are low grade and
are located much deeper. All these factors contribute toward
new sources of mineral supply being more costly as well as
time consuming to become operational.

The mining sector will continue to face such serious chal-


lenges as the search for new orebodies takes them further
into non-traditional mining regions. Coupled with increases
in the costs of equipment, increased lag times (compared to
pre-2003 level) for equipment delivery, rising labor costs and
slow growth in production capacity, the upward pressure on
metal and mineral prices remains in place. Automation technology is shaping the future of modern mining.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 11


1

4 1000
2000
3000
4000 (km)
5000
6000

1. Earth Crust
2. Mantle
3. Outer Core
4. Inner Core

Figure 1: The Earths interior consists of four main layers. Heavy metals such as iron and nickel are most abundant in the core.
1 Earth Crust
2 Mantle
3 Outer Core
4 Inner Core

Navigating the
underground universe
A good understanding of the Earths crust and the geology of a mineral deposit are
key factors in knowing how to extract valuable material in the best way.

Selecting the method, choosing the equipment, designing the Rock is formed with a variety of properties and usually con-
rock support system and a dozen other key decisions that will sists of one of more minerals ranging from single chemical
affect the success of an underground mine, are all directly elements to complex compounds. There are known to be more
related to the geology of the deposit. Without a thorough than 3 000 different minerals in existence.
knowledge of the geological conditions at the site, the wrong
decisions can prove to be disastrous.
Minerals and geology
Geologists have an excellent grasp of what the Earth looks like Of the 155 known elements, some of which do not occur natu-
beneath its crust (see Figure 1) and the properties of the vari- rally, oxygen is by far the most common, making up about
ous rock types that have been formed over millions of years. 50% of the Earths crust by weight. Silicon forms about 25%
Whats important to the modern miner is how this knowledge and the other common elements such as aluminium, iron, cal-
impacts on ore extraction in an underground environment. cium, sodium, potassium, magnesium and titanium making

12 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


GEOLOGY FOR MINING
1. Volcanic rocks fine-grained
minerals including feldspar,
quartz, olivine, hornblende,
magnetite and mica.
2. River valley deposits may
include gold, platinum,
1 diamonds, cassiterite or
magnetite, as well as
clays and sands.
2
3. Metamorphic sandstone
6 high proportion of quartz.
4. Metamorphic limestone such
7 as marble. etc. calcite
3 and dolomite.
5. Metamorphic shales such as
8 slates, schists, etc. with
9
4 garnet, mica, feldspar.
10 6. Weathered orebodies producing
5 azurite, malachite, cuprite, etc.
7. Weathered sandstone, perhaps
11
having high quartz content.
8. Orebodies, e.g. containing
galena, sphalerite and
chalcophyrite.
9. Recent alluvium, lake and
sea-bed deposits
10. Weathered shale, per-
haps forming bauxite.
11. Typical formation and placement
of mineral- and oreforming zones.

Figure
1 2: Typical
Volcanic formation
rocks and placement
fine-grained of mineral- and ore
minerals 6 forming zones.orebodies producing azurite,
Weathered
including feldspar, quartz, olivine, hornblende, malachite, cuprite, etc.
magnetite and mica. 7 Weathered sandstone, perhaps having high
2 River valley deposits may include gold, quartz content.
platinum, diamonds, cassiterite or 8 Orebodies, e.g. containing galena,
magnetite, as well as clays and sands. sphalerite.
up Metamorphic
3 99% of the sandstone
Earths crust.
highSilicon, aluminum
proportion of alluvium, lakeProperties
and oxygen
9 Recent and characteristics
and sea-bed deposits
occur in the most common minerals such as quartz,
quartz. e.g. feldspar It is true to say that mineralization is rarely pure. Instead, it
andMetamorphic
4 mica. These form part
limestone of a large
as marble. etc group of 10 silicates
Weatheredthat is usually
shale, perhaps mixed,
forming consisting of both homogenous and hetero-
bauxite.
calcite and dolomite. 11 Contact zones between igneous and country
are compounds of silicic acid and other
5 Metamorphic shales as slates, schists, etc.
elements. Amphiboles geneous structures.
rocks garnet, hornblende, sulphides.
Feldspar accounts for almost 50% of the
andwith
pyroxenes contain
garnet, mica, aluminum, potassium and iron. Some
feldspar. mineral composition of the Earths crust, followed by pyrox-
of the planets most common rocks, granite and gneiss, are ene and amphibole minerals and then quartz and mica, making
composed of silicates. Oxygen also occurs commonly in com- up about 90% of the Earths crust.
bination with metallic elements, which are often important
sources for mining purposes. In addition, minerals have a wide variety of properties and
characteristics, and it is these that determine the best way to
These compounds can form part of oxidic ores, such as the extract them.
iron ores magnetite and hematite. Sulphur also readily com-
bines with metallic elements to form sulphide ores, including These characteristics are:
galena, sphalerite, molybdenite and arsenopyrite. Chalcopyrite Hardness
(CuFeS2) is also a very important and abundant ore forming Density
mineral that contains copper. Color
Streak
Other large mineral groups important in mining, as shown Luster
in Figure 2, include halogenides such as fluorite and halite; Fracture
carbonates such as calcite, dolomite and malachite; sulphates Cleavage
such as barite; tungstates such as scheelite; and phosphates Crystalline form
such as apatite. Rarely, some elements can occur naturally,
without combination. The important ones are the metals gold, The particle size and the extent to which the mineral is hydrat-
silver and copper, plus carbon in the form of diamonds and ed (mixed with water) indicate the way the rock will behave
graphite. when excavated.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 13


GEOLOGY FOR MINING

The Earth's eight major tectonic plates meet and create subduction zones, where relative motion carries the plates into the mantle. Spreading centers is the
opposite phenomena, where tectonic plates move apart. These geologically active boundaries often result in the formation of interesting mineralizations.

Hardness is commonly graded according to the Mohs 10-point rocks were formed or subsequently altered by heat, pressure
scale. The density of light-colored minerals is usually below 3. and other forces in the Earths crust. It is comparatively rare to
Exceptions are barite or heavy spar (barium sulphate BaSO4 find a homogeneous rock mass, and the discontinuities such as
density 4.5), scheelite (calcium tungstate CaWO4 density faults filled with crushed material, major jointing and bedding
6.0) and cerussite (lead carbonate PbCO4 density 6.5). non-conformities are hard to predict.

Dark-colored minerals with some iron and silicate have densi- These discontinuities are also important, not only for the
ties of between 3 and 4. Metallic ore minerals have densities structural integrity of a mine and gaining access to mineral
over 4, and gold has a very high density of 19.3. Minerals deposits, but also as paths for fluids that cause mineral con-
with tungsten, osmium and iridium are normally even denser. centrations in the Earth.
Although ore-forming mineral density may be high, the total
ore density depends entirely on the host rock where these In order for mining to be economically viable, the minerals
minerals exist. have to be present in sufficient concentration to be worth
extracting and within rock structures that can be excavated
Streak is the color of the mineral powder produced when a safely and economically. It must also be possible to enrich the
mineral is scratched or rubbed against unglazed white por- minerals in an economical way.
celain which may be different from the color of the mineral
mass. Fracture is the surface characteristic produced by break- For mine development and production drilling, the rock must
ing a piece of the mineral and is usually uneven in one direc- be correctly appraised because the results will affect projected
tion or another. drill penetration rates, hole quality and drill steel costs. In
order to determine overall rock characteristics, it is necessary
Cleavage denotes the properties of a crystal which allows it to distinguish between microscopic and macroscopic proper-
to be split along flat surfaces. Both fracture and cleavage can ties. As rock is composed of grains of various minerals, its
be important to the structure of rocks containing substantial microscopic properties include:
amounts of the minerals concerned.
Mineral composition
Rock is normally comprised of a mixture of materials. The Grain size
rock may not only combine the properties of these minerals, The form and distribution of the grain
but also exhibit properties resulting from the way in which the If the grains are loose or cemented together

14 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


GEOLOGY FOR MINING

Table of main igneous rock types


Silica (Si02) content Plutonic rocks Dykes and Sills Volcanic (mainly lava)
Basic <52% Si02 Gabbro Diabase Basalt
Intermediate 52-65% Si02 Diorite Porphyrite Andesite
Syenite Syenite Trachyte porphyry
Acidic >65% Si02 Quartz diorite Quartz porphyrite Dacite
Granodiorite Granodiorite porphyry Rhyodacite
Granite Quartz porphyry Rhyolite

Figure 3: Main igneous rock types according to chemical composition (silica content) and location where magma turned into solid rock.

Collectively, these factors comprise the properties of the rock Igneous or magmatic formed from solidified lava at
such as hardness, abrasiveness, compressive strength and or near the surface, or magma underground.
density. Sedimentary formed by the deposition of reduced
material from other rocks and organic remains or by
In turn, these rock properties determine the penetration rate chemical precipitation from salts, or similar.
that can be achieved when drilling blastholes and the extent Metamorphic formed by the transformation of igneous
of the wear on the drilling equipment. In some circumstances, or sedimentary rocks, in most cases by an increase in
certain mineral characteristics will directly influence the pressure and heat.
mining method. Many salts, for example, are especially elastic
and can absorb the shock from blasting.
Igneous and sedimentary rock
Igneous rocks are formed when magma solidifies, either as
Prospects for drilling plutonic rock, deep in the Earths crust as it rises to the surface
Drillability depends on the hardness of the rocks constituent in dykes, cutting across other rock or sills following bedding
minerals and on the grain size and crystal form, if any. For planes, or as volcanic rock in the form of lava or ash on the
example, quartz, which is one of the commonest minerals in surface.The most important mineral constituents are quartz
rock, is a very hard material, exceedingly difficult to drill and and silicates of various types, but mainly feldspars. Plutonic
will certainly cause heavy wear, particularly on drill bits. This rocks solidify slowly, and are therefore coarse-grained, while
is known as abrasion. Conversely, a rock with a high content volcanic rocks solidify comparatively quickly and become
of calcite can be comparatively easy to drill and cause little fine-grained, sometimes even forming glass.
wear on drill bits.
Depending on where the magma solidifies, the rock is given
With regards to crystal form, minerals with high symmetry, different names, even if its chemical composition is the same,
such as cubic galena, are easier to drill than those with low as shown in the table of main igneous rock types (Figure 3).
symmetry, such as amphiboles and pyroxenes. A further subdivision of rock types depends on the silica
content. Rock with high silica content is called acidic, and
A coarse-grained structure is easier to drill and causes those with lower amounts of silica are called basic illustrated
less wear on the drillstring than a fine-grained structure. (Figure 3).
Consequently, rocks with essentially the same mineral content
may be very different in terms of drillability. For example, Sedimentary rocks are formed by the deposition of material
quartzite can be fine grained (0.5-1.0 mm) or dense (grain and its consolidation under the pressure of overburden. This
size 0.05 mm). A granite may be coarse grained (size >5 mm), generally increases the strength of the rock with age, depend-
medium grained (1-5 mm) or fine grained (0.5-1.0 mm). A ing on its mineral composition. Sedimentary rock is formed
rock can also be classified in terms of its structure. by mechanical action such as weathering or abrasion on a
rock mass, or transportation by a medium such as flowing
If the mineral grains are mixed in a homogeneous mass, the water or wind and subsequent deposition. The origins of the
rock is termed massive (isotropic), as with most granite. rock will, therefore, partially determine the characteristics of
In mixed rocks, the grains tend to be segregated in layers, the sedimentary rock. Weathering or erosion may proceed at
whether due to sedimentary formation or metamorphic action different rates, as will the transportation, and are affected by
from heat and/or pressure. the climate at the time and the nature of the original rock.

Therefore, it is important to identify the rocks origins, which Special cases of sedimentary rock include those formed
are divided into three classes: by chemical deposition such as salts and limestones, and

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 15


GEOLOGY FOR MINING

Some sedimetary rock types


Rock Original material
Conglomerate Gravel, stones and boulders, generally with limestone or quartzitic cement
Greywacke Variable grain size from clay to gravel, often with angular shape
Sandstone Sand
Clay Fine-grained argillaceous material and precipitated aluminates
Limestone Precipitated calcium carbonate, corals, shellfish
Coals Vegetation in swamp conditions
Rock salt, potash, gypsum, etc Chemicals in solution precipitated out by heat
Loess Wind-blown clay and sand

Figure 4: Typical sedimentary rock types and the material from which they originate.

organic material such as coral and shell limestones and coals, Due to the nature of their formation (see Figure 5), metamor-
while others will be a combination of, for example, tar sands phic zones will probably be associated with increased faulting
and oil shales. and structural disorder, making the planning of mine develop-
ment and efficient drilling more difficult.
Another set of special cases is glacial deposits, in which depo-
sition is generally haphazard, depending on ice movements.
Several distinct layers can often be observed in a sedimentary Macroscopic rock properties
formation, although these may be uneven due to the conditions Macroscopic rock properties include slatiness, fissuring, con-
of deposition. The layers can be tilted and folded by subse- tact zones, layering, veining and orientation. These factors are
quent ground movements. Sedimentary rocks make up a very often of great significance in drilling. For example, cracks or
heterogeneous family with widely varying characteristics, as inclined and layered formations can cause hole deviation, par-
shown in the table of sedimentary rock types (Figure 4). ticularly in long holes, and have a tendency to cause drilling
tools to get stuck. However, modern drilling control methods
can greatly reduce this problem.
Metamorphic rock
The effects of chemical action, increased pressure due to Soft or crumbly rocks make it difficult to achieve good hole
ground movement at great depths, and/or temperature of a quality since the walls can cave in. In extreme cases, flushing
rock formation can sometimes be sufficiently severe to cause air or fluid will disappear into cracks in the rock, without
a transformation in the internal structure and/or mineral com- removing cuttings from the hole. In some rocks, there may be
position of the original rock. This is called metamorphism. substantial cavities such as solution passages in limestones or
For example, pressure and temperature may increase under gas bubbles in igneous rock.
the influence of up-welling magma, or because the strata
have sunk deeper into the earths crust. This will result in These may require pregrouting to achieve reasonable drilling
the recrystallization of the minerals, or the formation of new properties. On a larger scale, the rock structure may determine
minerals. the mining method based on factors such as the shape of the
mineral deposit and qualities such as friability, blockiness, in-
A characteristic of metamorphic rock is that it is formed with- situ stress, and plasticity. The shape of the mineral deposit will
out complete remelting, or else it would be classified igneous. decide how it should be developed. The quality of the parent
The metamorphic action often makes the sedimentary rocks rock that will form the structure around the underground open-
stronger, denser and more difficult to drill. However, many ings can be a major factor in determining the feasibility of
metamorphic zones, particularly formed in the contact zones exploiting a mineral deposit. This is mainly because of its
adjacent to igneous intrusions, are important sources of valu- effect on the degree of support required for both production
able minerals, such as those concentrated by deposition from level drives and for development drifts.
hydrothermal solutions in veins.
It is a delicate economic balance to choose between an invest-
As metamorphism is a secondary process, it may not be clear ment in development drifts in stable ground, perhaps without
whether a sedimentary rock has, become metamorphic; it useful mineralization, and drifts within the mineral deposit,
depends on the degree of extra pressure and temperature to which may have a shorter life but require more support mea-
which it has been subjected. The mineral composition and sures. Although it is beneficial to minimize development drifts
structure would probably give the best clue. and ramps in non-productive waste rock and to make them

16 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


GEOLOGY FOR MINING

Typical metamorphic rocks


Rock type Original rock Degree of metamorphism
Amphibolite Basalt, diabase, gabbro High
Mica schist Mudstone, greywacke, etc Medium to high
Gneiss Various igneous rocks High
Green-schist Basalt, diabase, gabbro Low
Quartzite Sandstone Medium to high
Leptite Dacite Medium
Slate Shale Low
Veined gneiss Silicic acid-rich silicate rocks High
Marble Limestone Low

Figure 5: Typical metamorphic rock types and their origin, followed by the degree of metamorphism that is needed.

as short as possible, stability and longevity are prioritized. Obviously, the more information that is gained, the better
When it comes to major development assets such as shafts or the chances of mining success. If uncertainties occur due to
transport levels, these are nearly always placed in the most unforeseen ground conditions, disappearing orebodies, or fac-
stable ground areas that can be found, as they are expected to tors such as excessive water ingress, the advantage provided
last a long time, with further drifts or levels made from them. by modern, productive mining equipment will be lost as it will
In extreme cases, it may be found that the mineral deposit be forced to stand idle.
cannot support development workings without considerable
expense. In these circumstances, it might be better to install To avoid these situations it is vital to carry out as much explor-
development drifts near and below the mineral deposit. This atory work as possible, not only with regards to the existence
could then be exploited by using long hole drilling and blast- and location of worthwhile minerals, but also to establish rock
ing, with the ore being drawn off from below. This, however, qualities in and around the deposit. In underground mining,
is rare and the recommended procedure is to let the mining information from surface exploration drilling and geophysical
method dictate how drifts are developed, while taking critical methods of investigation are normally supplemented by probe
rock areas into consideration. or core drilling underground. Modern computer software can
also assist with processing the vast amounts of data and to
Depending on the amount of disturbance that the mineral- deduce the best strategies for mineral deposit exploitation.
bearing strata has been subjected to, the mineral deposit can
vary in shape from stratified rock at various inclinations to The value of the mineral to be mined will determine the level
highly contorted and irregular vein formations requiring a very of the investigation work, but there will be a minimum level
irregular development pattern. The latter may require small for every type of mine in order to give some assurance of
drifts to exploit valuable minerals, although the productivity success. For example, low value stratified deposits, which are
of modern mining equipment makes larger-section drifts more known to be fairly uniform in thickness and have regular dips,
economical, despite the excavation of more waste rock. may not require many boreholes, although there could still be
surprises from sedimentary washouts or faults.
Having said this, there is low profile mining machinery avail-
able today that can help miners to excavate as little as possible On the other hand, gold deposits in contorted rock formations
of the waste rock, and the demand for this type of equipment will require frequent boreholes under ground, as well as from
is expected to grow. the surface, to give assurance of the location of the deposit
and to sample the minerals it contains.
The tendency of rock to fracture, sometimes unpredictably,
is also important to determine factors such as rock support Having determined the value and shape of a mineral deposit,
requirements and the charging of peripheral holes to prevent the nature and structure of the rocks that surround it, and the
overbreak. Although procedures for overbreak and contour likely strategy for mine development, it should be possible to
are not as strict in mining as in civil tunneling, good results determine the suitability of various excavation methods for
will yield benefits both in terms of production and safety. the rock that is likely to be encountered.
Minimized overbreak will prevent the excavation of too much
waste rock, and a good contour preserves the structure of a
drift and facilitates rock support. Rock classification
A number of rock classification systems have been devel-
It is clear that rock structures, and the minerals they contain, oped in order to systematically determine the excavation
can result in a wide variety of possible mining strategies. and support requirements, whether a particular method

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 17


GEOLOGY FOR MINING

Anortosite Granitic gneiss

Amphibolite n
tio Sm
iza
t all MAGMA elt
in
s
Mica gneiss ry g

C
Quartzite Marble Limestone

RO ATIC

ME ROCK
Diabase Phyllite

S
CK
GM

TAM
MA

ORPH
Sandstone Pegmatite

S
IC
Erosion
Diorite

Weath transp

orphism
erin .
Gabbro Argillaceous, Shale clay

t am
Monzonite

Me
Y
R
TA

SE
D
Greywacke Norite IM EN KS
EN M C
DI
TS SE R O
Gneiss granite Mica schist

Gneiss C e m e n t a ti o n

Taconite Granite

10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90

Figure 6: Relationship between Drilling Rate Index (DRI) and various rock types. The rock forming cycle shows the creation of various rock types and how they
deteriorate.

is suitable, and the amount of consumables required. guide bits, steering rods or retrac bits for formations where
generally defined by an intended purpose, such as the level hole deviation is a problem.
of support required or the rocks drillability. The methods
developed to assess drillability are aimed at predicting produc- The BWI, or Bit Wear Index, gives an indication of how fast
tivity and tool wear. Factors of drillability include the likely the bit wears down as determined by an abrasion test. The
tool penetration rate in proportion to tool wear, the stand-up higher the BWI, the faster the wear. In most cases, the DRI
qualities of the hole, its straightness, and any tendency to tool and BWI are proportional to one another. However, the pres-
jamming. ence of hard minerals may produce heavy wear on the bit
despite relatively good drillability. This is particularly the
Rock drillability is determined by several factors led by miner- case with quartz, which has been shown to increase wear
al composition, grain size and brittleness. In crude terms, rock rates considerably. Certain sulphides in orebodies are also
compressive strength or hardness can be related to drillability comparatively hard, impairing drillability.
for rough calculations, but the matter is usually more compli-
cated. The Norwegian Technical University has determined Commonly used rock classification tools include the Q-system
more sophisticated methods: the Drilling Rate Index (DRI) (Barton, et al, through the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute),
and the Bit Wear Index (BWI). The DRI describes how fast a Rock Mass Rating RMR (Bieniawski), and the Geological
particular drill bit can penetrate. It also includes measurements Strength Index GSI (Hoek, et al). Bieniawskis Rock Mass
of brittleness and drilling with a small, standard rotating bit Rating incorporates the earlier Rock Quality Designation
into a sample of the rock. The higher the DRI, the higher the (RQD Deere, et al), with some important improvements that
penetration rate, and this can vary greatly from one rock type take into account additional rock properties.
to another, as shown in the bar chart (Figure 6).
All of these give valuable guidance on the rocks ease of
It should be noted that modern drill bits greatly improve the excavation and its self-supporting properties. In most cases,
possible penetration rates in the same rock types. Also, there engineers will employ more than one means of rock classi-
are different types of bits available to suit certain types of fication to gain a better understanding of its behavior and to
rock. For example, Secoroc special bits for soft formations, compare results.
bits with larger gauge buttons for abrasive formations, and

18 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 19
Exploring Earths treasures
There may well be valuable minerals and precious metals to be found on Mars,
or elsewhere in the universe for that matter. But until the day miners become
astronauts, exploration for mining will continue to be focused on planet Earth.

20 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


EXPLORATION METHODS

The Explorac range of reverse circulation (RC) drilling rigs from Atlas Copco are often used for initial exploration, orebody definition and grade control.

The importance of minerals and metals From prospecting to mining


Exploration is an indispensible part of modern mining. Every orebody has its own story, but there is often a
Without it, new deposits of minerals and metals would never sequence of findings. Prospecting is the term used to
be discovered and recovered. And despite the high con- describe the initial process when geologists look for typical
sumption of modern society, there is still an abundance of signs of mineral deposits in a selected geographical area. Up
resources to be found and extracted, both underground as until a few decades ago, this was done by tracking surface
well as underwater. exposure of minerals, studying irregularities in color, shape
and composition of rock. Today, as orebodies are mainly
To establish a continuous supply of minerals and metals, found at deeper levels, air surveys are usually conducted
exploration is a must, whether it is in the search for new over large areas, covering many square kilometers and using
deposits or simply to go deeper and further into existing equipment that provides a rough visualization of rock mass
orebodies. Mine planners are adept at calculating the precise down to 500 m.
lifespan of an existing deposit and strive for the same high
level of predictability when it comes to replacements when If indications of mineralization are given, geophysical sur-
finding current workings become mined out. The reason veys may take place where factors such as magnetism, grav-
for this is simple: accurate information attracts investment ity, electrical conductivity, radioactivity, and seismicity are
which, in turn, secures the mines long term future. measured. All results will be compared with geological and
oreforming theories.
The responsibility for providing this information falls on the
shoulders of the geologist and the exploration contractors they As geologists seek to guide drillers to mineralized rock, pro-
employ. As in all modern mining operations, the demand for fessional experience and intuition also play a large role. Once
speed and efficiency is vigorous. Drilling accuracy, the qual- an area of interest has been determined, exploration drilling
ity of the rock samples, the reliability of the analysis, and, not will begin with several simultaneous objectives, to confirm
least, the total cost of the operations, are all under constant the orebodys existence and to define its quality, size and
scrutiny. grade of mineralization.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 21


EXPLORATION METHODS

Geology

Exploration results

MINERAL RESOURCES MINERAL RESERVES

Increasing level
Inferred
of geological
knowledge Indicated Probable
and confidence

Measured Proven

Consideration of mining, metallurgical, economic, marketing, legal, environmental, social


and governmental factors (the modifying factors)

Figure 1: Four dominant standards converge toward a single international code: JORC (Australia), NI 43-101 (Canada), SAMREC (South Africa), and SME (U.S.).

Mineral resource classification of tonnage, grade and mineral content with a low level of
In order to determine the economic value of mineral depos- confidence, in lack of verified geological or grade continuity.
its and the prospects for mining, a number of classification An Indicated Resource, however, means that on-site tech-
methods are employed worldwide, and two basic categories niques such as outcrops, trenches, pits, workings and drill
are universally accepted: holes, as well as limited sampling, have been undertaken to
Mineral resources indicating valuable deposits that have accumulate data. This will have resulted in reasonable esti-
a reasonable potential for extraction at a viable cost. mates and an elevated confidence level.

Mineral reserves or Ore reserves indicating valuable The final category, Measured Resources, means that
deposits that are both technically and economically feasible enough further sampling has been undertaken that a com-
to extract, as well as legal. petent person, usually a geologist, has declared an acceptable
estimate of a mineral occurrence, indicating factors such as
By definition in mining terminology, an ore deposit must grade, tonnage, shape, densities, physical characteristics and
have a mineral reserve but may or may not have additional mineral content.
resources. Among the various classification schemes that
are regarded as standard, the Australasian code of practice
(JORC code) provides a system, as shown in Figure 1, for Probable and Proven Reserves
the classification of minerals based on Exploration Results, When it comes to mineral resources that are known to be
Mineral Resources and Ore Reserves. feasible for extraction, two further definitions are applied. A
Probable Ore Reserve is that part of an Indicated Resource,
Another established classification is the Canadian CIM clas- sometimes a Measured Resource, that can be mined in an
sification which states that a mineral resource is a concentra- economically viable fashion. It includes diluting material and
tion or occurrence of material of intrinsic economic interest involves allowances for losses that may occur during mining.
in or on the Earth's crust in such form, quality and quantity A Probable Ore Reserve is of sufficient quality to serve as a
that there are reasonable prospects for eventual economic basis for decision on whether to develop a deposit.
extraction.
The highest category of geoscientific certainty is the Proven
Resources are further subdivided in order of increasing Ore Reserve which includes all the parameters of the
geological confidence into Inferred, Indicated and "Probable" category but differs in that it is entirely based on
Measured resources. The first category implies a part of a Measured Resources, providing a complete picture of the
mineral resource that can be estimated or inferred in terms prospects for mining.

22 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


EXPLORATION METHODS

Generally the conversion of resources into reserves requires


the application of various modifying factors, including:
Mining and geological factors: knowledge of the ore deposit,
extraction plans based on ore models, geotechnical risk
assessment (fault lines, rock fractures), ore sampling tech-
niques.

Metallurgical factors: scrutiny of data to ensure highest


accuracy of information supplied from the laboratory.

Economic factors: an ore deposit is only elevated to the


status of ore reserve once it becomes bankable, a proven
economic entity that enables loans and equity to be
drawn.

Environmental factors: ensuring that the prospects for


mining operations do not break environmental regulations
in any given area.

Legal factors: mineral rights and property ownership.

Political factors: how to obtain government concessions and


permits.

Social factors: determining the impact on local communities.

The road to extraction


The next step is to develop a feasibility study that weighs
the gathered data against the costs of mining. If mineral The Atlas Copco Diamec core drilling rig is a powerful machine for deep-hole
extraction is deemed economically viable, planning of mine exploration drilling in underground mines.
operations can proceed.

In this process, the methods and equipment are therefore of applications. Most of these feature a wire line device, or
paramount importance and, if used correctly, can go a long core catcher, which lifts the core sample to the surface,
way to optimizing the results when probing known or poten- eliminating the need to pull up the heavy drill pipe from the
tial orebodies. Exploration drilling is performed to achieve a hole. Through core sample analysis it is also possible to see
Proven Reserves status and to confirm that the surrounding structures in the rock which is important for mine design.
host rock is competent enough to support the necessary
infrastructure.
RC drilling
The two most common methods used for exploration are RC drilling, on the other hand, employs the reverse circula-
core drilling, which is the most traditional method, and RC tion technique to collect samples in the form of chips. The
(Reverse Circulation) drilling which is consistently gaining RC drill rig has dual drill pipes and a blade button bit or
popularity. tricone roller bit. Instead of flushing the open hole, as in
diamond drilling, high pressure compressed air is projected
down between the two pipes, forcing the cuttings to travel up
Core drilling through the drill bit and into the inner tube.
Core drilling involves the use of diamond drilling equipment,
which is able to extract samples of mineralization and rock The cuttings, also known as chips, are then retrieved via the
formations in cylinder-shaped cores, also called core barrels. drillstring and rotation head and deposited in a cyclone unit
The samples are used to analyze orebodies as well as rock that separates them from the air. These chip samples are then
mass to confirm that it is solid and stable enough for neces- collected in bags for analysis.
sary drifts and shafts.
Selecting which method of exploration to use largely depends
It is important that the cores are retrieved in one piece which on the preference and experience of the geologist and the
allows accurate examination and analysis. A wide variety confidence that he or she has in the quality of the samples
of drill rigs are available for both surface and underground obtained.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 23


Reverse circulation drilling (RC) is an accessible exploration method yielding samples in the form of chips. Diamond core drilling is more costly but yields better
data. Combining the methods may be the ideal solution.

Finding the right balance


Time, cost and quality are the three most important factors in exploration drilling.
Used in combination, the two most common methods of rock sampling will provide
mines with an optimum balance.
Chips or cores? That is the question faced by geologists and drilling and core drilling can be a useful approach to optimize
exploration drilling contractors. And the answer today, in the process.
most cases, is both. In the search for minerals and precious
metals, the quality of the ore samples is the single most As with all forms of drilling, there are pros and cons associ-
decisive factor. But as exploration is both a costly and time- ated with these methods. RC drilling is a faster and more
consuming process, a combination of reverse circulation economical way of pre-collaring holes and is especially

24 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


EXPLORATION METHODS

2
1

Figure 1: 1. Pre-collaring of holes. 2. Mineralized zone where chip samples (RC) and/or cores will be extracted.

1 Pre-collaring
2 Mineralized zone: Chip samples from RC
suitable if the driller is simply charged with reconfirming fill drilling needs rock mechanics analysis, and this is where
and/or cores for evaluation
the ore boundary. RC drilling technology has become so RC drilling may well be the better choice as it is both faster
advanced that more and more geologists now believe that and cheaper. Once the general location of the mineralized
chips are perfectly sufficient as a means of determining ore zone has been established, savings can be realized by using
content. RC drilling at the initial pre-collaring stage through over-
burden, before the orebody is reached. The driller can then
However said this, when it comes to obtaining detailed stud- decide whether to continue with RC drilling to extract chips
ies of the characteristics of the ore and host rock, core drilling of ore, or to switch to diamond core drilling to extract cores,
is the method of choice. Not only does core drilling provide which enables more advanced analysis of the ore and host
more comprehensive data, it can also be conducted in difficult rock for infrastructure. In this way, RC drilling becomes the
conditions at depths as far down as 3 000 m. perfect complement to conventional core drilling.

As shown in Figure 2 on the folllowing page, the RC method


Combining methods when and why? can be used to drill enough pre-collars to keep three core
With increased pressure on mines to save costs in all opera- drilling rigs running for 24 hours a day. In this scenario, a
tions, the combination of core drilling and RC drilling means minimum of 25 % of the total meters drilled are specified as
that significant time savings can be achieved. But not all in- core drilling. The total cost of core drilling is higher com-

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 25


EXPLORATION METHODS

Total drilling program 80 holes, 400 m deep.


Total 32 000 m of drilling
Scenario 1
100% core drilling 457 days 70 m core / 24 hours with 1 core drilling rig

Scenario 2
50% RC (pre-collars only) 50% core drilling 301 days 70 m core / 24 hours with 1 core drilling rig

Scenario 3
75% RC (pre-collars & full holes) 25% core drilling 223 days 70 m core / 24 hours with 1 core drilling rig

In case three core drilling rigs would have been available in scenario 1, expected time is 152 days compared with 457 days.
In case three core drilling rigs would have been available in scenario 2, expected time is 149 days compared with 301 days.
A rough conclusion is that the RC rig is somewhat faster than three core drilling rigs together.

Figure 2: Alternative approaches to a major exploration drilling campaign.

Cost ratios U.S. dollars

457 days 2 580 000


301 days 740 000
223 days 320 000

Approx. cost of RC drilling - 30 U.S. dollars / meter


Approx. cost of core drilling - 80 U.S. dollars / meter

Figure 3: Costs of exploration drilling (approx.) based on the above drilling scenarios.

Principles of Reverse Circulation (RC)drilling:


Compressed air is forced through the outer annu-
lar space of the double-pipe drillstring, down to
the bottom of the hole through the double pipe
drillstring. An inner pipe sucks the air upwards,
bringing drill cuttings to the surface where they
are cycloned and collected as ore samples.

26 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


RC drilling
% Core drilling
EXPLORATION METHODS
100

80

60

40

20

0
Canada Latin Russia Australia SE Asia USA Africa
America China

The use of RC drilling and core drilling differs around the world due to varying types of ore deposits and complexities of host rock.

pared to RC drilling, but, experience shows that a combination can provide is crucial in estimating the extension and grade
is recommended in order to achieve the right balance between of mineralized structures. Cores also yield geotechnical data
productivity and costs, as can be seen in Figures 2 and 3. such as rock mechanic structures, which can bevitally impor-
tant when planning an underground mine.
In this example, we can see that both time and costs favor
RC drilling. The figures are easy to evaluate. They vary Although technology is tightening the gap between RC drill-
depending on the location and the local conditions, but the ing and core drilling roughly 55 % of all exploration work
comparison remains the same. uses the RC technique the most important factor for geolo-
gists and mine planners is to maintain a high level of confi-
Traditionally, core drilling rigs have been better suited dence through findings. This, confidence, will determine how
to remote and sensitive environments thanks to their light exploration projects continue. and can be calculated using
weight, but this is rapidly changing as new equipment arrives the formula. The equation is simple: confidence over time
on the market. In extremely cold climates and where perma- multiplied by cost equals profit.
frost is present, RC drilling has some limitations, but anti-
freeze rock drill oil can help to keep the hammer and bottom Confidence x Cost Profit
of the hole free from ice. =
Time

For underground operations, the use of diamond core drilling


Data to the lab is much greater because as rock mechanic analysis is often a
As a rule, geologists require samples that are dry and rep- fundamental requirement. That said, both chips and cores are
resentative. But how do cores and chips compare in the integral factors, and will most likely be joined by others as
laboratory? When it comes to cores, the information they innovative solutions for probing the world below us emerge.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 27


General overview of mining development (Figure 1)

Permission
Prospecting and exploration
Evaluation
Projecting and construction

Exploration permits Mining concession (25 years)


Test mining - Permit
released

Exploration

The calculation of mineral resources and mineral reserves

Conceptual study Profitability study Final evaluation


Scoping study PEA / PFs DFS
Production tests

Projection Plant and


installation

Test mining

r
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Commissioning and production

Figure 1: Establishing a mine is a closely regulated process and consists of clearly defined stages.

Will it be worth it?


If knowledge is the key to success in business, nowhere is this quite so evident
than in the mining industry. The greater the knowledge, the greater the confidence
in long-term viability.

Long before a mine can be established and start to generate economically, but it doesnt end there. The findings are simply
revenues, its owners, investors and bankers will be looking for estimations that must be verified, which can take years in
an answer to one simple question will it be worth it? some cases before a final decision can be made on whether
to proceed or not.
These stakeholders need to assemble as much information as
they can in order to establish the viability of a prospective Over the years there have been many different types of fea-
mining venture, with a view to reducing the economic risks sibility studies employed for this purpose and just as many
as much as possible. names Conceptual, Resource Calculation, Preliminary, and
so forth mostly reflecting the reason for which they were
To do this, they enlist the assistance of professional evalua- commissioned. These days, the most commonly used system
tors, usually a firm of consultant engineers that specializes for establishing the viability of a prospective underground
in carrying out feasibility studies as a means of providing mining venture has three simple steps:
an independent assessment of the projects potential. These Order of Magnitude (also known as scoping)
feasibility studies, also simply called prestudies, are used Preliminary Feasibility
to determine whether the mineral resource can be mined Definitive Feasibility

28 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


PRE STUDIES FOR MINING

As shown in Figure 1, all mine development is a closely


regulated process consisting of a series of clearly defined
stages. Approvals and permits are required from government
authorities for each stage, and the results must be evaluated
and approved before the next stage can proceed. As a rule, the
whole process, from initial prospecting to production startup,
stretches over a seven-year period, but can extend even further
depending on results.

Order of Magnitude
Order of Magnitude studies, or scoping, provide an initial
financial appraisal of an indicated mineral resource. This is
used to guide the exploration and definition of the mineral
deposit and the critical aspects of the project configuration.
They involve a preliminary mine plan and are the basis for
determining whether or not to proceed with an exploration
program and detailed engineering work. Order of Magnitude Figure 2: The mining method and mine layout must be evaluated in the
studies factor in known costs from existing projects that have planning stage using computerized models.
been completed elsewhere and are generally considered to be
accurate to within 4050%.

Preliminary Feasibility
Preliminary Feasibility studies or prefeasibility studies are
more detailed than Order of Magnitude studies. They are used,
to determine whether to proceed with step three a detailed
feasibility study and are also used as a reality check to
identify areas within the study that require more attention.
Preliminary Feasibility studies factor in all known unit costs
and estimate gross quantities once preliminary engineering
and mine design has been completed. This step is normally
carried out by a small group of multi-disciplined technical
individuals and is considered accurate within 2030%.

Definitive Feasibility Geological surveys typically involve limited core drilling and sampling
Step three, the Definitive Feasibility study, determines defini- from the surface.
tively whether or not to proceed with the project. It forms the
basis for capital appropriation and provides the budget figures
for the project. Detailed feasibility studies require a significant
amount of formal engineering work and are considered accu-
rate to within 1015%. They are also said to cost 1 % of
the total estimated project cost. With advancements in modern
calculation technology, prestudies are now more reliable than
ever, but research shows that a large percentage still fails to
reflect reality. There are many reasons for this, not least that
circumstances often change between study and implemen-
tation and that both the calculated capital investments and
operating costs turn out to be higher than expected.

This may also be attributed to inadequate resources and that


it often takes longer to ramp up than expected. In any event,
the result is lower sales revenues than expected and that the
projected commercial result is not achieved. A rule of thumb
is that all prestudy work should be benchmarked as far as
possible and that all assumptions be reviewed by a team of Once a definitive feasibility study has been approved, further exploration
specialists with no personal interest in the outcome. drilling enables the type and extent of mineralization to be defined.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 29


14

15
1
16
1. Settling pond
2. Open pit (mined out)
3. Decline
17 4. Abandoned level
18 5. Mined out and backfilled
6. Sublevel
2 7. Main level
8. Producing stopes
3
9. Haulage level
10. Development of stopes
11. Internal ramp
4
12. Exploration drilling
5
13. Futures reserves?
14. Headframe
6 19 15. Production plant
7 20 16. Tailings
17. Skip
8 21 18. Ventilation shaft
22 19. Ore pass
9
10 23 20. Cage
24 21. Skip
11 25
26 22. Water basin,
27 Pump station
28 23. Crusher
24. Ore bin
12 25. Ore
26. Measuring pocket
13
27. Skip filling station
28. Sump

Figure 11(above)
Settling
andpond 15 Production
2 (next page): Basic infrastructure requirements plant
for a typical underground mine.
2 Open pit (mined out) 16 Tailings
3 Decline 17 Skip
4 Abandoned level 18 Ventilation shaft

Creating
5 Mined out and backfilled 19 Ore pass
6 Sublevel 20 Cage
7 Main level 21 Skip
8 Producing stopes 22 Water basin, Pump station
9 Haulage level 23 Crusher
10 Development of stopes 24 Ore bin
11 Internal ramp 25 Ore

a working infrastructure
12 Exploration Drilling
13 Futures reserves?
14 Headframe
26 Measuring pocket
27 Skip filling station
28 Sump

A well thought-out infrastructure is the first building block for any underground mine.
This network directly relates to the geology and the mining method applied, but also
reflects the individual choices of the mine owner.

The departure point is the same, but as all underground It is vitally important that the main level, sublevels, ramps, ore
mines are different, it naturally follows that the infrastructure passes and shafts that comprise the main elements of the mine
required to extract the ore and bring it to the surface has to be infrastructure, are always installed in rock-mechanically safe
tailor-made. This work starts in the earliest study phases and areas and at a safe distance from mining operations.
is adjusted and adapted successively as the final mine plan
gradually emerges. For example, the roadways that run to and from the mining
areas should be placed where they are least affected by the
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, the infra- ongoing production drilling and blasting, ensuring that they
structure is determined by a range of considerations, starting will be easy and safe to use. Similarly, all shafts should be
with the nature and shape of the orebody through to specific placed at a good distance so as to avoid disturbance to the
environmental objectives. mining operations.

30 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


MINE INFRASTRUCTURE

As shown in Figures 1 and 2, the infrastructure needs to make


7
sure that every possible need of the mine is systematically
met, from shafts and access installations to ventilation needs,
8
drainage and pumping, utilities and material handling.

1 9
A holistic approach 2 10
There is another aspect of this holistic, total approach to
11
infrastructure planning that is sometimes overlooked or under-
appreciated. If all parameters are taken into consideration
3
before mine development begins, and modern equipment is
used, there are huge cost savings to be made. 4

The installation of compressed air, electric power, ventilation, 12


13
water and other resources are typical examples. These can be 5
14
strategically located as utility points wherever they are needed 15
16
in the mine, instead of running cables and pipes over long dis- 17
tances down ramps with great risk of leakage and waste. The 6
main raise functions as a hub from which utilities are sourced
on different levels and is the first step toward implementing a
1. Open pit (mined out) 9. Headframe
modern resources management system.
2. Decline 10. Ventilation shaft
3. Mined out and backfilled 11. Skip
Typically, a mines infrastructure aims to meet the following
or caving masses (SLC, BC) 12. Cage
needs:
4. Production 13. Water basin
Services: electricity, water, ventilation, drainage, pumping,
5. Producing stopes, development Pump station
maintenance. of stopes 14. Ore bin
Transportation: drawpoints, ore passes, ore bins, skips, 6. Future reserves 15. Conveyor belt
ramps, hoists, access drifts, roadways and tunnels for trains, 7. Tailings 16. Measuring pocket
trucks and conveyor haulage. 8. Production plant 17. Sump
Safety: emergency routes and rescue chambers.
Mine development: areas for ongoing exploration and
expansion.

Proactive thinking
As a testament to its importance, more and more technological
development is now focused on improving the infrastructure
of existing underground mines, as well as modernizing the
approach for new mines.

This includes the ability to drill long, straight holes (ITH); the
use of raiseborers for raises, ore passes and shafts, which also
greatly increases safety; the installation of modern commu-
nication and remote monitoring systems; and the possibility
to adapt ventilation supply to the needs of each mining area.
All these developments lead to significant efficiency gains
and cost savings.

This becomes especially important for mines that at some


point in their lifetimes may go deeper, which, in itself, pres-
ents a range of new challenges such as increased seismic
activity requiring more advanced stress analysis and more
complex rock reinforcement.

Flexibility and a proactive mindset are key in sustainable


mining operations, today and in the future. In this respect, infra-
structure is the most important starting point and, if planned Robbins raiseborer used to drill service and personnel shafts, ore passes,
correctly, will be the backbone for long-term success. stope openings and ventilation shafts.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 31


Figure 1: Horizontal view of an open stoping mine layout using backfill. Infrastructure drifts are located in the host rock outside the orebody.

Establishing an
optimized mine layout
The way an underground mine is designed is a key factor for long-term, successful
operation. Put simply, the easier it is to extract the ore, quickly and safely, the more
productive and profitable the mine will be.

All mines are unique, and nowhere is this more apparent than the short term and long term perspective. In other words, the
in the mine layout. In the same way as the infrastructure mine modern mine planner will need to take all potential develop-
is designed to enable the ore to be mined and brought to the ments across the mines projected lifespan into account.
surface as efficiently as possible, the layout of the mine must
also be meticulously planned. The mine layout is defined as the type and location of opera-
tional facilities; i.e. the design and positioning of auxiliary
The feasibility phase is always followed by the layout phase roadways, the placing of workshops for servicing machinery,
in the overall planning work, and it is vitally important to and the type and proximity of skips, conveyors, ramps, pump-
take every possible requirement into consideration, both in ing stations and production areas. This is typically done in a

32 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


MINE LAYOUT

896 Z

Mined in 7 10 8 11 9
Central Zone 3m

916 Z

Possible
sequence 3 9 4 10 5 11

6
956 Z
17.5 m Primary stope: Secondary stope:
15 m wide x 40 m high 20 m wide x 40 m high
Drawpoint Paste fill Rock ffill
ill
spacing Note:
N
Note
Ho
How
ow this
o t hole must be designed to just
miss the
m t drift below to break properly

1 6 2 7 3 8 4
996 Z

Figure 2: Vertical view of a sublevel open stoping layout showing typical mining sequence and backfill procedure.

collaborative effort among mining engineers, geologists who specifically to accommodate the increasing use of automated
study the rock and orebody, hydrologists who analyze ground- machinery. Figure 1 provides an example of a layout that has
water, ventilation and mechanical engineers and rock mechan- taken these factors into consideration. But the situation is
ics experts. The starting point is the mining method and this changing. Mine layout involves complex calculation which
dictates the foundation of the basic layout. For example, the has been made easier thanks to technological developments.
requirements of drill and blast mining in hard rock formations
(igneous rock) differ considerably from the methods used in
coal and similar soft rock applications where continuous (long Meticulous planning
wall) mining is commonplace. It is a proven error of judgment to presume that new facili-
ties can easily be added to the mine layout over time, as and
In a typical mine, the layout is developed based on the when required. This is a costly strategy and usually the most
following conditions: difficult to implement. Instead, it is important to establish the
Orebody access and mining method layout of the mine as one functioning system at the earliest
Geographical location possible stage, with the long-term potential of the mine in
Rock characteristics mind. What sections of the mine are likely to need wider and
Safety stronger roadways and ramps in five years time? Where are
Production capacity automated drilling, loading and haulage equipment likely to
Capital and operational costs be introduced? How deep are the miners likely to go in the
years ahead and how will this impact the layout?
Although it may seem obvious to conveniently locate under-
ground workshops to facilitate the regular servicing of drill To find models for extracting the largest amount of ore at
rigs, loaders and other machinery, in reality this is far from the lowest possible cost and over the entire life of a mine,
the norm. Even less commonplace are mine layouts that a wide variety of mining professionals are involved in the
incorporate transport and communication systems designed design process. They often have sophisticated computerized

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 33


MINE LAYOUT

Number of accidents per million work hours (Source: SveMin, Sweden)

200

175

150

125

100

75

50

25

0
1949 1954 1959 1964 1969 1974 1979 1984 1989 1994 1999 2004
Year

Figure 3: Mining related accidents have significantly decreased thanks to stricter health and safety regulations a key consideration in the mine layout process.

models at their disposal with which to optimize the design Safety first
for the entire mining cycle. Transport is a typical problem in An overriding aim in planning the mine layout is to con-
mines where trucking equipment and payloads only allow for tinuously strive for increased safety and productivity. Both
a limited incline of roads and ramps. of these things go hand in hand and may require successive
improvements. However, no mine plan should ever proceed
The benefits of modern software tools include: without carefully defining the risks to personnel in any given
3D simulation of layout and infrastructure operation. With increasingly stringent health and safety
Optimum production rate analysis regulations worldwide, mine planners are using advanced
Ore and waste transportation assessment models where high, low and medium risk levels
Fleet tracking with real time reports are identified.
Management of production and environmental issues
Ground instability, atmospheric contamination, mine shaft
Nevertheless, given the rapid advance of mining technology construction, transport, seismicity, rockburst, explosives, and
and the constant fluctuation in world demand for metals and fire hazards are just a few examples of factors that must be fed
minerals, this work also involves a large measure of calcu- into computerized risk assessment programs and extensively
lated guesswork. Furthermore, it is important to remember that evaluated. A typically challenging scenario is when mines go
human expertise and computerized models are interdependent. deeper to recover additional ore. In this case, the planner has
One example of this is the Atlas Copco program Care For to identify areas of increased seismic activity and make sure
Mining.When applied this program, it is set up in close coop- that all facilities are placed out of harms way.
eration with customers to avoid any risk of misunderstanding.
It consists of a versatile simulation technique which calculates When developing the mine layout, as with infrastructure, it
the number of trucks and loaders needed in a mine to achieve is advisable to adopt a proactive approach at every step. A
a specified level of production. detailed design will encompass factors such as ore recovery-
to-cost ratios over time, equipment selection and infrastruc-
Care for Mining can simulate any underground mine with pre- ture, mine development and safety issues. These are the
cise distances and declines of roads and ramps. It focuses on crucial parameters for solving problems and defining the path
the haulage capacity of the entire fleet and provides the best to a sustainable, optimized, long-term model for mining.
layout scenario for haulage based on production and current
working conditions. In addition, the program simulates the
effects of availability and preventive maintenance.

34 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


Garpenberg Garpenberg North

Gruvsj shaft Shaft


Lina shaft Capacity: 450 000 tpa Smltarmossen Dammsjn Capacity: 850 000 tpa
0Z 0Z

Dammsj Agmin

?
400 Z ? Lappberget 400 Z

500-785 Z
500-
Finnhyttan 800 Z
Tyskgrden Gransjn
800 Z 700- 800 Z
1000 Z Kaspersbo 870
70 Z
910 Z
Kanal Ore Strand Ore
? 925-1100 Z
Potential

1200 Z Dammsjn Kvarnberget 1100- 1000-1300 Z 1200 Z


1400 Z

1600 Y 2000 Y 2400 Y 2800 Y 3200 Y 3600 Y 4000 Y 4400 Y 4800 Y 5200 Y

Production levels

Potential areas outside ore reserves 2005-01

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


A long section view of the layout at Garpenberget mine, Sweden, showing all orebodies, shafts and production levels.

35
MINE LAYOUT
Ongoing preparation of road in production area.

Preventive maintenance
for maximum uptime
Keeping a close eye on wear and tear is an indispensible part of the mining process,
coupled with rapid action when infrastructure and equipment need attention. For
this, planning and reporting systems have a striking effect.

There is widespread appreciation among modern mining high availability of equipment that this provides is crucial
companies for the role of preventive maintenance in the for production reliability, which enables mining companies
mining process. This has become especially apparent in to follow their plans and meet their targets.
recent years with the constantly increasing level of tech-
nology associated with mining equipment, coupled with a As in many other industries, maintenance is equally impor-
growing scarcity of skilled labor. tant when it comes to facilities and infrastructure. Roads,
workshops, shafts, hoists, ramps and all other components
Preventive maintenance as a means of avoiding disturbance of a mine need continuous attention in order to safeguard
to operations and costly downtime is beyond dispute. The not only productivity but a reliable working environment.

36 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


SERVICE AND MAINTENANCE

A dry, well-lit and well-equipped central workshop in an underground mine.

Although it is true to say that a great deal of progress has elimination of bottlenecks primarily by building up storage
been made in this area around the world, there is still a lot capacity in the process system and achieving good quality in
of room for improvement. all areas of mining.

With the development of more advanced underground


Quality in all areas equipment offering longer service intervals, the nature of
In order to achieve maximum efficiency in service and main- maintenance work has shifted from repairs to component
tenance, it should not be regarded as an isolated function but replacement. Instead, the removed components are trans-
rather as an integral part of a process in which all components ferred to the surface for repair. In addition, more mining
interact. companies are also providing areas where equipment sup-
pliers are able to establish their own workshops in order to
The ability to monitor equipment performance and automati- provide expert maintenance service, and this is a trend that
cally compile statistics on wear and tear has enabled compa- is expected to continue.
nies to optimize their service arrangements. This information
reveals where the biggest problem areas lie and enables pre-
ventive actions to be taken in good time. Simultaneously, the Maintenance planning
training of maintenance technicians has improved as more In order to make the most of preventive maintenance and
and more suppliers develop professional on-site training pro- avoid disruption to operations, mining companies must imple-
grams for their customers. ment a planning system with data mapping. This, in turn,
requires strategy and organization. The objective is to make
An interesting case in point is the approach that has been maintenance and service as calculable as possible so precise
adopted at the Boliden mining company in Sweden, which, outage time of all equipment can be factored into the produc-
with the help of the supplier, Atlas Copco, has targeted the tion cycle.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 37


SERVICE AND MAINTENANCE

Service and maintenance on a Boomer T1 D.

A maintenance organization should always be established in Availability: calculated by dividing machine uptime with
accordance with the production strategy. It should measure planned operational time
performance and keep records, taking into account every- Utilization: percentage of calendar time when machinery
thing from emergency repairs to scheduled maintenance is used for production
hours with specified procedures.
To illustrate with an example: of a 24-hour calendar time with
Whatever the underground project may be, benefits will be 1 h of planned downtime, 1 h of preventive maintenance, 0.5 h
obtained from employing such a system, including the fol- machine interruptions and 2 h external interruptions, the
lowing: calculation will show the following:
Ratio of production vs. maintenance
Mechanical availability data Availability = (24-1-1-0.5)/(24-1) = 93.47%
Service tracking of components Utilization = (24-1-0.5-2)/(24) = 85.42%
Cost and trend reports
As shown in Figure 1, preventive maintenance is essential in
Calculating the availability of equipment is an efficient way order to secure maximum machine uptime and is particularly
of achieving full capacity production in a mine. In order to important for mines working with automated processes.
optimize the preventive maintenance cycle, a number of defi-
nitions and distinctions are normally adhered to and include It is also important for mines to monitor and follow up on
the following: maintenance needs: how, when and why it is performed and
Maintenance shutdown: planned on a yearly basis the results that a chosen system yields. A few basic require-
Machine interruptions: downtime due to technical malfunc- ments will include answers to questions such as:
tion of equipment Is there a clear division of responsibilities?
External interruptions: downtime due to factors unrelated Are procedures and instructions established?
to machinery including rock fall or changed market condi- How is monitoring and reporting performed?
tions Is there an organized system for making improvements?

38 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


SERVICE AND MAINTENANCE

Calendar time

Planned
downtime Planned drift time

Preventive
maintenance
Machine
interruptions Available time

External
interruptions Utilized time

Figure above describes the relation between calendar time, planned


drift time available time and utilized time.

Location of workshops
In general, service and maintenance facilities should be
located as close as possible to the orebody. A rule of thumb
is the further the distance, the greater the cost and vice versa,
but in many cases, the most practical solution is to locate
main workshops at strategic locations that are at a safe dis-
tance from the mining areas and smaller workshops for minor
maintenance work in close proximity to the mining areas.

However, it must be remembered that these smaller work-


shops may have to be relocated as the mining operation
advances. It is also quite often the case that main workshops
are set up in close proximity to central installations such as
hoisting systems, water and pumping systems.

To achieve maximum uptime, it is advisable to look at the


whole mining process, preferably using a maintenance plan-
ning system. Statistical data should be used to follow up,
eliminate bottlenecks and establish the most favorable condi-
tions, such as good road foundations and a well drained, dry
environment that protects cables and other sensitive equip-
ment components.

In addition to machine maintenance, road maintenance and


grading of ramps should be an ongoing process and major
repairs should be carried out before wear and tear gets out of
control. For example, dirt roads need to be regularly main-
tained to allow not only the speedy and safe transport of
excavated rock and ore from mining areas but also to reduce
wear and tear factors on equipment such as vehicle tires.

In this way, the requirements on service and maintenance


further down the line will be that much less and, therefore,
less costly.

Service and maintenance on a Scooptram ST14.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 39


Cyclone Tailings from concentrator

Thickener

Vacuum filter

Binder cement and/or slag

Mixer

Paste to the mine

Paste pump

Figure 1: The flowsheet principle in a paste fill factory. Mine tailings are typically mixed with cement or other binders.

Backfilling for
safety and efficiency
A large number of mines use backfill for stabilization and safety, as well as for reaching
the ore and preserving the environment. Used mainly in sublevel open stoping and
cut and fill mining, a good knowledge of fill types, preparation methods and how
these are applied is decisive for successful results.

Backfill is widely used around the world to fill the man-made ponds and minimizes the threat of collapse, which causes sub-
voids created in the underground environment once ore has sidence and damage to surface structures and surroundings.
been mined out and removed. Its function is to stabilize the
workings, but it can also assist miners in a number of ways, There are also other advantages associated with backfilling.
partly by creating a floor from which they can work. The technique prevents big rock fall and reduces the burden
on ventilation systems, which, in turn, results in lower costs
In addition to reducing open spaces, and thereby the risk of for ventilation. Apart from the caving method, where it is not
falling rock, the practice also has important environmental ben- technically possible, backfill is a highly recommended prac-
efits above ground; it reduces stockpiles of waste and tailings tice in modern mining. At the same time, a good knowledge

40 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


BACKFILLING

CAF fill
y
dar ined ed
con nm min
e ry U Un
S ma
Pri ry ed ed
Te
rtia y min min CAF fill
dar Un ed Un ed
con min ed nm
in
e ry Un U
S
Pri
ma min
Un

Designed stopes Primary stope extracted Second Primary stope extracted


CAF filled due to unmined adjacent stopes CAF filled due to adjacent unmined stopes

CAF fill
ROCK fill
ROCK fill
CAF fill
mi ned mi ned ROCK fill
Un d Un
mine
Un

Secondary stope extraction Secondary stope extracted Tertiary stope extracted


CAF filled on side adjacent to unmined stope CAF filled on side adjacent to unmined stope ROCK filled as no adjacent stopes
ROCK filled on side adjacent to mined stope ROCK filled on side adjacent to mined stope

Figure 2: Stope extraction and filling sequence using Cement Added Fill (CAF) at Olympic Dam, Australia.

of the types of fill that are available today and the methods This method is still in use today, for example at Finlands
used for producing and applying it underground is essential Kemi mine. However, the most common use of rock fill (RF)
in order to achieve optimal mining results. nowadays is for filling secondary and tertiary stopes, or in cut
and fill mining, and it is usually a convenient and economic
means of disposal for waste from development. In sublevel
The role of backfilling stoping, primary and secondary stopes require stabilized fill
The original function of backfill in hard rock mines was to and can use either Cemented Hydraulic Fill (CHF), Paste Fill
support rock walls and pillars or to provide a working surface (PF) or Cemented Rock Fill (CRF) for a good result. Some
for the mining operation. This was initially accomplished by mines can also introduce a third stage, known as tertiary
rock fill and, more often in the present day, by hydraulic fill stopes, which can be applied in some sequences of sublevel
(HF). If cement is added to a hydraulic backfill of concentra- stoping, as seen in Figure 2.
tor tailings, a smooth and hard surface results. This is useful
for mechanized removal of broken ore from the subsequent
mining operation, and reduces dilution from the fill. Backfill The cost of backfilling
also affords the opportunity for more selective mining and The cost of backfill typically ranges between 1020% of the
better recovery of ore and pillars, thereby increasing both total cost of mining, with cement representing up to 75% of
mine life and total return on investment. average backfill costs. Increased demands for international
safety standards, as well as the need to increase ore recov-
Having been employed for decades, it has become increas- ery, have led to the development of new types of backfill
ingly apparent that backfill has a dual role to play. Apart from and backfilling practices to meet both safety standards and
substantially improving mining efficiency, it also benefits economical demands
the environment as much of the waste rock from mining is
recycled and utilized underground. Originally, backfill com-
prised waste rock, either from development or handpicked Choosing the right fill
from broken ore. Some larger mines in the U.S. quarried There are two basic types of fill that are used around the world
rock and gravitated it down fill raises to the mine workings. loose fill and stabilized fill. These, in turn, are available

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 41


BACKFILLING

is normally channelled through a fill raise to trucks or con-


veyors for underground transportation.

The advantages of CRF include high strength due to its high


cement-to-rock ratio. This provides a stiff fill that contributes
to regional ground support. CRF is still selected for some new
mines and many operators prefer this system. Since the major
cost component of backfill is the cement at a ratio of 1:2, this
fill is not economical and has been replaced with ready-mix
concrete with a cement content of 1012% for a standard
3 000 psi or 20 Mpa mix, where the rock needs to be crushed
beforehand.

Hydraulic Fill (HF) is a loose fill normally used for the cut
and fill method in vertical orebodies. It is produced from sand
tailings in process plants (milling) on the surface. A cyclone
procedure is needed to remove fine particles, which enables
the drainage of water (which is necessary to get a firm sur-
face) once the fill has been pumped down through the mine.

The hydraulic fills are composed of concentrator tailings


that would otherwise have been deposited on the surface.
The mill tailings were cycloned to remove slimes so that the
contained water would decant. This fill was transported (very
often pumped/gravitated down in backfill tubes) underground
as slurry composed of around 55% solids. This is the typical
underflow for thickeners and the pulp density normally used
for surface tailings lines.

When the grind from the mill was too fine for decanting in
the stopes, alluvial sand was employed instead of tailings.
Particles of alluvial sand are naturally rounded, enabling a
Paste fill plant at Garpenberg Mine, Sweden.
higher content to be pumped than for hydraulic fill made from
cycloned tailings. This type of fill is commonly referred to as
sand fill. Many mines still employ non-cemented hydraulic
in a number of different variations, all of which have distinct fill, particularly for filling some stopes or cut and fill rooms.
advantages and disadvantages. The quantity of drain water from hydraulic backfill slurry
containing 70% solids is only a quarter of that resulting from
Rock Fill (RF) is a conventional fill comprised of waste rock a 55% solids mix. The porosity of hydraulic backfill is nearly
directly from mine development and used the way it is or 50%. It may be walked upon just a few hours after placement.
mixed with sand tailings. If necessary, RF can be gravitated
or transported down from a stockpile on the surface. The Cemented Hydraulic Fill (CHF), also referred to as stabilized
compaction of RF depends on size distribution when applied fill, consists of tailings mixed with cement in a mixing plant.
to the mining room. Water is added so that the fill can be pumped down in tubes.
This method requires top drainage since the cement stabiliza-
Cement Added Fill (CAF) is a generic term for all fill types tion process will not allow bottom drainage.
that contain cement. Cemented Rock Fill (CRF) is based on
waste rock mixed with a selected concentration of cement. Portland cement, added to hydraulic fill as a binder, also adds
The waste rock is produced either underground or at quar- strength, and this system of fill, in normal and high density, is
ries on the surface. By crushing the rock down to an even employed at many mines around the world. A portion of the
fragmentation, it gives better mixing with the cement. CRF cement may be substituted using fly ash, ground slag, lime or
originally consisted of spraying cement slurry or cemented anhydrite. If cement is added in the ratio of 1:30, the backfill
hydraulic fill on top of stopes filled with waste rock, as prac- provides better support for pillars and rock walls. If the top
ticed at Geco and Mount Isa mines. It can also be mixed at a layer is then enriched at 1:10, the backfill provides a smooth
mixing station before being dumped into the stope. and hard surface from which broken ore can be loaded and
removed. The addition of cement reduces ore dilution from
Nowadays, cement slurry is added to the waste rock before the fill and facilitates selective mining and greater recovery
the stope is filled. Where rock is quarried on the surface, it from both stopes and pillars.

42 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


BACKFILLING

Water decanted from cemented fill has to be handled appro-


priately to avoid cement particles reaching the ore passes and
sumps since surplus water from this type of fill often causes A
increased pump wear, leading to additional water pumping Drift 1 Drift 2 Drift 3 Drift 4
costs. One approach is to reduce the amount of water in the fill, Fill Fill Fill
increasing solids content to 6575% and more in a high-density
fill. Additives can also reduce the water decant from fill.

Paste Fill (PF) is another stabilized fill and a popular alterna-


tive to CHF. It is typically composed of mine tailings mixed
B
with cement or other hydraulic binders, adding a small
amount of water to achieve a thick, mud-like consistency.
Drift 1 Drift 3 Drift 2
Paste fill differs from all other fills in that it absorbs water
Fill Fill
for less waste, with both environmental and cost savings to
be gained. The fill is pumpable with a minimum use of water,
as illustrated in Figure 1.

Because the slimes fraction of the tailings forms part of the Fencing Fencing
mix, cement always needs to be added into paste fill, with C
1.5% as the minimum requirement to prevent liquefaction.
Precise control of pulp density is required for gravity flow Drift 1 Drift 3 Drift 2
of paste fill, where a 12% increase can more than double Fill Fill
pipeline pressures. Paste fill is frequently chosen because it TT4_8D-Mining
uses unclassified tailings and less water, but the cost of a
paste fill plant is approximately twice that of a conventional
hydraulic fill plant of the same capacity.

There are also many other benefits to be gained by using D


paste fill. For example, it involves less handling of water and Drift 1 Drift 3 Drift 2
less wear and tear on pumps as it contains a lower concentra- Cemented Cemented
tion of cement, reducing the impact during pumping. Another Fill Fill
property of paste fill is that it can be quite slippery on the sur-
face, and when used as a platform to work from, it sometimes
has to be topped up with waste rock to give the desired grip.
Figure 3: Drift and fill mining sequence.

Finally, Composite Fills (CF) involve a combination of all of


the above fills and also commonly include loose waste rock
from development.
Primary Secondary Primary Secondary Primary Secondary

Application and design


When designing fill preparation and placement systems,
boreholes are required for the installation of tube networks
through which the hydraulic fill can be pumped down to the
various mining areas. Tubes can also be installed along the
drifts and ramps, but a modern mine will use boreholes as
this considerably shortens the installation distances. Another
benefit is increased safety since damaged tubes adversely
affect the working environment and production. Installation
in holes also reduces vibrations in the tubes.

These holes are often long and must be drilled with great
precision. Mining equipment such as raiseboring machines,
exploration drill rigs and specialized longhole rigs are ide-
15 m 20 m
ally suited for this type of work. It is also common to drill
additional holes, often called redundant holes, which can be
used if the primary holes should collapse or become blocked. Figure 4: 1 Primary stopes (with cemented backfill), 2 Secondary stopes (with only
Fill preparation and placement systems should be simple waste rock fill), 3 Cablebolting with Cabletec, 4 Production drilling with Simba.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 43


BACKFILLING

Hydraulic fill

Low cement
content Slice 1

Slice 2
High cement
content and
reinforcement
Slice 3

Slice 4 Face 1 Face 2

Figure 5: Underhand cut and fill mining may be used in poor rock conditions. The method involves using the fill as a roof, yet requires meticulous preparation
in the mining room (cleanliness, adding rock bolts, etc.)

and efficient, with special attention paid to quality control. stopes to be mined such as at Mount Isa or at the Olympic
Two systems are used: cyclic filling and delayed filling. In Dam in Australia, as shown in Figure 2.
cyclic systems, the fill is placed in successive lifts, as in cut
and fill mining sequences. The fill can form a platform for When planning a hydraulic fill system, major considerations
the operation of mining equipment, mining through or beside are water drainage, tube systems, collection and disposal,
the backfill, see Figure 2, or undertaken below, see Figure 5. particularly in deep mines. If less than half of the tailings are
In delayed backfill, the entire stope is filled in one operation. recovered from the mill circuit, a supplementary fill material
In this case, the fill must be able to stand as an unsupported will be needed.
wall that is rigid enough to withstand the effects of blasting.
It should allow adjacent stopes to be extracted with minimal Other important considerations include:
dilution from sloughing. Ore that is diluted with backfill Design of fill walls: if a wall is badly dimensioned and
causes problems, such as ore losses, and creates additional poorly designed, resulting in collapse, a very dangerous
costs for the mine and processing plant. situation may occur as major water influx can be triggered
in certain mining areas. Shotcreting in modern wall design
Many factors have to be taken into consideration when provides a good solution.
designing a backfill operation. The geology and dimensions Speed of fill during pumping: if the speed of the paste fill
of the orebody and its dip and grade are important, as are the being pumped is too great, excessive wear on the piping
physical and mechanical properties of both the ore and its system will result.
host rock. Environmental considerations such as fill material Dimensioning of pipes and tilt angle: crucial for optimal
resources, mining method, production capacity and opera- speed of fill through the piping system. In secondary stopes,
tions schedules all impact on the design, as do the fill mixes the fill must remain in place during mining of the adja-
and the strength that can be achieved using available materi- cent area. The height, width and length of the excavated
als. It is also important to carefully consider the pressure that space are key factors in balancing costs.
may be added on mine walls, especially bulkheads or backfill Increased costs: problems occur if dimensioning is inac-
walls, by some fill types that create large amounts of excess curate and paste fill leaks into production areas.
water. The existing pressure on walls can be dealt with by Drainage system: water needs to be pumped to the surface
the correct dimensioning of bulkheads and water drainage as quickly as possible. Returning large volumes of water
systems, thereby minimizing the risk of collapse or damage. back to the surface can be a costly exercise, and install-
In this respect, the use of paste fill is greatly beneficial as it ing the infrastructure may be difficult, expensive and time-
does not produce a large surplus of water. consuming.

With this knowledge of the various backfilling techniques


Planning considerations available today, miners will considerably increase the pros-
Mine planners focus on saving costs by only strengthening pect of establishing a smooth-running and, above all, safe
the fill with cement where it is required, e.g. close to the next operation.

44 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


BACKFILLING

Figure 6: Cut and fill mining with the backfill ser-


ving as floors for subsequent mining upwards.

Photo insert: An Atlas Copco Boomer


drill rig drilling a cut and fill face.

2 3

1. Ventilation tube
2. Hydraulic sandfill
1 Ventilation tube
3. Ramp
2 Hydraulic sandfill
3 Ramp

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 45


Deep mining
for tomorrows minerals
The robust loader Scooptram ST7LP is designed to cope with the harsh environment of deep mines where high ambient temperatures, seismicity and
rock bursts are frequent.

As the numbers of orebodies that can be mined using conventional methods are
becoming increasingly scarce, the mining industry is preparing for an inhospitable
environment. Seismicity and heat are two of the challenges as miners venture deeper
toward the center of the Earth.
When miners approach the limit of an orebody at the lowest Although our planets mineral resources remain vast, fewer ore-
level of excavation, they are usually confronted with two bodies that lie relatively near the surface are being discovered,
options. They can either abandon the site or look for miner- and the number of conventional mines established each year are
alized areas elsewhere, which is the traditional approach, or diminishing. This has led to deeper workings at existing mines
they can venture deeper into the Earths core. as an increasingly popular alternative.

In countries with rich mineral reserves, such as South Africa, So what qualifies as deep mining? The answer is any opera-
it is true that some mines can sustain running operations for tion that extends down beyond 1 000 m via shafts and open-
up to a hundred years. This, however, is a rare occurrence ings. This limit is generally considered the breaking point
and most companies today are working hard to secure an for geological and tectonic stresses where manpower and
operational lifespan of 1520 years at various mining sites. equipment are more likely to be put at risk.

46 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


MINING GOES DEEPER

The basic principle is that the deeper you go the more extreme
the environment becomes, with increased heat, pressure and
rock instability. The deepest mine in the world today, the
TauTona Mine in South Africa, extends to nearly 4 000 m,
having employed a number of special techniques.

Typical challenges of deep mining operations include:


Higher ambient temperatures
Seismicity and potential wall convergence
Increased risk of rock burst

As the preconditions change drastically in deep drifts, safe


and productive mining is not an easy task. But with new
technology and advanced mining methods, these obstacles
can be overcome in the quest to secure long-term production. The surface installations at TauTona, South Africa, the world's deepest mine
with operations at nearly 4 000 m below ground.

Savings on infrastructure
While it is primarily the scarcity of viable orebodies at
accessible levels that is driving the mining industry deeper
underground, there are also cost saving benefits associ-
ated with this developing practice. To make the shift to a
deep mining operation requires its fair share of investment,
but it is often significantly lower than what is required to
develop new infrastructures at new sites. Nevertheless, the
added complexity involved should not be underestimated.
While efforts to stabilize the rock may be successful, rock
bursts at deep levels are unpredictable and potentially life
threatening.

A list of basic criteria must include advanced extra


measures including:
Specially modified equipment
High capacity ventilation and cooling systems
Increased ground support
Monitoring of rock stability The tailings management division at KGHM's Rudna Mine in Poland.
Monitoring of mining induced seismicity
Monitoring of air quality
Emergency planning

To ensure safe and sustained production in a highly con-


strained and sensitive environment, equipment used at
extreme depths must be modified in various ways. Drill rigs
should be equipped with reinforced cabins, advanced com-
munication and monitoring systems, as well as high capacity
cooling systems.

Articulated design, especially when it comes to truck haul-


age, may also play a key role in helping operators to navigate
through narrow drifts and tunnels without damaging walls,
which could jeopardize the mines stability as well as the safety
of personnel and equipment. There will also be an increased
demand for maximum automation of mining processes.

Seismicity and rock bursts


It is not uncommon for mining operations to affect the natural Rudna's deep-seated and narrow vein orebodies require specially adapted
stress fields of rock mass. But the impact is far greater at equipment to keep dilution low and ore recovery high.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 47


MINING GOES DEEPER

Low profile drifts are expected to become more common as existing mines increase their operational depths.

1 000 m and beyond where seismic activity is more frequent The technique is based on measuring the velocity of seismic
and more severe. waves travelling through the rock mass which are picked up
by geophones distributed throughout the mine. These waves
For all deep mining operations, a comprehensive ground sup- will determine all forms of seismic events, big or small, that
port system is essential in order to avoid injuries, damages to can be expected. The location of seismic events can be calcu-
equipment and loss of infrastructure. But knowing where and lated by combining the signals from several geophones. All
how to implement ground control in an optimum way requires results, however, should be crosschecked and compared with
advanced technology and considerable expertise. When stress findings in the study of rock burst events in the area.
gets accumulated in sections of rock mass, extremely hazard-
ous rock bursts can occur. Rock bursts are not only difficult
to predict but can easily be triggered at the mining area where Exploration in 3D
face bursts are frequent dangers. More and more studies of deep deposits are conducted today
using 3D scanning technology that enables detailed mapping
One method of avoiding face bursts is to pinpoint and blast of rock structure. It is a method that is expected to grow rap-
rock surrounding the excavation area to divert stress fields idly in the years to come. By taking full advantage of 3D geo-
away from the rock face. However, this method should only logical modeling, mining companies will be able to improve
be one step in the process of dealing with rock mass instabil- their predictions for safe operation and obtain knowledge
ity, since accurate forecasting is a big challenge for deep- about surrounding areas in order to determine a viable path
mine managers. for development. Most systems and software offered today
combine 3D subsurface visualization with a wide range of
Using advanced monitoring and seismic systems, coupled possibilities for rock data storage.
with previous experience of seismic activity, engineers are
able to predict where rock bursts are most likely to occur.
A more difficult task, however, is to answer the question of Heat and ventilation
when, and this requires a careful study of the frequency, loca- In deep mining operations, temperatures will typically
tion and magnitude of rock bursts. Based on this activity, increase by 1020C every kilometer and some deep mines
seismic engineers can decide when it is time to close an area experience ambient temperatures as high as 50C. This means
until the activity decreases again. that creating a deep mine atmosphere that can sustain workers

48 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


MINING GOES DEEPER

The specially adapted, hydraulic face drilling rig Boomer M1 L has improved maneuverability and safety at Poland's Rudna Mine.

and equipment is a complex task for ventilation engineers. air ducts, ventilation seals and gas drainage systems, as well
Similar to ground support efforts, ventilation and cooling as measure the overall quality of air circulation.
represent a significant investment that must be given top pri-
ority. The task of removing noxious fumes, diesel emissions,
blasting dust and methane gases that emerge from excavated Deep mining workforce
rock is crucial for all mines, but the requirements are far more Increased air flow and cooling are fundamental components
rigorous at greater depths. of any health and safety plan, but the potential risk of expo-
sure to heat stress means that deep mining is not suited for
Normally, the first step is to set up a health and safety scheme regular personnel.
using computer aided design (CAD systems). Once the
required levels of air flow and cooling are defined through As harsh conditions are to be expected, each person involved
computer simulation, engineers can propose a system to must be evaluated thoroughly against to safety parameters
match the mines ventilation demands. such as age, health condition and stress tolerance. Special
training is also a prerequisite and should include everything
For deep level mines it is highly recommended that a modern, from safe operation of modified equipment to communica-
on-demand ventilation system is employed, which enables tions routines and contingency plans.
the air flow to be fully adapted to the areas in use. It is sig-
nificantly more economical in the long run, as tremendous The deep workings we see today are just the beginning of
amounts of energy are saved when ventilation is reduced to a a new phase in the mining industry in which increased
minimum in non-operational areas. monitoring in all its forms will be essential. Recruiting
young and dedicated personnel with high technological
It is also recommended to install modern heat sensors on skills is a key element in order to achieve a successful
pillars or walls at strategic locations in the mine. These transition and meet the demand for base metals in a safe and
can communicate wirelessly and measure any temperature productive way.
changes that may jeopardize the well-being of mine personnel
and machinery. Once a ventilation system is in place, working
in unison with a required setup of air cooling units (ACU), it
is important for engineers to regularly inspect the fans and

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 49


Magnitude vs Time Block 41 - Y40,2 structure
2010-01-01 00:00:00 2010-02-10 00:00:00
2.0 170

1.75 160

1.50 150

1.25 140

1.00 130

0.75 120

Cumulative Number of Events


0.50 110
Local Magnitude

0.25 100

0.00 90

-0.25 80

-0.50 70

-0.75 60

-1.00 50

-1.25 40

-1.50 30

-1.75 20

-2.00 10

-2.25 0 Block 41 - Y40,2 structure


1 jan-10 5 jan-10 9 jan-10 13 jan-10 17 jan-10 21 jan-10 25 jan-10 29 jan-10 2 feb-10 6 feb-10 10 feb-10 Count
Date

Figure 1: Microseismic monitoring is crucial for mines that are sensitive to underground activities. The blue dots indicate seismic events and rock bursts,
from small to large.

Dealing with the tremors


of Earths interior
Seismic events pose a serious threat to all aspects of mining and, most of all, to
human lives. The shakes and rattles, whether natural or induced, of earthquakes and
minor rock movements can only be endured by combining technology and know-how
in the right way.

For obvious reasons of safety and stability, it would be a fair on a frequent basis. The reason for this is that seismicity not
assumption that areas prone to earthquakes and high seismic only occurs from the familiar shift of tectonic plates.
activity are far from attractive in the eyes of mining profes-
sionals. But that doesnt mean that miners are strangers to Induced seismicity is the term given to human-related activi-
dealing with seismicity on the contrary. ties that, in rare cases, trigger earthquakes and, more often,
local tremors. Underground mining is a common cause, but
Although geological fault lines may be indicators of where there are others too. Coal mining and oil drilling have been
mineralization has taken place, mines are rarely located in known to induce seismic events, as have operations that
high-risk zones for earthquakes, yet they experience seismicity involve injecting or retracting groundwater, water pumping

50 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


MINING IN SEISMIC CONDITIONS

6600
6550
6500
6450
6400
6350
6300
6250

3850 3900 3950 4000 4050 4100 4150 4200 4250 4300

Figure 2: By measuring the magnitude and arrival time of seismic events using geophones, their location can be calculated which, in turn, enables pinpointing
of seismicity-prone structures.

to keep mines from flooding, as well as large scale water In Australia in 1989, more than 200 years of coal mining trig-
storage in dam construction. Seismicity manifests itself on gered the most damaging earthquake in the countrys history.
a widely varying scale of intensity and is one of the most In this case, it is claimed that the removal of millions of tonnes
important and hazardous challenges in the years ahead for of rock is what ultimately reactivated a fault. But hazardous
miners, despite their continuously improving techniques for incidents can also occur on a smaller scale, and the process
monitoring seismic events and averting the risk of rock bursts of sequencing (how the mine is mined) is known to be a large
and big rock fall. contributor to seismicity as stress accumulates to high levels
in pillars.

Mining induced seismicity At the same time, it is important to remember that there will
Many mines, large or small, experience some degree of seis- be a redistribution of rock stresses in all forms of underground
micity, and in most cases it is caused by the human factor, the mining, and preparation is the only remedy. It is not, however,
changing of stress fields, rather than the natural shifting of always possible to avoid all problems along the way, but with
tectonic plates. seismic systems, miners can locate seismicity-prone structures
and plan the sequencing and rock reinforcement in a way that
As explained in the previous chapter, the impact of seismicity makes the operation safe.
on mining becomes greater the deeper operations go, typically
at 8001 000 m or more, and miners will increasingly have to
learn to mitigate the threat of Earths violent tremors. In the Impact of seismic events
worst case scenario, seismicity can result in wall convergence, When it comes to earthquakes, the release of energy in the
rock bursts and rock fall, potentially resulting in injuries or Earths crust creates seismic waves that travel through the
even fatalities and a devastated mine infrastructure. layers of rock. The two main types of seismic waves, mea-
sured using seismometers, are known as body waves and sur-
The vast majority of rock movement in mines occurs on a face waves, of which the latter type has the largest amplitude
minor scale, but not necessarily without serious repercussions. and most destructive power for man-made structures.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 51


MINING IN SEISMIC CONDITIONS

Rock support is crucial in mines that are prone to high seismicity as rock bursts pose a serious threat to people, machinery and installations.

When seismicity is triggered by mining, however, there are Rock bursts and rock fall
two subtypes of body waves known as P and S waves that The natural stress fields of rock mass can build up to danger-
cause the majority of problems and must, therefore, be care- ous levels leading to fractures in the rock wall and eventually,
fully monitored. if the pressure accumulates in concentrated areas, to a release
of pressure that can be experienced as an explosion of small
How seismicity will impact mining operations is calculated rocks.
by measuring the magnitude of the seismic waves. A key
challenge is to predict and identify the exact location of rock There are, as we have learned, two types of seismicity: rock
movements in or near the mine using geophones and other bursts, which occur due to increased pressure at the face or
instruments.With a known location of the geophones and a in the drift, and shock waves, which occur as a result of a
known velocity of the seismic wave in the rock, the magnitude seismic event some distance away that causes rock fall if the
and risk areas can be identified, as shown in Figure 2. area is not sufficiently reinforced. Rock bursts are a frequent
danger in mines that are either deep or located in seismic risk
This is often done using triaxial geophones of 14Hz or lower, zones.
which capture micro-seismic data in three dimensions. The
lower the frequency, the larger the event and the greater is In order to cope with the energy released by rock bursts, duc-
the risk for collapse of drifts. By identifying dangerous rock tile rock reinforcement is often a must, involving ductile rock
structures along which seismicity occurs and by looking at the bolts, shotcrete and meshing. This is of particular importance
sequencing, mining-induced seismicity can be controlled to a if the mine is subjected to bigger seismic events.
degree. If any human cause of seismicity is to be preferred, it
is blasting as it usually involves no personnel in the mining Using comprehensive risk analysis, advanced monitor-
area. Experience shows that the largest events that occur are ing and rock reinforcement, mines that are prone to seis-
often related to rock structures and not necessarily triggered micity can maintain safe operations provided they have
by blasting. contingency plans and are able to evacuate personnel on

52 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


MINING IN SEISMIC CONDITIONS

short notice. The length of the evacuation period can vary.


Sometimes there will be a large seismic event, and at other Impact of seismicity on mining
times nothing occurs at all. It is also essential to employ
rock-reinforcement systems that are specially designed to
meet the unique challenges of each individual mine and its Approx. Richter Qualitative Description
measured seismicity. Magnitude

Small bangs or bumps heard nearby. Typically these events


Monitoring systems are only heard relatively close to the source of the event.
A comprehensive monitoring system to detect and process
This level of seismic noise is normal following
data from seismic events is recommended in all mines that are
development blasts in stressed ground.
deeper than 800 m, depending on local conditions. -3.0
Events are audible but the vibration is likely too small to
In principle, keeping a track on seismic activity underground be felt.
is quite similar to earthquake monitoring on the surface. The
difference is that miners put continuous efforts into identifying Not detectable by most micro-seismic monitoring systems.
high-risk areas. In mines that are prone to mining-induced
seismicity, there are normally routines for how to evacuate a Significant ground shaking
work site in an orderly fashion as monitoring data will have
provided enough time for a planned withdrawal of personnel Felt as good thumps or rumbles. May be felt remotely from
-2.0
the source of the event (more than 100 meters away).
and equipment from underground workings.
Often detectable by a micro-seismic monitoring system.
Small rock movement is common in all mines and will gener-
ate sounds that are sometimes referred to as talking rock,
Often felt by many workers throughout the mine.
but if any greater event triggers the warning systems, miners
will immediately want to know, firstly, if all teams have been Should be detectable by a seismic monitoring system.
evacuated safely, and secondly, if installations, predrilled -1.0
holes for blasting and other aspects of the operation are still Major ground-shaking felt close to the event.
intact. The back-end function of seismic systems is to gather
Similar vibration to a distant underground secondary blast.
data about the seismic event that has just occurred, answering
questions such as where it originated and what damage it may
have caused. Vibration felt and heard throughout the mine

Bump may be felt on surface (hundreds of meters away),


Modern seismic systems will assist on all these levels pro- 0.0 but may not be audible on surface.
vided that enough instruments have been installed to cover the
mines extended environment. Micro-seismic systems will col- Vibration felt on surface similar to those generated by a
lect data for the smallest of rock movements and monitor any development round.
events, large or small, that may influence mining operations.
Felt and heard very clearly on surface
This enables micro-seismic mapping using 3D models that
indicate where, when and how large, a seismic event has been. Vibrations felt on surface similar to a major production
1.0 blast.
Micro-seismic mapping gives, together with geomechanical
modeling, a better chance to see where the seismic-prone Events may be detected by regional seismological sensors
areas are and where to expect stress increases based on layout, located hundreds of kilometers away.
mining sequences and measured seismicity.
Vibration felt on surface is greater than large production
blasts.
Proactive measures 2.0
In addition to relying on technology in the form of monitor- Geological survey can usually detect events of this size.-
ing and recording systems, mines need to adopt a proactive
approach when it comes to reporting procedures and how Event is detected by earthquake monitors throughout
3.0
seismic events are evaluated. Australia.

It is of the utmost importance that all relevant data quickly Largest mining-related seismic event ever recorded in
4.0
reaches the most qualified staff at every level, from rock me- Australia.
chanical specialists to mine managers, so that evacuation can
take place effectively and any necessary restructuring of rock Source: Hudyma, M.R. (2008) Analysis and Interpretation of Clusters of Seismic
reinforcement is conducted with the most reliable results. Events in Mines. PhD Thesis, The University of Western Australia, Perth.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 53


The key to
safe, sustainable mining
Rock mechanics the science of how rock and rock mass behave is a complex
world containing some of natures best-kept secrets. In modern mining, however,
it serves only one purpose to provide a basis for safe, productive and sustainable
operations.

In order to control rock, miners must first acquire an under- For the mine planner, the primary objective is to use the
standing of how rock behaves, both in its undisturbed, natural information gained through the study of rock mechanics to
state, as well as in relation to stress when that natural state design suitable rock reinforcement systems that will provide
is disrupted as mining progresses. This requires a thorough a safe, productive and sustainable working environment.
knowledge of rock mechanics.

Rock mechanics will reveal the natural characteristics and Characteristics


behaviors of rock and rock mass, but more importantly it is In order to assess the reinforcement requirements of a mine,
used to assess how the rock is most likely to react under stress the basic characteristics of the rock types in the mining area
and disturbance caused by various types of excavation. are a good place to start. As can be seen from the chart in

54 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


MODERN ROCK MECHANICS

the previous chapter, Geology for underground mining (see


Low stress levels High stress levels
Figure 2, 3 and 4), there are at least 10 basic types of rock
mass that have very distinct characteristics.

Beyond this, the mine planner needs to establish:


A definition of the structural fabric of the rock mass, includ-

Massive rock
ing aspects such as joints, faults, shear zones.
An evaluation of the mechanical parameters of the intact
Massive rock subjected to Massive rock subjected to high
rock and structures. low in situ stress levels. Linear in situ stress levels. Spalling,
An identification and quantification of the failure modes elastic response with little or slabbing and crushing initiates
based on stress and structural analysis. no rock failure. at high stress concentration
points on the boundary and
The influence of the excavation mode, and the design of the propagates into the surrounding
rock reinforcement itself. rock mass.
Water flow and water pressure.

Stresses, rock strength, water pressure and rock structures


are the four most important factors affecting the stability of
any excavation in natural strata material. The combinations of

Jointed rock
various stress regimes and jointing will dictate the behavior
of the excavation. The intensity of rock stresses varies from Massive rock, with relatively Massive rock, with relatively
very low to very high, and the intensity of jointing from mas- few discontinuities, subjected few discontinuities, subjected
sive rock to sugar cube structure or intensely schistose, as to low in situ stress conditions. to high in situ stress conditions.
Blocks or wedges released by Failure occurs as a result of
shown in Figure 1. intersecting discontinuities, fall sliding on discontinuity surfaces
or slide due to gravity loading. and also by crushing and
Massive rock will draw most of the intact rock strength, but splitting of rock blocks.
it will also accumulate load and can fail violently under the
right conditions. Very fractured rock will tend to yield to
stresses and often deforms in a problematic manner. In addi-
tion, the shape, size and orientation of the excavation also
Heavily jointed block

affect the way the rock mass responds.

With this basic knowledge in hand, the next step is to under- Heavily jointed rock subjected Heavily jointed rock subjected
stand the actual structure and strength of the rock in and to low in situ stress conditions. to high in situ stress conditions.
around the mining area. This is done using a combination of The opening surface fails as The rock mass surrounding
a result of unravelling of small the opening fails by sliding on
methods, including systematic core evaluation, mine mapping interlocking blocks and wedges. discontinuities and crushing of
and seismic measuring. Failure can propagate a long rock pieces. Floor heave and
way into the rock mass if it is sidewall closure are typical
not controlled. results of this type of failure.
Todays seismic systems using geophone accelerometers
(GAC) and advanced software for modeling and measuring Figure 1: Stability challenges as a consequence of stresses and rock structure.
seismic events and stress changes over the lifetime of a mine Source: Support of Underground Excavations in Hard Rock, Hoek E., P.K. Kaiser and
W.F. Bawden. 1995, Balkema.
are invaluable tools, and these systems, together with core
sampling using advanced exploration drill rigs, make data
collection easier and more reliable than ever before.

By using the information gained from a series of closely posi-


tioned exploration holes, engineers obtain a total picture of
the rock mass in a given area, which will have a large impact
on how infrastructure and mine design models are computed.
Equipped with a wireline system, todays exploration drill
rigs are capable of extracting quality core samples from as
far down as 3 000 m.

After rock samples have been taken, they are then subjected to
different types of investigations such as Uniaxial Compressive
Strength (UCS), whereby a core sample is compressed in the
actual direction until failure. Stress analysis using analytical
or numerical methods is also more commonly performed on Figure 2: Buildup of high-level stresses around the excavation area, a problem
site, and the results are also easier to analyze thanks to todays that increases with depth.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 55


MODERN ROCK MECHANICS

advanced computer software that offers 3D visualization


and multiple options for data storage (see Figure 3 and 4). In
addition to the diamond drilled core that has been obtained,
a number of additional probing techniques will be employed,
including over coring and hydraulic fracturing, both of which
are used to measure in situ stress levels.

However, it must be kept in mind that despite the accuracy


of modern technology, stress analyses are not foolproof, and
there is always an element of uncertainty and unpredictability.
A sudden rock burst or an unexpected rockfall can always
TT4_7-3b-Mining_Ver1
occur and the repercussions are often severe. Therefore, a
wide margin of error and over-dimensioned rock support
is the safest policy. As an example, when hard and massive
rock fails as a result of high stress, it generates all manner of
fragmentation from small to large blocks. This is a clear sign
that the rock is overstressed and is rupturing in a brittle and
uncontrolled way.

This could also be the precursor of bigger seismic events


and dynamic failure. It is, therefore, imperative that the rock
reinforcement system is designed specifically to cope with
this possibility in mines facing this problem. If, on the other
hand, rock support is carried out without taking seismicity
Figure 3: Stress changes in sublevel open stoping as mining into consideration, the system will almost certainly not be
proceeds upwards. The warmer the color, the higher the stress. able to withstand a seismic event of high magnitude, irrespec-
tive of the extent of the support, the quality of the equipment
or how well the system has been installed.

Numerical modeling
Long-term excavation planning can benefit from detailed
analysis such as numerical modeling. Stress regimes can be
predicted and mining sequences optimized to keep the stress
levels evenly balanced. It is crucial, however, as stress fields
are changed continuously during mining, that rock mechan-
ics engineers are always aware of this factor and employ
rock reinforcement whenever critical stress levels have been
predicted. The trick is to avoid increased stress in notori-
ously sensitive rock areas, such as in competent rock where
structures are known to fail considerably.

For day-to-day operation, numerical analysis will give results


that must be confirmed by field observation, but can be used
to plan with the right kind of conditions in mind. This applies
especially for the rock reinforcement and support aspects.
Some rock reinforcement and support that can be perfect for
static conditions may become quite inadequate when con-
fronting seismic events or high stresses and deformations.
It is then important to be able to predict future conditions,
and use rock reinforcement that will still be adequate when
conditions change, or will warn when in situ conditions are
close to exceeding the rating of the chosen support system.
Figure 4: Gray indicates the area that is mined out and backfilled.
The smaller the above-lying ore pillar gets, the higher the stresses
in the remaining ore become.
Growing awareness
These days, whenever a new mine is planned, rock mechan-
ics is invariably involved right from the beginning. This

56 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


MODERN ROCK MECHANICS

It is crucial in all mining methods to design a rock reinforcement system that takes into account the risk and potential magnitude of seismic events, especially
as mining goes deeper and stress fields change.

reflects a growing awareness of the importance of safe and reinforcement to employ, and how frequently it should be
sustainable mining. In addition, it shows a greater apprecia- carried out to secure the environment for infrastructure and
tion for the negative consequences of frequent disruption to mining operations.
operations in terms of lost-time injuries and productivity
losses. At the same time as rock mechanics is becoming It is certainly true that rock reinforcement has advanced
recognized as an indispensable element of mine planning, a tremendously since the wooden posts and beams of the early
great deal of research is also being conducted into sequence days of mining. The availability of numerical models that
planning with a view to improving the excavation process, can be run through computer software and the active transfer
further contributing to safety and sustainability. As a science, of knowledge and technology between research and mining
rock mechanics is not new. But what are new are the tools that operations are unprecedented.
enable calculations and assessments of rock structures and the
enormous possibility for data collection. This, coupled with the development of modern drilling and
core sampling technology, has enabled mines all over the
If a mine is to be planned for sublevel stoping, to use one world to develop fast and effective rock reinforcement prac-
example, through access to rock mechanics data, the mine tices that benefit safety as well as productivity. Nevertheless,
manager will ascertain the exact shearing capacity and com- the mining engineer can never stop learning about the chal-
pressive strength, say 300 MPa, of the rock mass. He or she lenge of controlling rock, and clearly, the more knowledge
will then know which rock bolts and what other type of rock that is gained about rock mechanics the better.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 57


The noble art of
keeping rock in place
International safety standards require underground mines to provide adequate ground
support and reinforcement measures to protect their personnel. Selecting the right
solution, however, is never an easy task.

There was a time when mines were excavated out with only expected in the years ahead to meet ever-increasing safety
a minimum of rock support, mostly consisting of wooden standards.
posts and beams, and thousands of miners paid the price with
their lives. Today, developing a mine without modern rock It is important to remember, however, that rock reinforcement
reinforcement is virtually unthinkable, but even with the best is not just a matter of selecting the right rock bolts, shotcrete
systems in the world, falling rock remains a constant threat. or other reinforcement tools, to match the behavioral charac-
teristics of the rock mass. These days, it is generally recog-
Fortunately, this threat has been significantly reduced over nized that rock-support thinking is integrated in every stage
the last few years thanks to the development of highly effec- of the working cycle. This cycle starts with drilling and blast-
tive reinforcement systems, and even better systems can be ing. Over the past decade, high-productivity, high-precision

58 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


ROCK REINFORCEMENT

Rock bolts c/c 1 m


(only rock bolts in the 2nd pass are shown)
100 mm steel fibre
reinforced shotcrete

Steel mesh.
D-5.5 mm c/c 75 mm
6 000

7 000

Figure 1: Rock support must be carefully tailored to pre-existing conditions. Here, a combination of mechanized bolting, shotcreting and meshing is applied
in a 6 x 7 m diameter drift.

drill rigs have laid the foundation for smooth and controlled professional way. The principles in rock reinforcement include
blasting. This is crucial, because precision drilling lays the some basic considerations:
foundation to minimize fracturing of the rock immediately Carefully select the rock support system to meet all require-
surrounding the blast area. ments of the mine environment, from bad rock and conver-
gence to seismic conditions.
Similarly, blasting technology has become much more effi- Always install rock reinforcement close to the face, immedi-
cient thanks to the development of bulk-charging trucks and ately after excavation. Investigate if the system can be
easier detonation systems. divided into primary and secondary rock reinforcement.
In unstable rock mass, evaluate the need for forepoling or
Furthermore, scaling operations, the most hazardous part of grouting.
the work cycle, have also been improved with mechanized Choose a rock support system that is adaptable to changing
scaling rigs that carefully scale off the surplus rock frag- rock mass conditions.
ments from roofs and walls after blasting without damag- Make sure that rock bolts and shotcrete interact well with
ing the stability of other sections. Added to this is the large the rock mass.
number of new rock bolt types that have been introduced,
capable of tackling every conceivable rock and ground As a rule, reinforcement work is carried out immediately after
condition together with a wide variety of shotcreting and each round has been blasted and the blasted rock has been
screening systems. mucked out, although in some cases it is possible to blast
several rounds without using any rock reinforcement at all,
As a result, todays mine planner is able to tailor-make a rein- or only shotcreting.
forcement system to match his/her rock conditions better than
ever before in mining history. However, that does not mean
that it is an easy task or that the problems have been solved Making the right choices
far from it. Mining remains a challenging environment and To make the right choices, modern mine planners know that
rock fall still poses a serious threat if not taken care of in a they must take all parameters into consideration, such as

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 59


ROCK REINFORCEMENT

1. Drill hole 2. Insert bolt 3. Expand bolt 4. Bolt secured


(Start pump) (Pump stops)

High
pressure
water

Figure 2: The principle of rock bolting lends itself to a high level of automation using modern equipment, providing safety and efficiency in the work cycle.

transportation and ore-processing procedures, when choosing In some countries, regulations stipulate that rock support is
which rock bolts to use as, in some cases, bolts entering the mandatory and must be performed after each round. In others,
system can cause problems downstream. the rules are less specific. Nevertheless, it is clear that the
regulations regarding rock reinforcement grow more stringent
Under normal stress conditions, cement- or resin-grouted rebar every year and that mining companies are getting better at
bolts are sufficient. In seismic conditions, on the other hand, implementing them.
it may be necessary to use bolts that are able to absorb more
energy and that offer greater ductility. The current trend is to not only apply the right ground sup-
port for the prevailing conditions but to over-dimension the
The bolting process can also be divided into two stages tem- system in order to minimize the risk of disturbance to day-to-
porary, (or primary), bolting and secondary, or permanent, day operations. Another growing trend is to use more high-
bolting. The use of primary bolting will result in fast round- productivity bolting equipment as the rock bolt installation
times. Permanent bolts can then be installed when it best suits procedure remains a bottleneck in the development cycle.
the productivity.
In addition, the demands for ductile bolts i.e. bolts that can
However, this is not an option in tougher conditions where move or stretch and withstand the high energy loads of a seis-
permanent rock reinforcement is required after every blasted mic event are in increasing demand. In tougher conditions,
round. shotcreting containing steel or plastic fibers is increasingly
being used together with cablebolting and meshing, particu-
larly for larger openings.
Safety is paramount
Safety regulations differ from country to country, but the dan-
gers associated with insufficient rock reinforcement are now New thinking underway
universally recognized. Modern rock support limits rock fall Rock reinforcement is a time consuming and expensive
and the lost time injuries that have such a profound impact on process, in some mines representing half of the total cost of
productivity. mining. At the same time, there are great opportunities to

60 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


ROCK REINFORCEMENT

Precalculated Precalculated
maximum maximum
deformation deformation

1. Roofex at
installation

2. Energy
absorbing
phase

3. Roofex at
max load
and max
deformation

Energy absorber
(a sliding element)

Figure 3: Roofex is a patented rock bolt solution for tough and unstable conditions. It accommodates a wide spectrum of rock mass behavior by absorbing energy.

improve the productivity of these operations. By using highly incorporate all of the benefits of modern computer technology.
efficient bolting solutions such as Swellex, both time and cost These fully mechanized scaling rigs are a major step forward
factors can be minimized as the bolt provides immediate sup- in terms of productivity, safety and operator environment, but
port and grouting is not needed. Another popular rock bolting here, too, there is probably room for new thinking.
solution is Roofex (see Figure 3), which is used in extreme
rock conditions. This unique bolt is flexible to rock movement The vibrations associated with these machines are hard on the
and will absorb energy in a controlled way. According to some equipment and physically tough on the operators. Regulations
reports, productivity in rock reinforcement has declined in governing vibrations are currently met with Atlas Copco scal-
recent years, despite the use of advanced mechanized equip- ing rigs but will undoubtedly increase in the years ahead, and
ment, to such a level that even in the best cases it is still equal scaling equipment manufacturers will have to work hard to
to that of hand-held operations. In all situations, however, find ways to bring the vibrations down to new permissible
mechanized bolting is a preferred method as it drastically levels.
improves operator safety.
New thinking is also underway with regard to shotcrete. This
This is food for thought, especially for equipment manufac- involves the training and licensing of shotcrete operators as
turers, and a large measure of new thinking in this area is a means of increasing the quality of the shotcrete applied to
required to meet the high safety demands of the future. One rock walls, as it is not always easy to estimate the applied
approach is to combine mechanized rock bolting with auto- thickness. That said, having a quality product to begin with
mation to keep operators out of the most dangerous zones. is equally essential. Due to deeper operations and increased
Another is to make rock support a must after each round and safety regulations, the demand for high quality, durable
to insist on the use of reinforced shotcrete (containing steel sprayed concrete that offers greater safety and reduces health
or plastic fibers), particularly in mines that are expanding to risks and negative impact on the environment is increasing
deeper levels. continuously.

The same goes for rock scaling, where equipment such as For this reason, Atlas Copco has broadened its offering
the Atlas Copco Scaletec LC and MC models (see next page) through its recent acquisition of shotcreting specialist Meyco

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 61


ROCK REINFORCEMENT

of Switzerland. As part of the Atlas Copco Group, Meycos


core competence in mining relates to ground support, utiliz-
ing fiber-reinforced sprayed concrete, rock and cable bolt
grouting, specialized injection resins, and grouts for ground
consolidation and water stopping.

Among Atlas Copco Meycos most innovative products for


Scaling involves the removal of excess loose rock on roofs and walls after underground mining is Logica, a spraying robot for shotcrete
blasting an essential task for safety. and thin spray-on liners (TSL), which ensures consistent qual-
ity through continuous recording of production and machine
data. Logica also enables a high level of automation and rapid
checking of tunnel profiles by means of onboard visualization
and immediate response. This helps to quickly determine and
guarantee thickness of the applied shotcrete layer.

Time versus quality


It is fair to say that rock support, including scaling, bolting,
screening, and cable bolting, is still a main bottleneck in the
working cycle in underground mining. Clearly, any reduction
in the time required to install the necessary support will have a
direct impact on the overall cycle time and, consequently, the
overall productivity and efficiency of the operation.

Geotechnical monitoring techniques indicate that the greatest


relaxation or movement of the rock mass occurs immedi-
ately following excavation. They confirm that, after a certain
period, the rock will establish a new equilibrium based on its
own inherent self-supporting capacity and that the best quality
The Meyco Potenza rig delivers high efficiency in shotcreting (sprayed
rock will remain self-supporting for extensive periods of time
concrete) as it combines reliable performance with good mobility.
without the need for extra support.

The poorer the quality of the rock, the greater the degree of
support required, and it becomes increasingly crucial to install
reinforcement as quickly as possible after excavation.

Quality and time are, therefore, the two main parameters that
must be taken into account when determining what type of
rock support should be used, and mine planners involved in
the design of rock reinforcement systems must satisfy ever-
increasing demands to optimize the design to establish maxi-
mum safety and economy.

Here, technology has a key role to play and, to mention


one example, the computerized platform RCS (Rig Control
System) offered on the Atlas Copco Boltec will greatly assist
the operator when installing bolts, as sensors located on the
boom are able to interpret the drilling and bolting pattern with
100% accuracy and also enable precision collaring of holes.

Bolting rigs equipped with RCS


enable bolt-angle indication when
performing systematic bolting.

62 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


THE NOBLE ART OF KEEPING ROCK IN PLACE

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 63


64 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY
CHARGING AND BLASTING

Quality holes
the key to efficient blasting
When it comes to rock blasting in underground mining, control is paramount. From
drilling and charging to detonation, safe and productive practices require careful
step-by-step procedures.

Looking back in time, it is virtually impossible to imagine A well charged drill hole is defined by an approach where all
the evolution of mining and construction projects without the the aspects relevant to rock conditions and the task at hand
accompanying science of rock blasting, which first emerged have been carefully considered. This starts with the basic
in 17th century Europe. drilling parameters such as location, straightness and length
of holes, percussion pressure, feed force and applied torque.
At its most basic level, rock blasting involves the use of explo- These factors are crucial in the drilling phase and will have
sives applied to holes and chambers to split or remove rock a large impact on the blasting operation as a whole.
mass of a predetermined shape and volume. It is essential to
almost all operations and has, traditionally at least, been con- Charging of holes, which is the next step, can be carried out
sidered one of the most hazardous tasks in the underground relatively quickly, either manually using plastic/paper charges
work cycle. or, as in the case of bulk explosives, with mechanical charg-
ing equipment such as trucks featuring charging baskets,
Fortunately, todays technology is a far cry from the days of cable reels, hydraulic support legs and onboard compres-
gunpowder, later known as black powder, and unpredictable sors. Whatever method is used, it is important to dimension
blasts. Although dynamite arrived on the scene in the mid the size of the charges correctly so that the swell is ideally
19th century and was introduced in mining operations, many matched to the size of the void into which the blast is directed.
people would continue to put their lives at risk over the next
century. The most common methods of charging are:
Cartridges
To some extent, poor drilling quality also contributed to the Bulk
hazards. In terms of safety, the 1970s marked the starting ANFO
point for improved drilling practices as electro-hydraulic drill Emulsion
rigs began to replace pneumatic equipment. This, in turn,
facilitated blastholes of a much higher quality. The various explosives in cartridges are made up of nitro-
glycerine, nitroglycol, watergel or emulsion-based products.
Simultaneously, progress was driven by innovations such as These typically include paper cartridges, plastic hoses and
ANFO (Ammonium Nitrate and Fuel Oil), a bulk explosive plastic pipes.
that is blown into the hole by high-pressure air, which soared
in popularity and was followed by modern emulsions and Bulk emulsion explosives are composed of very small and
slurries used for rock blasting. dense droplets of ammonium nitrate and oxygen that are
enclosed by a mixture of mineral oil and wax, called matrix.
Computerized systems are now also widely used in order to ANFO is the most commonly used explosive and is just as
calculate charges and drilling patterns, which vastly improves powerful as dynamite, but far less hazardous and more eco-
the precision of blasts. At the same time, no level of profi- nomical. It is, however, very sensitive to water.
ciency in charging and blast design can make up for poor
drilling, which serves as a first rule of thumb.
Parallel cuts for drifting
A variety of blasthole drilling techniques are employed in the
Control at every step underground environment that enable ore extraction through
To uphold modern standards of safety, speed and accuracy, a system of drifts. A common technique involves drilling one
quality must be upheld at every step in the blasting process, or more large-diameter holes parallel to each other, acting
and there is little margin for error. as openings for small-diameter blastholes that are drilled in

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 65


CHARGING AND BLASTING

squares or in diamond shaped patterns, as shown in Figure 1,


a=1.5d and is the hardest blast to fulfill.

In this case, the cut should be placed at the safest location on


the tunnel face, as this will influence the rock throw (trajec-
d tory), the explosives consumption, and the number of holes
needed for each round.
a=1.5d
When designing the cut, the following parameters are impor-
tant for a good result:
Diameter of the large uncharged holes
Figure 1: Typical designs of large hole cuts.
Burden
Charge concentration
Fire sequence

One of the parameters for good advance of the blasted round


is the diameter of the large empty hole. An advancement of
approximately 90% can be expected for a hole depth of 4 m,
and one empty hole of 102 mm in diameter.

If several empty holes are used, a fictitious diameter of the


opening has to be calculated, ideally in accordance with the
formula D = d n, where D = fictitious empty large-hole
diameter; d = diameter of empty large holes and; n = number
of holes.

V-cuts and fan cuts


The most common cut with angled holes is a V-cut, which
refers to its V-shaped wedge pattern (see Figure 2). It involves
a theoretical advancement per round that increases with the
width, where 4050 % of the tunnel width is achievable.

Double V-cuts, as well as triple and quadruple cuts for deeper


rounds, are frequently employed. For an optimum pattern,
the angle of the cut must not be too acute nor less than 60
degrees. Each cut should be fired with the same interval
number, typically 50 milliseconds, using MS detonators to
ensure good breakage and allow time for displacement and
2 4 6
2 4 6
swelling.
1
1 3 5
3 5
2
2
4
4 6
6 The principle of the fan cut is to make a trench-like opening
across the tunnel face. As the constriction of the rock is not
as large as for V-cuts, fan cuts are easier to blast. For both cut
types, attention must be paid to the tunnel width in order to
accommodate the drilling equipment. Fan cuts, however, are
7 not possible for small tunnels and long feeds.
5 7
5
3
3
1
1 Firing pattern
The firing pattern must be designed so that each hole has free
breakage. The angle of breakage is smallest in the cut area,
where it is around 50. In the stoping area, the firing pattern
should be designed so that the angle of breakage does not
fall below 90.

It is important in tunnel blasting to have sufficient time delay


Figure 2: The principles of V-cuts and fan cuts. between the holes to allow time for breakage and throw of

66 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


CHARGING AND BLASTING

rock through the narrow empty hole, which takes place at a


velocity of 40 to 60 m/sec. Normally, delay times of 75 to 100
milliseconds are used in the cut.

In the first two squares of the cut, only one detonator of each
delay should be used. In the following two squares, two deto-
nators for each delay may be used. In the stoping area, as can
be seen in Figure 3, the delay time must be long enough to
allow movement of the rock to generate space for expansion
of the adjacent rock, typically 100 to 500 milliseconds.

Contour blasting
The contour of a drift is divided into floor holes, wall holes
and roof holes, where two variants of contour blasting are
used for wall and roof holes: normal profile blasting and Figure 3: The numbers indicate a typical firing sequence with delays of
smooth blasting. 100-500 milliseconds for each hole.

With normal profile blasting, no particular consideration is fissures in the remaining rock. In smooth blasting, the contour
given to the appearance and condition of the blasted contour, holes are drilled closer to each other than in normal profile
and the same explosives are used as in the rest of the round, blasting and are carefully charged with weaker explosives.
but with a lesser charge concentration and with the contour This results in a smooth contour surface with fewer fissures
holes widely spaced. The contour of the tunnel becomes in the remaining rock, which means that less rock reinforce-
rough, irregular and cracked. ment will be required.

Although contour plays a lesser role in mining than in road Among the typical smooth-blasting explosives, the nitroglyc-
or rail tunnel construction, good breakage coupled with rock erin-based, high-velocity explosive known as Gurit (contain-
reinforcement is an absolute must to ensure a safe working ing kieselguhr, the original material that Alfred Nobel used to
environment in drifts. In sensitive areas, smooth blasting, tame nitroglycerin) has been widely used in the past. Today,
which is the second variant, is helpful as it creates fewer however, this has mostly been replaced by string-charged

Precision drilling, maximized uptime and several levels of automation are some of the key features of Atlas Copco's range of Boomer drill rigs.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 67


CHARGING AND BLASTING

Systems such as Advanced Boom Control ensure that blastholes are drilled accurately with respect to collaring, orientation, length and straightness.

emulsions that require less charging time and offer a range of detonators, however, are becoming a more and more popu-
safety benefits, such as reduced manual handling and storage lar alternative today due to the flexibility they provide for
and less noxious gas emissions. sequential blasting with set delays and intervals.

A long-standing challenge in underground blasting is toxic


Better technology, more precision fumes. These are released at detonation as high energy in the
Deviation in the drilling of blastholes in the excavation of form of heat and gas that is propelled through the rock. To
a tunnel from the intended theoretical line will lead to an combat the problem, modern emulsion explosives have been
increase in construction costs, with a direct impact on four developed that are oxygen-balanced and generate a minimum
main items: mucking of excessive rock material, primary of dangerous fumes, and far less smoke, which also means a
shotcrete support, secondary concrete lining, and extended reduction in ventilation time for safe re-entry.
construction time.
When combined, the above factors contribute to a faster work
Today, systems such as Advanced Boom Control ensure that cycle for drilling, charging, blasting, ventilation, scaling, sup-
blastholes are drilled accurately with respect to collaring, ori- port work, grouting, loading and transport. Nowadays, the
entation, length and straightness. For drill rigs equipped with drill face doesnt have to be marked up as these calculations
this technology, the true excavation line can be maintained are made via drill rig computers, which is just one example of
more accurately, meaning some 10 cm closer to the theoretical the increasing role of automated processes in blasting.
excavation line than traditional techniques.
This article has been produced with information sourced
Initiating systems like NONEL have boosted safety levels due from Stig Olofssons book Applied Explosives Technology for
to their non-susceptibility to electrical hazards. Electronic Construction and Mining, published by Applex.

68 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


CHARGING AND BLASTING CONTINUED

Long hole charging and blasting


Avoiding damage to surrounding rock is no easy task for any driller or blasting engi-
neer. But the challenge is far greater in large-scale methods where long holes are
required especially when mining at depth.

As operations go deeper into existing mines, the risk of devia- closely. For selective mining methods such as cut and fill
tion and faulty locations of blastholes increases, and seismic- stoping, the face appears like a wall across the stope with
ity and rock instability become crucial factors to deal with. an open slot at the bottom, above the fill. It is drilled with
Hence, today, it is increasingly important to master the skill breasting holes that are charged and blasted, with the slot
of long hole drilling and blasting. Although bigger stopes and underneath providing space for the blasted rock to expand.
hole sizes usually require less specific drilling and charging
per tonne ore, there are other crucial matters to consider. The importance of straight holes cannot be overemphasized.
If deviation occurs, a number of problems may well arise,
For large-scale methods such as stoping, caving with long including uneven fragmentation, increased vibrations and
hole drilling, both upward blind blasting and between sub- increased dilution of waste rock/fill material or oreloss. Apart
level blasting, are applied. Here, parameters such as rock con- from precision drilling, it is important that the charges are
ditions, backfill stability, vibrations, fragmentation, unwanted carefully dimensioned to the holes. Prior to this, however, slot
overbreak, ore recovery and dilution all need to be evaluated raises must be created between the levels or as blind raises.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 69


CHARGING AND BLASTING

Opening slot raises


The function of slot raises is to provide a void, or free space,
that can absorb the blasted rock from the charged holes. These
openings also need to be large enough to accommodate rock
swelling which is an effect of blasting.

Some of the typical raises include the parallel hole raise,


the slot raise and the big hole raise, with variants of these
(see description below). The Alimak raise, which involves
handheld drilling and climbing, is a less preferred and more
hazardous raise type and is increasingly being replaced by
mechanized methods in mining.

Examples of the most common raise types and how they are
produced:
Parallel hole raise: reamed cut holes of 127 mm surrounded
by smaller blastholes, creating a void of a desired size and
dimension that can absorb rock from the subsequent blast.
Slot raise: 150 mm holes drilled together to create a slot
surrounded by blastholes, enabling a suitable opening for
Fig 5: Opening raise, offering swell volume for production blasts.
the same purpose as above type, to absorb the blast.
Big hole raise: created by raiseboring 7002 000 mm holes.
Boxhole raise: upward raise drilling, also known as blind
raise. This can alternatively be done with clusterboring
4 5
technique, although it is less common.
-50
To achieve the final swelling void before the full production
blasting is started, all these opening methods are followed by
-45 initial longhole production blasting of the closest surrounding
3 8
8 6 holes to enlarge this void.
-40
As a general rule, good practice in drilling and charging will
include:
-35 9
2 Reamed holes, charged and uncharged
9

8
7 High-precision drilling
-30
8 8
Detonator delay adjusted to length of raise
8
Minimized risk of unexpected detonation of surrounding
-25
8 9 holes
1 9 8
9 8 Easy and smooth blasting, to avoid damage of environment
9
-20
Mining methods such as sublevel caving, sublevel open
stoping and block caving all use similar openings where the
-15
10
10 parallel hole cut, or large hole cut, is the most frequently used.
10
10
-10
Up hole charging
Once opening raises/slots have been drilled for production
-5
ring blasting (see void Figure 5), it is important to secure
blast initiation. This is sometimes done by using more than
0 one detonator in each strategically located hole.

-10 -5 0 5 10 An example of typically charged holes in a sublevel caving


Charged part of the hole (emulsion)
fan with more than one detonator in each hole is shown in
Nr Primers and the delay number of the
Figure 6.
detonator
Burden and hole spacing should be adjusted according to rock
type, hole dimension and type of explosives used. For uphole
Figure 6: A charged fan ready for blasting. charging, the explosive must stay in the hole, requiring the

70 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


exact combination of hole dimension and explosives type. With downhole charging, it is also possible to separate the
This may prove harder to solve when it comes to big hole stopes in height and blast the lower parts first. It is also
dimensions, and wet conditions will also make this method known as the VCR method (Vertical Crater Retreat.)
more challenging to employ.
The advantage of this approach is that the full force of
the explosion can be contained in the borehole until the
Downhole charging rock begins to break. This is done by stemming the holes,
The most common procedure in downhole charging is to whereby fine gravel is inserted into the blasthole on top of the
charge the entire hole and detonate one or several fans in the explosives.
same round, using different delays both within the fan, and
when the next is detonated.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 71


Drilling

Bolting Charging

Shotcreting Blasting

Scaling Ventilation

Mucking

Figure 1: The sequential operations performed at the face in mine drifting.

The value of
high speed drifting
Mine development is a major issue for the preparation of new mines and existing
workings alike, and while advances in modern technology are making the job easier,
faster and safer, at the end of the day, its all about time.

With continuing pressure on mining companies to meet their In essence, it is about time, and time is money in all aspects of
obligations to their customers and their owners, as well as the underground mine development process, including ramps,
meet demands for increased safety and sustainability, it is raises and shafts, as well as drifts. It is drifting, however, that
vitally important that mine development work is carried out is the most difficult process to optimize as it encompasses
in the most efficient way possible. crosscuts, ramps and entrances. The faster a drift can be
completed to allow production to begin, the better.
Here, the name of the game is speed. Miners need to get
access to ore as fast as possible at a reasonable cost and with- There is no doubt that the developments of the last few years
out compromising on safety or sustainability. in tunneling technology have contributed greatly to meeting

72 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


MINE DEVELOPMENT

this aim. Modern, computerized drill rigs that are specially


designed for drifting, equipped with increasingly powerful
rock drills and long life drill bits along with various devices
for monitoring performance and progress, are now common-
place in many parts of the world.

Similar advances have been made in loading and mucking out


equipment, which play equally important roles in the drifting
process. If operated as a dedicated equipment fleet, fit for
purpose, mines can maximize their chances of meeting their
productivity objectives. At the same time, mining engineers
are changing the way that development work is carried out
by, for example, focusing on proactive planning for rock rein-
forcement and the improvement of routines, a crucial task in
the development process as illustrated in Figure 1.

Adjusting the profile


The key factors when establishing the most effective tunnel
profile are the mining method and the rock mechanics. If
the latter is permits, the profile can be suitably designed to
accommodate larger equipment in the drift. Increasing the
advance rate by using an alternative tunnel profile should
be easier to implement for mines than for civil engineering
contractors. This is because mines have more freedom to
decide the shape of their drifts, once the mining method and
surrounding rock have been taken into consideration.
The Cabletec LC is a two-boom rig that makes it possible for one operator to
simultaneously drill and install cables up to 25 m.
Extending the rounds
Excavating drifts by drill and blast requires sequential opera- design the appropriate rock support system. Other consider-
tions at the face, each characterized by the mobilization and ations include rock bursts or seismic conditions which may
demobilization of equipment. The time required for this is require that permanent rock support be installed directly, and
practically the same, irrespective of the length of the round. it is common for mines to have a strategy in place for such
By extending the round from 4 m to 5 m, some 90 minutes situations. The aim is to install just the right amount of rock
is saved over 20 m of drift. The drifting crew needs to deter- support needed at the face. The remaining support will then
mine what rock classes are likely to be encountered in each be installed well behind the face. This reduces the amount
round in order to plan the process in the most efficient way. of time needed for rock support at the face and enables the
This is usually evaluated at the planning stage in order to drift to advance as quickly as possible under safe conditions.

Hours
spent /meter
1.20
1973
1998 Meters / week
1.00 2007
100

0.80 80

0.60 60

0.40 40

0.20 20

0 0
Drilling Charging Ventilation Scaling Mucking Shotcreting Bolting 1975 1979 1983 1988 1995 2005

Figure 2: Typical development of the sequential operations at a tunnel face Figure 3: Typical improvement of tunneling speed over a 30-year period.
seen over a 35-year period.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 73


MINE DEVELOPMENT

Supporting the round


Drifting is mainly carried out in connection with mine prepa-
ration. Drifts run in parallel at many faces and the objective is
not to advance a single face as fast as possible, but to excavate
each tonne of rock as economically as possible and to final-
ize each mining area at the right time to allow bulk mining
to commence. This is particularly important when it comes
to the Sublevel Open Stoping, Sublevel Caving and Block
Scooptram ST14
Caving methods, where development is just a small percent-
age of the entire mining process.

In this situation, characterized by the availability of multiple


headings to work at, it is more cost effective to install all
the bolts and the shotcrete needed for final support right at
the face. This will mean savings in terms of mobilization
Minetruck MT42 time and simplicity. Applying final rock reinforcement at the
development phase will also result in fewer rock mechanic
disturbances, which is an advantage for subsequent mass
mining.

Better scaling
Scaling of the face, roof and walls is the only process in the
drifting sequence that might be somewhat difficult to opti-
mize in advance. This depends on the rock conditions.

In good rock conditions, the roof and walls will not yield
Chargetec UV2
any falling rock, and the need for scaling will be minimal.
In poor conditions, all surfaces will require scaling, which is
much more time-consuming. However, even here, advanced
technology in mechanized scaling equipment has enabled the
scaling process to be carried out much more efficiently and
safely.

This also allows any necessary shotcreting to be carried


out well behind the tunnel face. In many cases, shotcrete is
applied some 50 m behind the face, even in large tunnels,
Boltec EC provided the rock mechanics are favorable.

If, however, mining is conducted at deep levels, 800 m or


more, rock bursts or seismic conditions will often dictate
when and how rock reinforcement is applied. In addition
to rock quality, the mass mining activities surrounding the
drift may also determine how to plan and proceed with rock
support.

In recent years, mine development has become significantly


Scaletec MC more efficient as more reliable and advanced machines have
become available. Modern technology in all its forms, and
particularly in the area of communications, has contributed
to making it safe and fast. Although all of these factors have
paved the way for easier and faster drifting, miners are con-
fronted by a whole new range of issues as drifts are construc-
ted at deeper levels than ever before. Judging by the pace of
technological innovation and evolving expertise, however, the
industry is well equipped to meet the challenges.
Boomer M2 C

74 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


THE VALUE OF HIGH SPEED DRIFTING

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 75


Figure 1: Raiseboring technology, with typical setup shown above, is widely considered a fast, economical and safe way of installing ore passes in mines.

Sizable investments,
measurable benefits
Ore passes and shafts are key features of many modern underground mining environ-
ments, and although they require substantial investments, the benefits are undeniable.

There are many different types of underground mines and not and provide several important benefits to the mining pro-
all of them make use of ore passes. Those that do, however, cess. Firstly, as the ore is tipped into the chute immediately
enjoy important advantages. An ore pass is a type of shaft after blasting, it serves to keep the mining area clear. This
that is installed between two mine levels and is specifically reduces the presence of loaders and trucks in the production
designed to be a conduit for blasted ore. They can be square, areas, which in turn reduces diesel fumes and improves the
rectangular or circular and vary in length from 10 m up to environment. Moreover, with fewer vehicles in the vicinity,
300 m and sometimes more. They can also be either vertical it reduces the possibility of congestion and the risk of colli-
or steeply inclined. Well-constructed ore-pass systems form sions and accidents, all of which will disturb and delay the
an integral part of material handling in many modern mines mining cycle.

76 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


ORE PASSES AND SHAFTS

43
38
Groups of ore passes
1048 m
34

29

25

20

16

11

7
Caption: Slibus demporestem il magnisqui cupist atur sit essitio.
2

Figure 2: A modern ore-pass system enables a continuous flow of material to haulage levels in the mine. Illustration courtesy of LKAB.

Good economic sense despite the obvious dangers. More common is the Alimak
The most outstanding benefit is that ore passes make good method that makes use of a rising drillers platform, which
economic sense. Quite clearly, they offer the most cost-effec- can be used from a single access point but still requires mine
tive alternative for mucking and haulage operations. personnel to be inside the raise during construction, subject-
ing them to the risk of falling rock.
By conveying the ore away from the production area to a
dedicated loading depot on another lower level, a continuous Raiseboring, on the other hand, using a remote-controlled
flow of material is made available to the loading and haul- raiseboring machine, is now considered to be the safest and,
age fleet. This means little or no interruptions to the haulage arguably, the most effective technique available, even though
operation and that these vehicles never have to stand idle, it presupposes that both the top and bottom levels to be linked
waiting for the next blast. by the ore pass can be accessed.

Another advantage is that shorter ore passes are easy to moni- Todays modern raiseboring technology offers a wide range
tor. This is done either by visual inspection or by automated of other important advantages, not least great precision and
systems using lasers. Whatever technique is applied, the speed irrespective of the length of the pass to be driven. As
purpose is to keep the pass constantly filled with an even a result, raiseboring is now accepted as the world standard
flow of blasted material. for mechanical raise excavation, and the name Atlas Copco
Robbins is synonymous with the technique.

Installing ore passes


Ore passes are developed in two ways, either by drill and Raiseboring technique
blast or the raiseboring technique. In drill and blast, hand- The benefits of raiseboring extend well beyond ore passes and
held rock drills and ladders are still used in some countries, include the construction of several types of shafts, such as

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 77


ORE PASSES AND SHAFTS

Figure 3: The principles of raiseboring from initial pilot hole to upward reamed hole.

for ventilation and hoisting. It can also be used for backfills, down-reaming, pilot downream down, hole opening, pilot-
drainage and slot holes. In other words, the technique is a vital hole drilling for long drainage holes, and shafts for ventilation
tool for constructing fundamental infrastructure in mines. and hoists.
A raiseboring machine is typically set up on the surface or on
the upper level of the two levels to be connected as shown in
Figure 1. A small pilot hole is first drilled down to the lower Blind shaft boring
level using a drill bit attached to a series of cylindrical drill Blind shaft boring is used where there is access to the upper
pipe pieces, which form the drillstring. level of the proposed raise, but limited or no access to the
lower level. With this method, the raise is excavated from the
Once the pilot hole is completed, a reamer with a diameter upper level downward using a down-reaming system con-
larger than the pilot hole is attached to the drillstring at the nected by a drillstring to the machine above. Weights are
lower level. The pilot hole is then reamed back to the machine added to the reamer mandrel as shown in Figure 4.
on the upper level. As the reamer moves upwards, the cuttings
fall to the lower level and are removed. Raiseboring machines Stabilizers are located above and below the weight stack to
have been used for holes in the range of 0.66.0 m in diameter ensure vertical boring. A reverse circulation system, or a
and up to 1 000 m long. vacuum system, is typically used to remove the cuttings out
of the shaft.
Standard raiseborers are capable of boring raises from vertical
to angles of 45 to horizontal. Raises from 45 to horizontal Down-reaming begins by drilling a conventional pilot hole,
have been completed with the addition of only a few acces- and then enlarging it to the final raise diameter by reaming
sories and minor adjustments to the standard machine. from the upper level to the lower level as shown in Figure 5.
Larger diameters can be achieved by conventionally reaming
In addition, raiseboring is by no means limited to boring a pilot raise, and then enlarging it by down-reaming. During
ore passes. It is also used for a wide variety of underground reaming, the cuttings gravitate down the pilot hole, or reamed
mining applications from boxhole and blind shaft boring to hole, and are removed at the lower level. To ensure sufficient

78 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


ORE PASSES AND SHAFTS

down-reaming thrust and torque, the down-reamer is fitted


with a non-rotating gripper and thrust system and a torque-
multiplying gearbox driven by the drillstring.

Upper and lower stabilizers ensure proper kerf cutting, and


reduce drillstring oscillations.

Pilot down, ream down


This method, also known as hole opening, is used to enlarge
an existing pilot hole with a small-diameter reamer. The
operation is similar to pilot hole drilling, the only difference
being that a small reamer is used instead of a pilot bit. The
small reamer is designed to use the existing pilot hole to guide
the drilling.

Stabilizers are used in the drillstring behind the reamer to


prevent it from bending. Pilot down-ream down hole open-
ing is only used when a standard reaming system is either
impractical or impossible, as shown in Figure 6, next page.

Boxhole boring
Boxhole boring is a technique that was first employed in
the gold mines of South Africa in the early 1970s, follow-
ing the delivery of modified Robbins raiseborer machines.
A boxhole is a type of ore pass raise that is typically driven
upwards from haulage levels situated below the orebody. At
the bottom of the raise, in the haulage area, is a chute base
with a guillotine gate to control the feeding into haulage cars,
using gravity.

Boxholing is aimed at releasing miners from hazardous


manual raising. It eliminates the need to drill pilot holes and
involves minimum site preparation. Todays technology in
raiseboring provides unique solutions for all types of raising
purposes.

Atlas Copcos range of Robbins raiseborers includes four


different machines that are specifically designed to cater to
boxhole drilling needs. For example, the Robbins 53R is a
unique multipurpose raise drill that is capable of performing
both upward boxhole boring as well as conventional raisebor-
ing without any modifications to the drive assembly.

Another dual-purpose machine is the Robbins 34R, which is


a low profile, small diameter machine that, similarly, allows
a quick conversion from raiseborer to boxholer. It comes with
a 720 mm reamer head installed through the worktable or, as
a wide version, with a 1 060 mm head. While boring upward,
stabilizers are periodically added to the drillstring (see Figure
7) to reduce oscillation and bending stresses. The cuttings are
carried by gravity down the hole and are deflected from the
machine and removed at the lower level.

Dual-purpose machines are especially useful in mine layouts


that allow boxholing and conventional raisboring from the
same place, giving multiple holes from one location. Figure 4: Blind shaft boring.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 79


ORE PASSES AND SHAFTS

Opening holes with Easer


The possibility to use the same machine for a number of tasks
in underground mining is becoming an important factor that
is driving technological innovation. A case in point is the
new, small diameter raise drilling unit developed by Atlas
Copco called the Easer machine.

The main purpose of the Easer is to assist drillers in the cru-


cial task of drilling successful opening holes, or slot holes,
that provide free space for blasted rock to expand into. These
can be particularly demanding when using the block caving,
sublevel caving and sublevel stoping methods as all require a
vast amount of short raises.

A key feature of Easer, shown in Figure 8, is how it fills the


gap that has existed between the largest holes that Simba
drill rigs can drill and the smallest diameter capacity of the
current raiseborers. It also has the unique benefit of mobil-
ity and doesnt require the time-consuming setup procedure
of raiseborers, which need a concrete pad to be poured to
bolt the rig to the ground, as well as electricity, lighting and
ventilation.

The Easer L is flexible and designed to work in drifts of


4.5 x 4.5 m 0.5 m and can drill holes up to 750 mm in dia-
meter and up to 60 m long, for both boxhole and down-reaming
purposes. Its drill angle from vertical provides a minimum
Figure 5: Down reaming. range of 9060 in all directions. The second model, Easer M,
has the same capacity but has been specially designed for
smaller drifts of 3.5 x 3.5 m.

While the Easer enables drillers using any caving or stoping


method to achieve that all-important, first blast through in
the stope, it can also be used for precondition holes, pastefill
tube holes, long drainage holes, utility holes and other appli-
cations. And the time needed for setup or take down is less
than one hour.

Releasing blockages
Despite its many advantages, the ore-pass technique is not
flawless and problems do occur from time to time, the most
common being hang-ups and blockages. Normally, all mate-
rial is screened before entering the ore pass, and oversized
boulders are trapped in the grizzly at the opening of the pass
and broken up by a hydraulic breaker mounted on a pedestal
boom system.

However, even if the fragmentation is well managed, such


large volumes can sometimes clog together and become
jammed in the system. This can occur at any point in the
network, and the mine must be prepared and take action to
release these blockages and restore the flow. This involves
identifying the exact location of the blockage and drilling
holes into the side of the section to free it up.

Water may be injected into the holes or directly into the ore
Figure 6: Pilot down-ream down. pass from above, or, in the worst case scenario, explosive

80 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


ORE PASSES AND SHAFTS

charges may have to be used, and it may take several attempts


before the blockage is released.

The true value of the ore-pass technique also depends to some


extent on the shape of the orebody and the mining method
employed. In cut and fill mining, for example, the advantages
may not be as significant as the method itself is dependent on
having a large fleet of trucks, which is often used to truck the
ore all the way up to the surface. In this case, the installation
of ore passes will probably not reduce the number of vehicles
in the mining area and would, therefore, not be regarded as
a viable alternative.

The same can be said of most smaller mines where trucking is


often the most competitive solution, but in most larger mines,
the advantages of a total solution based on a well-constructed
ore-pass system far outweigh the disadvantages. And despite
the investments required for installation and the occasional
problem of blockages, this is now common practice in large
mines around the world.

A typical example is the LKAB iron ore mine Malmberget in


northern Sweden, where LHDs are used to collect the blasted
ore from the drawpoint and tip it directly into the ore-pass
to a lower transport level where it is loaded onto trucks for
transportation to the crusher station and thereafter to the
hoisting system. In this way, the haulage fleet is guaranteed
a constant stock of ore to draw from.

Round-the-clock haulage
Furthermore, ore-pass systems are essential for the continued
development of automated loading and transport solutions.
Driverless LHDs are increasingly used for hauling ore from
the drawpoints during the night time, or even on a 24/7 basis.
The ore-pass system is a requirement to enable the perma-
nent and constant supply of ore to the transport level. Such
a system has been in operation at Swedens LKAB Kiruna
Mine, and the latest project active since 2011 shows promis-
ing results.

But thats not all. The use of safe equipment to construct


ore-pass systems is in tune with the future aspirations of the
mining industry. Hand-held technology, not just for construct- Figure 7: Boxhole boring.
ing raises but for scaling and other mining tasks, is coming
to an end. Safety regulations will continue to increase, and
younger people entering the industry demand a safer, better
working environment and more interesting jobs.

Figure 8: The Easer machine is a flexible rig for small diameter raises.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 81


Change is in the air
Fresh air and ventilation are critical in underground mining, but many mines still rely
on outmoded, inefficient systems that consume excessive amounts of energy. Its
time for a change.

The lives of underground miners depend on a constant supply is undoubtedly a complex and challenging task. The nature
of air in order to survive and work. Not only do they need and structure of the workings; the type and number of mobile
oxygen to breathe, contaminated air, such as the fumes gener- machines in use, such as drill rigs, LHDs and haulers; the
ated by blasting and exhaust emissions from mining equip- number and deployment of mine personnel; the energy source;
ment, has to be evacuated from their workplaces. Ideally, all and the cost of powering the system are just a few of the
mines should, therefore, be equipped with the best ventilation parameters that need to be taken into consideration.
systems money can buy. Unfortunately, that is not always the
case. Modern, energy-efficient ventilation systems are still few A typical ventilation system consists of fresh-air raises and
and far between in a global perspective. raises for evacuating contaminated air, which go all the way
up to the surface, in one or several steps, to the primary fan
Research shows that although many ventilation systems can station. Added to this are secondary fans that drive the fresh
claim to meet local health and safety standards, they are also air from the fresh-air shaft via ventilation ducts into the pro-
the biggest economic villains of the industry, generating duction areas as shown in Figure 1, as well as fans in the
enormous levels of inefficiency and waste, culminating in production area itself, which distribute the fresh air and dilute
ever-increasing energy costs. exhaust gases.

Compared to other industrial applications, designing and Individual systems always vary in size and quality and in the
constructing a ventilation system for an underground mine way they are set up, but in general they all have one thing in

82 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


MINE VENTILATION

common; they are inefficient and often impossible to adapt to


the changing needs of the underground mining environment.
While drilling normally requires 3040% ventilation capacity,
low-level haulage will require significantly more. The guide-
lines for ventilation needs vary from one situation to the next
and are set according to installed diesel effect.

In many cases, however, the only way to ensure that a mine


has sufficient air throughout the working day is to over-
ventilate. As a result, many of these systems are typically
run at 100% of their capacity most of the time, constantly
driving fresh air into mining areas where often no mining is
taking place and extracting air from areas where there are no
fumes to extract. Furthermore, they normally leak substantial
amounts of air along the way, which reduces pressure and
further increases both energy consumption and running costs.

Ventilation on demand
Todays state-of-the-art ventilation systems solve most, if not
all of these issues. To begin with, their individual components
fans, tubing and ducting are, or should be, constructed
from robust, top-class materials, designed to withstand the
rigors of the mining environment with a minimum risk of
leakage. Not only that, they usually come with some form of
control facility, which enables the right amount of fresh air to
be directed to the right place at the right time, and fumes to be Figure 1. Using a variable-frequency system such as SwedVent, ventilation
output can be adapted to each activity, giving energy savings of 3050%.
extracted quickly and efficiently at any given time.

This control capability, which is often referred to as ven- And last but not least, it should be as cost effective as possible
tilation-on-demand is the most effective and cost efficient in order to minimize energy costs and safeguard the mines
way of dealing with ventilation in underground workings, financial resources.
optimizing the input of fresh air and optimizing the output,
or extraction of bad air via the ventilation shafts. Not least,
they provide the flexibility mine managers need in order to Optimized air flow
plan ventilation in parallel with mining operations on a shift- One system that offers all of these advantages and more is the
to-shift, or day-to-day basis. SwedVent system. As well as high quality materials, flexible
ducting, low noise and control, SwedVent also believes that
At the very least, an on-demand ventilation system will give: a successful solution depends largely on the combination of
Air flow tailored to the needs of equipment/activity. components and, therefore, offers a wide range of different
Local adaptability. solutions for underground use.
Reduced energy costs.
Minimized energy waste. This includes high pressure fan stations that can deliver air
along extensive lengths of ducting in different diameters, with
In designing the most appropriate underground system, three a capacity of 2.5175 m3/sec. Even more important is that the
criteria should be taken into account. Firstly, a well-ventilated system also offers impeller blades with variable angles that
environment must be provided wherever miners will be at can be set up in series. The possibility to simply adjust the
work in order to supply oxygen, not only for humans to pitch of the blade angle makes it simple and quick to adapt the
breathe but also for efficient engine combustion, to control fans to suit different motor dimensions and pressure require-
temperature, to dilute and remove toxic gases and, in a few ments.
cases, to ventilate areas where there may be levels of radon. It
may also be important to cool the air underground. Together, these features enable a multitude of solutions to be
constructed for different requirements and the air flow to be
Secondly, as todays mines are in a permanent state of evolu- optimized for each application.
tion, the system should be developed in such a way that it
can be easily scaled up to meet needs for expansion or going One interesting development that is likely to advance this
deeper at some point in its future. In these cases, having addi- technology further is a cooperation agreement between equip-
tional cooling systems connected to the same grid is a must. ment supplier Atlas Copco and the automation and power

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 83


MINE VENTILATION

Advanced software in the central monitoring room provides miners with a bird's eye view, enabling key mining aspects such as drilling, hauling, ventilation and
pump systems to be fully supervised.

company ABB, whose control technology gives the possibility entering and leaving production areas all the time, meaning
to regulate the ventilation fans in all parts of the mine and can that the air demand for the airways to the production areas
be coupled with Atlas Copcos SwedVent fans. constantly changes. Fresh air must also be distributed to the
areas where mine personnel are located, and the incoming air
Such systems have already proved their worth at a number may also need to be heated or cooled.
of mines in Sweden and Canada. At the Kristineberg Mine
in Sweden, for instance, automation has reduced the cost of The solution for this is to mount WiFi transmitters on all
ventilation for the owner, Boliden, by at least 30%. Here, the mobile equipment and receivers on the fans in the various
fans, of which about 30% are frequency-controlled, are pro- drifts. This enables the presence of vehicles, their type and
grammed to only operate in the rooms where activities are in work activity to be identified by the central ventilation control
progress a solution that has enabled Boliden to postpone an system, which then allocates the required air flow accordingly.
expensive project to sink a new ventilation shaft. In this way, fans are not activated unnecessarily in areas where
mining operations are not in progress.
Another Boliden-owned mine, Garpenberg, has a similar
system in place for a part of a new major mineral deposit at This also enables the ventilation system to be fully synchro-
Lappberget, which will substantially extend the mines operat- nized with daily and weekly production plans from the mine
ing area. In this case, the energy consumed by the fans fell planners office.
by approximately 500 A or 200 kW, signifying a potential
cost reduction of around 40%. In fact, the savings achieved Multivariable models describe how changes in the speed of
at Garpenberg are expected to be so substantial that Boliden fans affect both the airflow and the pressure over fans. The
expects the investment to be recovered within just three years. overall objective is, therefore, to optimize the system in such
a way so that the desired airflow in various airways is main-
tained at the same time as the power required to run the fans
Identification sensors is minimized.
To design demand-driven ventilation systems based on the
estimation, regulation and presence of vehicles is a difficult Since the cost of ventilation is a major item for all mines
challenge. Mobile equipment in underground mines consume often accounting for 3545% of the total energy consumption
a significant amount of energy, typically 100 GWh/year, it is an area that is ripe for improvement with huge potential
which can be as a much as 50% of the total energy consump- gains, both for the mines balance sheet and the people who
tion for underground activities. In addition, these vehicles are work underground.

84 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


MINE VENTILATION

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 85


Dedicated holes for the installation of utilities such as electricity, water and compressed air are highly recommended, here using the Simba W7 C for long hole
drilling with minimized deviation.

Keeping utilities
close at hand
Underground miners need access to water, electricity, compressed air and a range
of other utilities, preferably located in the same unit and conveniently close to their
workplaces.

Water, electricity, compressed air, communication connections It is common practice at a great many mines for utilities to be
and fill material are just some of the important utilities used by run down to the mining areas from the surface using cables
underground miners every day. And the first three examples and pipes installed inside ventilation or skip shafts or fixed to
usually go hand in hand with mine development. the walls or roofs of ramps and roadways.

But while these essential services, sometimes referred to as This method involves the use of extreme lengths of cabling
media, may be bundled and conveniently located, the moment and pipelines, in some cases covering distances of several
that an extension is delayed it tends to cause irritation among kilometers, which is not only enormously expensive but also
mine personnel and slows down operations as an unwanted involves a huge risk of faults or leakages in a multitude of
result. couplings and joints.

86 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


UTILITY HOLES

In addition, the final access points deep in the mine are rarely
found in the most practical or convenient locations, and the
same principle applies when it comes to access points for
auxiliary materials, such as hydraulic fill and water drainage.

In modern development, the most practical and convenient


way of providing efficient access to utilities and materials
is to install vertical utility holes specially designed for this
purpose.

These holes, also known as service holes, should be driven


from the surface or between levels the shortest practical way
using tophammer drill rigs, or ITH/DTH (in-the-hole/down- The Rig Control System (RCS) keeps deviation in drilling below 1.5%.
the-hole) rigs such as Atlas Copco Simba rigs, if the holes
are especially long. And when it comes to installing longer
utility holes for water drainage or holes for paste backfill,
raiseboring machines have proven to be an ideal choice using
pilot drilling.

Dedicated utility holes may not always be possible to install


in very weak rock formations or rock that is prone to sliding,
but it is considered to be the best alternative for most mine
types.

The economic benefits of installing utility holes are clear, not


least in terms of the cost savings that can be realized due to the
shorter distances involved and, therefore, the shorter lengths
of cabling and pipe that are required.

In addition, well placed, easily accessible utilities down in the


mine makes life easier for the miners, which in turn contrib-
utes to productivity.

As in all matters concerning preparations, many of these util-


ity holes should be conceived and designed carefully in the
mine planning stage so that they become a natural step in the
development of the mine. Utility holes can be drilled to a wide
range of dimensions and lengths to accommodate the various
needs of the mine in the best possible way.
Raiseboring machine suitably used for pilot-hole drilling.
Apart from electrical service holes, paste fill or slurry holes,
and water-drainage holes, it may also be necessary to plan for
the installation of geophones that monitor seismicity, applying
the same utility hole system.

To summarize, utility holes may be used to accommodate the


following needs and installations:
Electricity
Water drainage
Compressed air
Seismic monitoring
Paste fill or slurry

Both Simba drill rigs and raiseboring machines are typically


used for these holes. Whatever type of utility needed, careful
planning and high precision in drilling with as low deviation Utility holes for drainage drilled with a Simba rig equipped with a Wassara
as possible, no greater than 1-1.5%, is often a prerequisite for W100 water-powered ITH hammer. Maximum accuracy is crucial in order to
reliable service installations. reach the desired location at the lower level.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 87


Keeping workshops well-equipped
and storage rooms in good order
is crucial for high productivity.

88 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


ROADS AND WORKSHOPS

Smooth operation or
an accident waiting to happen?
Roads and workshops are two aspects of the mining layout that are often overlooked
and sometimes neglected. Heres why the planning of road maintenance goes hand
in hand with logistics such as material handling, storage and workshops.
It goes without saying that good quality roads and well locat- and hoists, is the amount of space these installations occupy
ed, well equipped workshops are as important to the modern in the mining environment and the type of maintenance
miner as the orebody itself. Yet there are still numerous required in each case.
examples of where both have been seriously underestimated.
Although electric rail is a common and useful method of
Many mines still have roads that are not fit for purpose. They transport, a shift toward LHD loaders (Load Haul Dump)
are often under-dimensioned and badly maintained, which equipment has intensified since the 1970s. Today, mine trucks
impacts on their ability to carry traffic efficiently and safely. that carry payloads of 85 tonnes can safely navigate in con-
In general, a road that has been allowed to fall into disrepair stricted spaces, along narrow openings and up and down
at a mine site is an accident waiting to happen. steep ramps due to articulated design features.

In many cases, it is a matter of upgrading. The roads should This rapid evolution of engineering technology has meant that
not only be well maintained, but also continually upgraded an interconnected network of roads and ramps between the
in order to accommodate increasingly large and heavier mines horizontal levels can be planned much more efficiently
vehicles and to prevent other vehicles such as cars, which compared with just a few years ago.
are not purpose built, from breaking down as a result of poor
road conditions. By adapting the layout of haul roads to a chosen equipment
fleet with modern capabilities, the transportation cycle and
Good, strong roads enable safe and quick transportation overall costs become far more predictable. To achieve this,
which, in turn, saves time and money and benefits produc- the gradient of roads and angle of ramps must be carefully
tivity. calculated since they impact on fuel consumption, speed of
transportation, emergency breaking and wear and tear of
So what constitutes a good mine road? Basically, it is a road machinery components.
that is built from the bottom up, from coarse to fine mate-
rial. It is also a road with a surface that is well compacted Typically, road gradients of up to 12 are regarded as safe and
and designed to drain off water as water filled pot holes and functional. However, some equipment will operate on more
blasted rock ruins tires. The road should also have a drainage severe levels where a 1520% road gradient is not uncom-
ditch, at least along one side, and water tubes beneath the road mon, without putting operators or machinery at risk. It should
to carry off any water ingress from the mine roof. be remembered, however, that steep ramps generally mean
higher operating and maintenance costs. This is because fully
Heavy water infiltration from the roof should be funneled to loaded vehicles travel slower going upwards and use more
the drainage ditch instead of allowed to fall directly on the fuel, while vehicles traveling downwards have to apply more
road, which can erode the surface. In addition, fine waste pressure to their brakes, which increases wear.
rock and oredust combined with water can make tarmac roads
slippery and dangerous. As a result, the use of modern equipment for the transpor-
tation of ore, waste rock, backfill and other material via a
road network has increased the need for high quality roads.
Roads for mechanized haulage However, it has also put greater demands on the skill of mine
One of the main differences between the haulage methods planners to balance the cost and benefits of a road network
used in underground mining, from roads and conveyors to rail design.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 89


ROADS AND WORKSHOPS

Modern mine vehicles are capable of severe road grades, although a maximum of 12% is recommended to avoid high maintenance costs. Well maintained
roads can also significantly reduce the cost of tire replacements.

No shortcuts Haul roads should be constructed using four main layers:


There are no shortcuts to achieving the optimal layout solu- subgrade, subbase, base course and surface/wearing course.
tion for roads and workshops; the answer is proactive plan- These layers contain various materials that normally include:
ning at the design stage. It is important that road maintenance Crushed stone
is seen as a normal part of the entire operation with grading Compacted gravel
work carried out at least once a week per dirt road, or more Stabilized earth
often if the road is heavily used. In addition, tarmac and Roller compacted concrete (RCC)
asphalt roads have to be monitored and swept to clear them Asphalt concrete
of rock fragments that fall from heavy trucks and that ruin
the road surface, and also to get rid of mud that makes the These materials will determine the desired traction to match
surfaces slippery. the specific conditions of the mine, where equipment adhe-
sion and rolling resistance are two main concerns for safety
Mine conditions such as temperature, water f low and and productivity.
wind, along with the type and frequency of traffic, largely
determine the life expectancy of underground haul roads. Deterioration as the result of stress is not the only problem
For example, due to high intensity and stress at Chiles vast when it comes to haul roads. Another common challenge is
copper mine El Teniente, the roads usually only last six the dust that is stirred up by the machines, which can become
months to a year before they need to be resurfaced. For this hazardous for operators and the environment. Water is used
reason, all modern mines should be staffed with a dedicated to minimize dust, but it is crucial that haul roads feature a
road maintenance team equipped with material transport sealed surface consisting of fines that are used as binders
vehicles, compactors and graders. for larger particles.

90 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


ROADS AND WORKSHOPS

Placement of workshops
In the same way that a systematic approach toward road
maintenance is highly recommended, the strategic location
of workshops is required in order to optimize a mines pro-
duction cycle. As every hour counts and downtime is always
costly, larger mines may employ a system that combines field
maintenance with main and secondary workshops, which
drastically reduces distances and service/repair time.

By definition, the main workshop is under ground, situated


some distance away but strategically placed in relation to all
mining areas. All preventive maintenance is done here, as
well as all major repairs. For major overhauls of large compo-
nents, the main underground workshop will often send these
up to a surface workshop. When they are completed, they are
returned to the main workshop to carry out the replacement
work on the machines.

Secondary workshops are smaller and located closer to the


mining area, often in close proximity to personnel rest areas.
These secondary facilities are equipped with some smaller
spare parts, fluids etc, and located in well drained or dry
areas. Field maintenance is carried out by dedicated crews
with well equipped vehicles.

Where possible, it is advisable that both main and secondary


workshops are designed with independent access routes so as
not to disturb the production and daily flow of haulage traffic.
They should also be located in dry areas where there is no
water ingress from the rock that could potentially damage
electronics and create slippery surfaces. This also means
that facilities needed for cleaning equipment should be kept
separate from the workshops.

The same strategy should apply to the location of the work-


shop's loading bays. Shop materials such as tires, fuel and oils
can pose a fire risk and need to be carefully stored. Like all
mining operations, road maintenance and workshops natu-
rally come with a price tag, but the cost usually represents
just a small percentage of the total cost of the overall opera-
tion. On the other hand, the cost of choosing to overlook or
deliberately neglect these aspects of the operation could end
up costing a great deal more.

In northern Finland, the Kemi chromite mine serves as a good


example of how proactive planning for roads and workshops
leads to a safer working environment, while enabling con-
tinuous expansion. Using an advanced layout of ramps and
drifts for rail haulage and large payload trucks, maintenance
facilities are located close to the excavation area at a depth
of 500 m.

Thanks to a smooth operation which is extending deeper in


the mine, a low accident rate and low outage time, the annual
production of 2.5 M tonnes of chromite ore is set to double in
the next few years. Quality roads that are properly maintained reduce wear on equipment, while
strategically located, well-equipped main and secondary workshops
drastically reduce downtime

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 91


Top pictures: Slot drilling using a Simba rig equipped with ITH drill hammer and guide tool. Bottom picture (Figure 1): Drill pattern for cut-off slot with 7 cut holes of
127 mm in diameter and 64 mm blastholes, all drilled with a Simba rig.

Slot raises
for easy and safe mining
When starting up a new mining area, miners begin by opening a space that can receive
the rock from the first blasts. These indispensible openings used to be difficult and
dangerous to construct. Not anymore.

It is a well-known fact that when rock is blasted it expands first few blasts in the primary stope to be carried out easily,
and becomes approximately 60% bigger than its original quickly and efficiently.
volume. In mining, this is not a problem, providing the blast-
ed rock, both in situ and loose, has somewhere to expand into.
Mechanized and safe
In the initial phase of production drilling, it is, therefore, In the past, these initial openings, now called slots or slot
essential to start by first excavating a void that can accom- raises, have been difficult and dangerous to construct.
modate this expanded rock volume. Without it, the rock has Operators would use hand-held rock drills, often balancing on
nowhere to go, and both blasting and mucking is infinitely ladders as high as 50 m. Things improved in later years with
more complicated to carry out. the so-called Alimak method whereby the operator works
from a hydraulic platform, a practice that is still frequently
These openings, which are typically 0.61.5 m in diameter, used. However, all techniques that require the physical pres-
are, therefore, of paramount importance. Used in conjunc- ence of operators inside the void being opened are laborious
tion with sublevel stoping or caving methods, they enable the and hazardous, and the current trend is to minimize the use

92 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


OPENING SLOT RAISES

As in conventional raiseboring or boxhole drilling, the raiseboring machine is set up to drill a pilot hole vertically, upwards or downwards. The hole is then
reamed to the required diameter. The cuttings fall down the raise and are deflected from the machine by the use of a muck collector and a muck chute.

of such methods. Today, modern mechanized equipment is raiseboring machine. The raise is normally drilled from
available to create these all-important openings, making the the upper level to the lower level but can also be drilled
job faster, simpler and, above all, much safer. from the lower level and reamed upwards, which is neces-
sary in boxhole drilling when the upper level is not possible
to reach (caving methods). These openings are gene-
Three methods in use rally regarded as the safest methods, especially when the
To create these openings in a modern mine, the key is to raise opening has to be long.
choose the right method, and there are three main alternatives:
The first two methods are applied using Simba drill rigs to
Large diameter holes: A top hammer drilled series of 57 produce the holes. The raise-opening method is applied using
large diameter cut holes in a pattern surrounded by smaller a suitable model in the range of Robbins raiseborers.
diameter blastholes, charged and blasted to create the final
swelling void. An example of the drill pattern for the total Recently, however, a new prototype rig called the Easer
cut-off slot is shown in Figure 1. machine has been introduced that allows for more flexibil-
ity when drilling opening raises or boxholes as it combines
Slot drilling: A more controlled way of creating an open- the reamed-hole capacity of raiseborers with the mobility of
ing slot by drilling tightly spaced holes in a row, each hole Simba rigs.
approximately 150 mm in diameter, using a special guide
tube mounted on an ITH drill hammer (see images page 96), All three methods are seen as efficient and flexible, but the
which guides the hammer from the previously drilled hole. use of standard or modified raiseboring equipment is gaining
The slot is surrounded by smaller diameter blastholes that popularity due to its simplicity and added safety as a reamed
are blasted in sequence. raise eliminates the risk of sequence failure in blasting.

Raise opening: A large diameter raise 0.61.5 m is drilled For more information on raiseboring technology see the
using pilot drilling followed by a reamed hole using a Atlas Copco reference book edition Raiseboring, 2012.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 93


The art of long hole drilling
Production holes and utility holes have something in common. They are both long
holes and the longer the hole, the greater the risk of deviation. Today, long hole
drilling is more accurate than ever.

It is reasonable to assume that long drill holes can never be important part of the hole. To a great extent, however, this
100 % straight, regardless of the miners experience or the deviation can be calculated for and minimized. Sometimes a
drilling equipment being used. A certain degree of deviation simple measure such as slower drilling may be an adequate
is simply unavoidable due to a variety of factors. However, solution.
much has been done in recent years to help the miner keep
the drill bit on course and as close as possible to its planned
destination. In long hole mining, deviation is mainly due to Why deviation is important
poor hole alignment, a lack of guide tubes, too-high feed, Deviation is the long hole drillers enemy, not to mention the
badly selected drill steel, poor collaring, deflection caused charging engineer whose charging plan is based on perfectly
by various rock types or voids as the bit attempts to make its straight holes. It has a direct impact on the effectiveness
way through the orebody. of blasting, which, in turn, increases the risk of poor rock
fragmentation or, in the worst case scenario, freezing rock.
Deviation may also be a result of successive bending of the Conversely, straight holes are the key to optimal blasting
drill rods in the extended drillstring during the first and most results.

94 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


LONG HOLE DRILLING

In order to achieve the desired rock fragmentation, the long


hole driller must therefore drill as straight and as accurately
as possible in short, within the limits specified by the drill
plan. This means that the holes must be collared in exactly Deviation
the right position, and then drilled in the right direction and to m
the exact depth. Whether for long or short holes, a poor setup 3
will greatly increase the risk of unwanted deviation.
1.5

Drillstring bending
Aside from geological conditions, other, perhaps less obvious
1.5
in-hole factors can have a marked influence on hole devia-
tion, such as the selection of drill rig technology. Drill rigs 3
equipped with RCS (Rig Control System) adjust automati- Hole length 15 m 30 m
cally to rock conditions and fractures. The choice of bits and
drillstring design will also have an impact, as demonstrated
in Figure 1.

During drilling, the friction generated between the drill bit


and the rock induces a torque in the drillstring above a certain
rotation rate. The larger the drillstring diameter and the great- Conventional tophammer T45/51
er the rotation rate, the higher the torque and feed force will
be required to keep the drillstring joints sufficiently tight.
Tophammer T45/51 incl guide tube + Retrac bit
It is often claimed that the amount of deviation is propor-
tional to the depth squared. At a certain point along the hole,
the drillstring will buckle, so rather than being straight in
In-the-hole (ITH)
the hole, it is supported by the hole wall close to the mid-
point between rock drill and hole bottom. This means that
the dimension of the hole and the size of the drillstring are
crucial parameters. If a small drillstring is used in a big hole,
the drillstring will bend.

For a COP 1838ME rock drill, with a drillstring diameter of


38 mm and a feed force of 6,400 N at a percussive pressure of Figure 1: Three drilling methods and typical deviation to be expected.
200 bar, this bending length is approximately 11 m. In prac-
tice, bending occurs at a somewhat shorter interval since the
drillstring is never perfectly straight at the start of drilling.
When the drillstring has been extended to twice the theo-
retical bending length, it will buckle once more so that it is
now supported at two points along the hole. At three times
the theoretical bending length, the drillstring will once again
buckle, and so on with increasing hole depth.

Drill bits and regrinding


Another factor to consider is the geometry of the drill bit
face and its condition, particularly with respect to regrind-
ing. From an accuracy point of view, a flatfront bit or a drop
center (concave) frontbit (Figure 2) results in a straighter hole
than a drill bit with a convex front.

It must also be remembered that to obtain the best hole accu-


racy with all drill bits, they must be reground so that their
faces are restored to their original shape in terms of both the
buttons and the steel. In this regard, drop center drill bits
are, once again, preferable to convex bits. This is because the Increased penetration rate, longer service life and lower cost are just a few
concave shape needs only to be reground so that the profile of benefits of using button bits.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 95


LONG HOLE DRILLING

Deviation
D
DRO
SPEE
T38
1.50 m
Long hole precision drilling od
Gui de r
T45
In-hole deviation as function
of hole length ROD
PEED 1.00 m
T45 S
ube
(Derived from investigations at 64 t
TDS
LKAB, Kiruna)
0.50 m

15 m 20 m 25 m 30 m 35 m 40 m

Hole depth

T38 SPEEDROD / T38 SPEEDROD/


Standard bit

T45 SPEEDROD / T45 SPEEDROD /


(old design) / Retrac Bit

TDS 64 tube / TDS 64 tube / guide Bit

Figure 3: Larger diameter drillstrings result in less in-hole deviation as a function of hole depth.

the central buttons is restored to its original pattern without underground in order to achieve sufficient flushing capacity.
adversely affecting hole straightness, even when the concave The use of water mist can also be a solution.
face eventually wears flat through normal operation.
An attractive alternative is the adoption of a guide tube con-
Therefore, if the drill bit is reground correctly and frequently, nected to the drill bit, which, owing to its larger diameter,
the feed force will be directed to the periphery of the bit so reduces the possible amplitude of drill bit wiggle compared
that the whole cutting face is in contact with the base of the with rods. Also, as the possible angle of wiggling decreases
hole, even if the drillstring buckles. with increasing length of the guide tube, the guide tube incor-
porated into the drill bit should be as long as possible.
With poor and infrequent regrinding, the drill bit may
wiggle on the hole bottom and will, sooner or later, result Unlike a drillstring comprised solely of tubes, where the
in hole deviation. stress waves are transmitted via shoulder impact, stress
waves in a drillstring incorporating a guide tube are trans-
In general, the larger the diameter of the drillstring for the mitted down the rods to the guide tube via bottom impact.
smallest possible hole, the straighter the hole will be since the Another way to minimize wiggling is to use Retrac bits
drillstring diameter has more of an influence on the bending (above right). Characterized by a bit skirt with the same outer
length than the feed force, as shown in Figure 3. diameter as the bit head, it is, in effect, a very short guide
tube with maximum possible diameter. Retrac bits have been
Since drill tubes have larger diameters than drill rods, they developed primarily to improve retraction of the drillstring
result in greater hole straightness. A complete drillstring of in difficult rock conditions, where the tendency for jamming
tubes is often necessary in downward production drilling frequently occurs.

96 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


LONG HOLE DRILLING

The well-known Simba drill rig equipped with RCS provides high accuracy and offers a range of automated drilling functions. Here, the Simba W7 C, equipped
with the Wassara water-powered ITH drilling system, drills service holes for geophone installations, which require minimized deviation.

Debris from the hole is f lushed through slots machined As we have said, it is impossible to eliminate hole deviation
along the bit, and the rear end of the skirt has a cutting edge completely, but with the right choice of equipment and by
between every slot. Since the Retrac bit cannot wiggle as utilizing this equipment in the right way, it can make a big
much as a standard bit with a skirt that is significantly smaller difference.
than the bit head, hole straightness is, once again, improved.
However, the use of full length guide tubes will normally
result in straighter holes than those drilled using Retrac bits. Long hole drilling with Simba
Since the 1990s, great advances have been made in com-
puter technology to meet the needs of the mining industry,
Beating deviation especially with regard to fully computerized drill rigs for
Here are four ways to combat and minimize hole deviation: automated long hole drilling. These units, known worldwide
A stiff drillstring and small clearance between the hole and as Simba, have enabled mines to make substantial improve-
the drillstring components will result in straighter holes. ments in drilling accuracy and productivity.
For tophammer drilling, tubes that can be added behind
the drill bit to improve the flushing and reduce the risk of They are equipped with the Atlas Copco Rig Control System
the drillstring becoming stuck. (RCS), which offers varying degrees of automation and,
ITH, COPROD and rotary drilling are even more accurate ultimately, the possibility of fully automated, remotely con-
than tophammer drilling and result in less deviation. trolled and remotely monitored drilling. Options such as
Less deviation can be obtained through a combination of Advanced Boom Control (ABC) Regular, ABC Total, Drill
reduced feed force and increased rotational speed. This can Plan Handling, Full Drill Data Handling (FDDH) and com-
be managed automatically through RCS. munication products are also available.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 97


LONG HOLE DRILLING

RCS, which is a CAN-bus based system using standard


PC-computer technology, represented a quantum leap for-
ward with respect to logging capabilities, serviceability and
drilling accuracy. CAN-bus systems use a single cable that
interconnects a series of electronic components, allowing
them to communicate with each other. In production drill-
ing, the rigs can be adapted and configured for different
applications.

Drill rig setup


A hole alignment accuracy of within 0.1 degrees is attain-
able with the Simba L and M rigs, with electronic sensors
displaying the drills rotation angle, tilt angle, or fan inclina-
tion on the operators screen. The operator can configure the
rotation direction and locate the zero points according to the
drill plan. If the drill quality logging option is installed, col-
laring angles for each hole can be logged and stored.

At the ABC Total level, the rigs stingers and feed extension
can be deployed automatically during anchoring and de-
anchoring, and the rod handling system allows the operator
to use either Speedrods or TDS tubes. TDS tubes improve
hole straightness and flushing speed, while minimizing the
risk of the rods becoming stuck in the hole.

Operators need only to key in the required depth to initiate


automatic collaring and drilling of a hole, including automatic
addition of rods during the drilling sequence and removal
when drilling reaches the pre determined depth. To simplify
drill bit changes in mid-hole, the system will automatically
feed rods into the hole after the bit change and continue drill-
ing to the required depth in one sequence.

Integrated and remote controlled


All Simba drill rigs can be equipped with a series of major
automation options, such as Measure While Drilling, Drill
Plan Handling, Drill Plan Adaptation, Mine Navigation,
Full Drill Data Handling, Rig Remote Access, and Ore
Manager.

The most efficient method of handling drill fans and planning


production drilling is to integrate the Simba rigs with the
planning system at the mine site. This means that there is no
need for manual handling or design of fan plans in the mine.
The fan plan is generated in the system and transferred to the
Simba via the mine network or by means of a PC card.

Modern drilling is associated with very precise requirements,


to get the best fragmentation and not to unnecessarily dilute
the ore. To ensure efficiency in the mining process, the Simba
production rig can be used to drill only in the ore and avoid
drilling, charging and blasting areas with pure waste.

For operators, the learning time is short, and beginners and


experienced drillers alike are capable of production drilling
after a couple of days of training.

98 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


LONG HOLE DRILLING

The Simba L and M rigs use electronic sensors for tilt angling (left and above). In ABC Total drilling, stingers and feed extensions can be deployed automatically.

Long hole drilling at LKAB shift changes, lunch breaks and night shifts, adding valuable
The Simba long hole drill rig is a central element of the drill meters.
mining fleet used by LKAB, one of the worlds leading iron
ore producers. Its mines at Kiruna and Malmberget in north- The rigs drill upwards into the ore at 80 degrees front inclina-
ern Sweden are models of modern mining methods, with high tion, forming fan-shaped patterns of holes. There are nor-
levels of automation in rail transport, loading and production mally 810 holes in each fan that are drilled from 1055 m in
drilling. length. The drilling burden is usually 3 m, but in some parts
of Malmberget there are burdens of 3.5 m.
Since 2002, production at Kiruna has increased by more than
40 %, and the number of drill meters required has increased
accordingly, recently surpassing 1 M m/y. The combined pro- Conclusion
duction of both mines is approaching 1.5 M m/y. The Simbas Precision drilling, high productivity and swift availability are
used at Malmberget are equipped with multi-teleremote func- the criteria for low cost and successful long hole production
tions, which allow remote operation in a variety of ways. drilling.

High-capacity drill rigs are a must, and the fleet of Simba rigs With RCS technology, Atlas Copco gives the driller the
has been expanded to six production hole rigs at Malmberget opportunity to undertake long hole drilling with faster and
and two in Kiruna to meet the current long hole drilling more reliable control of the entire operation. This improves
demand. Apart from production drilling, the Simbas are being drillstring life and reduces cost per drill meter.
successfully used for service hole drilling and slot drilling.
Slices of the ore are drilled with Simba rigs equipped with fan As all mines are cost conscious, the range of high precision
automation. From a control room, operators control several drill rigs gives the mine planners and stope designers oppor-
rigs in the production areas via remote control. The production tunities to better optimize the mining process and thereby
drilling machines can continue to operate unmanned during save costs and increase productivity.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 99


Pedestal Boom Systems in action, over a grizzly and over a crushing station (right), which demands a longer reach.

Breaking news
in breaking rock
Breaking oversized rock is a must in underground mines and open pits alike. With
modern technology there are no reasons why it cant be just as efficient as all other
aspects of the mining process.

Boulders produced by rock blasting are currently an unwel- breakers are preferable to drilling and blasting, particularly
come by-product of the mining process. In underground pro- underground, due to safety and environmental considerations.
duction areas, they are too big to muck out, too big for crusher In the long term, heavy-duty pedestal boom systems (PBS)
stations to handle, and too big to go through the bars of the are considered to be the most economical alternative. They
grizzlies above an ore pass. Even if a boulder can be dropped are powerful, high-capacity machines that can be relied on to
into an ore pass, its size and weight can destroy the pass and break up the oversized boulders continuously.
cause blockages and bottlenecks in the production flow.

While it is true that boulders are created by insufficient blast- A worthwhile investment
ing or blasting difficulties due to hole deviation, they are a There are several types of pedestal boom systems available,
reality and must be broken up into smaller, more manageable and although capital-intensive, studies show that they will be
pieces for haulage or crushing. This is an arduous and monoto- more economical over time, providing they are regularly and
nous operation that can be difficult and costly. Boulders also properly serviced. For the most part, two-section boom sys-
occur in the rock masses created in caving methods, and these tems are used for secondary breaking at grizzlies underground,
too disturb the rock-flow process and must be taken care of. while three-section boom systems are used at gyratory crusher
stations at open pits.
Basically there are only two ways of dealing with these
unwanted boulders. They can either be drilled and blasted or The mines of South Africa are typical examples. At the South
broken up using a variety of hydraulic breakers. Both meth- Deep Gold Mine, a two-section boom system is in operation
ods have their advantages and disadvantages, but hydraulic 3 000 m under ground, breaking up 1 000 tonnes of rock per day.

100 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


BOULDER HANDLING

After it was installed, production increased by as much as 50%


per month, largely due to the low maintenance costs.

The solid structure of this system weighs approximately 10


tonnes. It has a 6 m reach for complete coverage of the break-
ing area and can be rotated 280 for easy maintenance access.

Similarly, a three-section boom system is in operation at the


Anglo Platinum Mine in Makopane. This setup weighs 23
tonnes and has a maximum reach of 12.5 m, allowing for a
longer, deeper and complete coverage of the crusher box but
requiring only a small parking radius.

Among the pedestal boom systems currently available, the XD


series PBS from Atlas Copco stands out. Specifically built for
this application, these breakers are designed for heavy-duty
grizzlies and gyratory crushers that demand high strength,
durability and maneuverability. All XD parts are extremely
robust to withstand the rigors of the harsh rock-breaking envi- Rotational slew mechanism up to 280 for easy reach and maintenance.
ronment and a relentless 24/7 operational cycle.

There are nine systems in the series offering a breaker weight


of 2005 800 kg and a wide reach of 2.711.4 m for complete
coverage of the breaking area. The boom is mounted on a
massive, heavy-duty base that positions the breaker to reach
and shatter oversized and lodged rocks in any part of the griz-
zly or crusher mouth. Reinforcement plates ensure an even
stress distribution, while key components such as the pedestal
booms flexi-base, slew mechanism, cylinders, large-diameter
pins and pin-locking system work in harmony to get the job
done. With easy access to all service points, these systems are
also simple and quick to service for maximize uptime.

A PBS system is typically installed close to ore passes or rock


chutes into ore passes that have grizzlies over the openings. A
suitable mounting area is usually prepared at the side, a plat-
form is built, and the PBS is installed on top of the platform.
These installation setups are also designed to be maintenance Breaking oversized rock is an essential task at crusher stations.
friendly and located in close proximity to crushers. In LHD
automation areas where no one is allowed to be in the vicin-
ity, a PBS system setup is often a must in order to ensure a
constant, uninterrupted ore flow.

Future development
Although most PBS systems today focus on breaking boulders
up to a certain size in an effective way, it is conceivable that
future designs will be able to break even larger size blocks
with maintained efficiency, thereby reducing the need for sec-
ondary breaking with drill and blast. In addition, future PBS
equipment will most likely be able to improve the steady flow
of material to the crusher with even smaller size rock frag-
ments, which will lower the crushers energy consumption.

Advanced maintenance solutions and easy data transfer using


the RCS system also make the pedestal booms reliable and
ready for teleremote control and thereby well prepared for A Pedestal Boom System (PBS) installed above the grizzly at the South Deep
future technology challenges. Gold Mine in South Africa ensures a continuous flow of material.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 101


Figure 1: Sweden's iron ore mine LKAB Malmberget consists of more than 20 orebodies, of which 12 are mined using the sublevel caving (SLC) method. It has four
main production levels, with the newest crusher station located at the 1 250 m haulage level. The ore to be mined (marked in blue), is transported to surface facilities
via roads and ramps (see red line), conveyor belts and hoists.

The decision of a lifetime


Choosing a suitable mining method, whether it is for a new mining venture or when
switching from one method to another, is a complex process, and with good reason.
Whatever the final decision, it will be crucial for success throughout the entire life
of the mine.
There are about ten basic mining methods in use around the example above, Figure 1). As a result, the methods at the
world and just as many variations. Choosing the right one planners disposal are generally grouped into two categories
involves a complex decision-making process in which many according to the orebody dip: steep orebodies and flat orebodies,
different parameters must be taken into account. The cardinal each presenting its own set of preconditions for mining.
rule is to always start with the geometry of the orebody and
then look at the rock conditions, which is the second critical
factor. Steep orebodies
When it comes to upright standing orebodies, or steep ore-
In most cases, it is the size, shape and dip of the deposit that bodies as shown in Figure 3, page 104, the natural force of grav-
determines the mining method, the layout and the method in ity is invaluable in the mining process as it will greatly assist
which the material is to be handled and transported. the rock flow, from which the miners can reap large benefits.

Some orebodies are massive, flat formations stretching over The physical differences can also be used to an advantage
several kilometers. Others are almost vertical and steep (see in transportation. For the stoping method and where the dip

102 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


CHOICE OF MINING METHODS

1. Bolting and cable bolting


2. Vertical benching
3. Pillar
4. Flat benching

Figure 2: The illustration shows a flat horizontal orebody and typical mining activity.
1 Bolting and cablebolting
2 Vertical benching
3 Pillar
4 Flat benching
exceeds 50 degrees, it means that mucking and haulage can Flat orebodies
be carried out at a lower level. Where the dip is less than 50 For flat orebodies, the main mining methods are:
degrees, these operations can be carried out at the mining Room and Pillar: classic, post and step
level. Longwall Mining

However, this initial observation is only the first step in the Ore and waste properties are crucial to the evaluation of
process. A wide range of other factors also have to be taken mining methods and how they are weighed against each other.
into consideration, such as the nature and behavior of the Computerized equipment is used to gather geotechnical infor-
rock, the existence of any environmental restrictions in the mation and to calculate production rates and costs using data
area, safety and the availability of skilled labor and, not least, analysis, which greatly contributes to the research studies and
the potential cost of extracting the ore. final reports that determine the optimal choice.

In building this equation, the planner will naturally also be In the past few years, no new mining methods have been
correlating all these factors with the methods that are likely introduced, but many have been substantially improved with
to meet short-term and long-term production targets in the the development of new and better technology. Preferences
most efficient and sustainable way. change, however, and some methods have clearly become
more popular than others.
For steep orebodies, the main mining methods normally
employed are:
Sublevel Open Stoping The right choice
Long Hole Open Stoping The most common mining methods today all have unique
Rill Mining pros and cons for each mining situation and involve relative
Cut and Fill Mining costs and productivity levels that vary considerably, as shown
Shrinkage Stoping (VCR) in Figure 4 on the next page. Block caving is a typical exam-
Sublevel Caving ple of a large-scale, highly productive method that has the
Block Caving lowest costs, making it ideally suited for mining low grade

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 103


CHOICE OF MINING METHODS

7
1. Stope
2. Blasted ore 8
3. Draw point 3
4. Drill access
5. Long hole drilling and
blasting
6. Undercut fan blasting
7. Transport drift
8. Loading crosscut

Figure 3: The typical mining process in a standing, vertical orebody.

Relative cost and productivity


Method T/Manshift Avg. T/Day Relative Operating Cost
per tonne
Resuing (small scale cut and fill) 0.2 - 0.5 50 - 100 + 70 +

Cut and Fill 1 Stope 12 - 48 500 - 1 500 20 to 70


2 Blasted ore
Shrinkage 3 Draw point 20 - 28 200 - 800 20 to 50
4 Drill access
Room and Pillar 5 Long-hole drilling
15 - and
150 blasting 1 500 - 10 000 7 to 20
6 Undercut fan blasting
Sublevel Open Stoping 7 Transport drift 20 - 115 1 500 - 20 000 7 to 25
8 Loading crosscut
Sublevel Caving 65 - 180 1 500 - 70 000 5 to 15

Block Caving 300 - 2 000 10 000 - 100 000 1 to 2.5

Figure 4: The relative cost of typical mining methods and the excavation tonnages yielded.

orebodies. In addition, such large-scale methods, which also the increase in demand for larger volumes, better recovery
includes sublevel caving and sublevel open stoping, are more ratios and increased safety.
suited to automated operations, and the growing trend toward
automated mining is expected to continue. Experts predict Although these methods have a longer planning horizon,
that the dominant methods over the next 10 years will be experience shows that they lead to better, smoother produc-
block caving, sublevel caving, cut and fill, sublevel open stop- tion systems and, thereby, lower running costs, but with
ing with backfill, and room and pillar mining. This is due to higher demand for quality and good performance.

104 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


THE DECISION OF A LIFETIME

Reducing downtime is a key concern for miners


whatever method of mining they choose.
The Scooptram EST1030 front end loader is
robust and features a heat protected engine.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 105


1

7
1. Caved hanging wall
2. Production =
Blasting and loading
3. Drilled blastholes
2
4. Charging
3 8 5. Long hole drilling
6. Developing of new
4 sublevels
9
7. Sublevels
8. Footwall drift
5 9. Ore pass
10. Haulage level

10
6

Figure 1: Typical layout of a sublevel caving (SLC) operation.


1 Caved hanging wall 10 Haulage level
2 Production = Blasting and loading
3 Drilled
4 Charging

Assessing the case


5 Long-hole drilling
6 Developing of new sublevels
7 Sublevels
8 Footwall drift
9 Ore pass

for caving
Large orebodies with a steep dip and competent host rock are often suited to mining
by caving. But the environmental impact must also be taken into consideration.

Every mine planner knows that caving is a very favorable way controlled. At the same time, SLC is dependent on a hanging
of extracting ore. From a purely mining point of view, it is wall that will cave easily to continuously fill the voids as
extremely productive and the yields are high. However, from the blasted rock is removed. In BC, the orebody caves by
an environmental standpoint, caving also has disadvantages itself, using the forces of rock stress and gravity, and this
that must be taken into consideration. requires a rock type that will fracture in such a way as to give
acceptable fragmentation (see Figure 1 and 2). If the orebody
There are two types of caving methods commonly used in is large, has a steep dip with continuity at depth, and is sur-
underground mass mining sublevel caving (SLC) and block rounded by good quality host rock in the footwall, sublevel
caving (BC) that and are distinctly different. In SLC, all caving will be an obvious choice. If, on the other hand, the
of the ore is blasted so that the fragmentation of the rock is orebody is massive and has large dimensions, both vertically

106 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


CAVING METHODS

1
2

4
1. Blastholes
6 2. Undercut level
3. Blastholes
4. Drawbell
5. Major apex
6. Production drift

1 Blastholes
Figure 2: Typical layout of a block caving (BC) operation.
2 Undercut level
3 Blastholes
4 Drawbell
5 Major apex
and horizontally,
6 Production driftblock
caving is more likely to be the chosen ensuring the stability of the mining area. This also results in
method. Both methods demand a location below a surface that subsidence that may cause sinkholes to appear on the surface.
can be permitted to subside. It is, therefore, important that caving is performed as a con-
tinuous process in order to avoid cavities being created inside
the rock, which could lead to a sudden collapse.
Sublevel caving (SLC)
Given that the overall conditions for sublevel caving are
favorable, there are three main prerequisites that must be met
before mine development can go ahead. % Ore volume
100 in slice = 100%
Primarily, it is essential that the footwall drifts are stable and
require little or no rock support, although some footwall drifts 80 77% Ore
are given extensive rock support to ensure that they remain 33% Waste
stable over time. One example of this is the Kiruna Mine in 60
Ore

northern Sweden (see Figure 4) where the footwall consists of


very competent rock but where the increased stress due to the 40

mining method creates seismicity problems and, therefore, Dilution


20 entry point
requires substantial reinforcement. Secondly, it is important
that the hanging wall will fracture and collapse easily. And %
0
thirdly, subsidence on the surface must be tolerated. 0 20 40 60 80 100 120

Ore + Waste
In this method, backfill is not used after the rock has been
removed. Instead, the hanging wall caves into the voids, Figure 3: Typical ore/waste ratio during a mucking cycle.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 107


CAVING METHODS

1900 Level
1910
1910 0
1920
1920
Ore beneficiation plant
1930
1930
1940
1940 142
1950
1950
1960
1960 230
Railway to Narvik port
275
1965
1965
320
1970
1970

420
1980
1980

540

1990
1990

Skip hoisting
2000
2000 Sea level 740
775

2005
2005 Ore buffer
Skip hoisting pockets

Exploration drift 1045 m Main haulage level


1045
1060 m
Crusher
1175

1365 m New haulage level


1365
Crusher

Figure 4: Illustration from LKAB Kiruna Mine indicating cross-section of the orebody, mining progress over time and main infrastructure features in the footwall.

Compared to other mining methods, the development work preserve the cave and avoid undermining. Each long hole fan
required for SLC is also extensive, mainly involving the driving is blasted separately, and the ore fills the drawpoints where
of multiple headings to prepare the sublevels. In addition, a it is mucked out. Mucking out using LHD loaders continues
ramp is needed to connect the sublevels and link up with the until the set limit for waste dilution or the extraction rate is
main transport routes. reached. The LHD then moves to a freshly blasted crosscut,
while the charging team prepares the next fan for blasting.
The preferred and most efficient way of collecting the ore is The sublevels are designed with tramming distances matched
via ore passes placed at strategic locations along the sublevels, to the particular LHD loaders used.
which are also connected to the main haulage level.
Like all procedures in sublevel caving, mucking out is very
The sublevels are evenly spaced and feature parallel drifts at efficient and loaders can be kept in continuous operation.
the footwall along the orebody and evenly spaced crosscuts Development drifting, production drilling of long holes,
across the orebody. In wide orebodies, the sublevel drifts nor- charging, blasting and mucking out are all carried out sepa-
mally start from the footwall and continue across or through rately and at different levels simultaneously. Consequently
the orebody to the hanging wall in order to allow the miners there is always a place where machines can work, making
to drill and muck out the ore. (see Figure 1). In narrow ore the SLC method well suited to a high degree of automation
bodies, they branch off in both directions from a central and remote-controlled operation. As shown in Figure 3,
crosscut drive. The ore section above the drift is drilled well the drawbacks are high waste rock dilution (1540%) and
ahead of production. This is done by long hole drill rigs that substantial ore losses (1525%), depending on local condi-
drill upward holes in a fan pattern. Blasting on each sublevel tions.
starts in sequence at the hanging wall, often using an upwards
raise to provide for the initial expansion, after which mining Examples of where the SLC method is used with great suc-
then retreats towards the footwall. cess include the Kiruna and Malmberget mines of northern
Sweden owned by LKAB, one of the worlds leading produc-
Adjacent crosscuts are mined at roughly the same pace, with ers of upgraded iron ore products, and the Rana Gruber iron
the upper sublevels maintained ahead of lower sublevels to ore mine in northern Norway.

108 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


CAVING METHODS

An LHD vehicle (load-haul-dump) with a payload capacity of 14 tonnes brings ore from a drawpoint to an ore pass.

Block caving (BC) The BC mine is characterized by three operational levels. The
Block caving is a large-scale production method that allows uppermost is the undercut level where the caving of the ore
for huge volumes of rock to be extracted efficiently with a takes place. The middle is the extraction level where the ore
minimum of development. is extracted. The lower level provides infrastructure service
like fresh air and main haulage drifts. Caving is performed
The prerequisites for successful mining are that the orebody by long hole drilling and blasting on the undercut level and
is massive both vertically and horizontally, that it consists of drawbells down to the extraction level. These undermine the
rock that will easily break into blocks of manageable size, and ability of the blocks to support the overlying rock, and the
that it is located beneath an area where subsidence is permit- stress resulting from the massive force of gravity involving
ted. This large-volume method is especially cost effective if millions of tonnes causes the block to fracture.
the ore grade is low.
Occasionally it is necessary to assist this fracturing process
Block refers to the mining layout that divides the orebody by long hole drilling and blasting above the undercut. Due to
into large sections, or blocks, often consisting of several thou- the friability of the orebody. The ore caves in and falls into
sand square meters. The method is based on the utilization a system of drawbells, which provides a steady stream of
of gravity with a minimum of drilling and blasting. As with ore. However, it is important that the rock is extracted in one
SLC, BC development may have to start many years before continuous operation over a large area to prevent large voids
production and takes place in stages. appearing after the ore has been removed from the drawbells,
with the potential for a sudden and massive collapse. In addi-
As the force of gravity is used, stress factors in the rock mass tion, heavy concrete lining and extensive rock support are
are the key to success. The prerequisites for BC are that the likely to be required on the extraction level.
rock caves properly and along the orebody itself, which
requires that the orebody is surrounded by competent host The precise techniques and technology used vary consider-
rock and that the orebody fractures and caves correctly. If the ably. For example, steel arches are often installed at draw-
host rock is weak, the ore may cave in the wrong sequence, points to facilitate the massive flow of rock that needs to
potentially making mining impossible. pass. Other rock support, such as shotcrete, bolts and mesh,

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 109


CAVING METHODS

is often installed to preserve the integrity of drifts, and there


is a growing trend towards using higher lifts that enable more
rock to pass through, demanding an extraction level that has
to last for the whole mining period.

In the past, drawbells with finger raises were used, but today
LHDs are mainly used to transport the rock to the orepass with
a grizzly on top to prevent oversize boulders from entering
the system. These are broken at the grizzly level, commonly
by hydraulic hammer.

Provided the block breaks successfully and the ore can be


extracted evenly at all drawpoints, block caving is a low-cost,
hig-productivity method with good ore recovery and moderate
waste dilution.

As mines move increasingly toward the exploitation of mas-


sive ore deposits, both high and low grade, the BC method
is expected to become increasingly popular. This is not only
due to its low cost and high production rates, but because it
lends itself to a high degree of mechanization and, therefore,
improved safety.

The challenge at the mine design stage, however, is to predict


how specific orebodies will cave, but even here, thanks to
todays modern methods, it has been easier to calculate and
predict both rock fragmentation and caveability. As a result,
the caving of increasingly competent rock is a growing trend.
Examples of block caving operations include Northparkes
and Newcrest Cadia East in Australia; Palabora in South
Africa; Questa Mine, New Mexico; Henderson Mine, USA
and Freeport Mine in Indonesia.

Environmental impact
Despite the obvious advantages of caving, the method has
considerable disadvantages, the most serious being the envi-
ronmental impact on the surface. Both methods cause land
erosion and subsidence that leaves large areas unsuitable for
construction or human habitation.

In fact, with todays demanding environmental legislation and


regulation, it will be increasingly difficult to obtain mining
permits for methods that involve risks of major disturbance
to surface ground. This is equally important for the sublevel
caving and block caving methods as they both offer very little
possibility for the disposal of waste rock or tailings under
ground.

Picture left: LHD extracting ore at a drawpoint.


Right: Field service of the Atlas Copco Scooptram ST14.

110 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 111
1. Stope
2. Blasted ore
3. Drawpoint
4. Drill access
4
5. Long hole
drilling and blasting
6. Undercut fan blasting
7. Transport drift
5
8. Loading crosscut

8
3

Figure 1: In the sublevel open stoping method, backfill will be used when each stope has been mined out for stability reasons. The stopes may be separated
1 Stope
by vertical beams and crown pillars.
2 Blasted ore
3 Draw point
4 Drill access

The awesome power


5 Long-hole drilling and blasting
6 Undercut fan blasting
7 Transport drift

of gravity
8 Loading crosscut

Sublevel stoping, in all its forms, is probably the most widely used method in modern
underground mining, and the technique continues to be adapted and improved.

Sublevel stoping is the collective term used for the mining There are four main variations of the sublevel stoping
of large, steep orebodies with a dip generally exceeding 50. method:
The technique is based on the principle of allowing blasted Sublevel open stoping
material to be transferred by force of gravity to a lower level Bighole stoping
for loading and haulage. Shrinkage stoping
Vertical crater retreat
It is a versatile and productive method that can be applied
effectively in massive orebodies with a high mineral content
covering many square kilometers, as well as to small- to Sublevel open stoping
medium-sized orebodies with limited mineralization. Used Sublevel open stoping (SLOS) is used for mining large ore-
primarily for large-scale mining, sublevel stoping is based on bodies with a steep dip, regular shape and with well-defined
the principle of blasting out large voids (stopes) and leaving ore boundaries, and where the footwall inclination exceeds
waste rock intact in the hanging wall and footwall, as shown the angle of the repose. The rock, in both the hanging wall
in Figure 1. and footwall, should be competent and stable, and the host

112 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


STOPING METHODS

1. Stope
2. Blasted ore
3. Drawpoint
4. Loading crosscut
5. Longhole drilling
and blasting
6. Undercut
7. Transport drift 5

7
3

Figure 2: Alternative drill and blast pattern for open-stope mining. Drilling along the rim of the orebody may yield a better ore recovery and possibly less dilution.
1 Stope
2 Blasted ore
3 Draw point
4 Loading crosscut
rock mass should 5beLong-holeof high quality.
drillingSLOS recovers the ore in
and blasting Garpenberg, where the ore can be 60 m wide through con-
large open stopes,6 which Undercutare usually backfilled to create pil- siderable vertical distances. Here, sublevel stoping using a
lars to enable recovery7 Transport drift The pillars are normally
of ore pillars. system of primary and secondary stopes progressing upwards
shaped as vertical beams across the orebody, and horizontal has proven to be a reliable solution. The primary stopes are
sections of ore are also left as crown pillars. 15 m wide and 20 m high and are filled with paste made from
concentrator tailings and mixed with about 5% cement.
Sublevel drifts are located within the orebody between the
main levels for long hole drilling. The drill pattern accurately The 20 m wide secondary stopes are filled with development
specifies where the blastholes are collared, and the depth and muck without cement. High precision drilling is necessary to
angle of each hole. Drawpoints are located below the stope get optimum ore recovery and fragmentation.
to enable safe mucking out by LHD vehicles, which tip the
material into an adjacent orepass or into trucks or rail cars Sublevel stoping has several advantages. It is a good, selective
for haulage. mining method and a common choice in areas where surface
disruption is not permitted by using, for example, a caving
In more narrow orebodies, a trough-shaped stope bottom is method. It also enables the orebody to be divided into differ-
typical with loading drifts at regular intervals. Nowadays, the ent stages with a multitude of stopes in operation on different
loading level can be integrated with the undercut, and muck- levels at the same time.
ing out performed by a remote controlled LHD working in the
open stope. This reduces the amount of drift development in
waste rock. If the orebody is wider, the method is to develop Rill mining
crosscuts through the orebody that are mined and backfilled Rill mining is a special mining method that can be described
in very well-defined sequences to achieve stability and to as a modified version of sublevel stoping. It was first devel-
keep up the productivity. oped when mining the relatively small Tyskgrden orebody
at Garpenberg, where large quantities of development muck
A good example of how this method has been put to skill- had to be accommodated underground as hoisting was the
ful use is the Lappberget orebody at the Swedish mine only method used for transporting the ore.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 113


STOPING METHODS

Rill mining in progress


Refill of waste
One fan

Max
2m

Approx. 15 m
8h
Blasted ore

ole
3 fa

s in

Approx. 15 m
ns i
cut-off slot

eac
no

h fa
ne

n
bla
Waste

70 m
s t
1.8

m
m
70

45

Figure 3: Rill mining is a method that involves the simultaneous blasting of holes to create a 45 "rill" in the drawpoint. It was first developed at the Swedish
mine Garpenberg and facilitates the mucking-out process in mines where hoist shafts are not installed.

The method involved drilling 10 m wide cut-off slots across the vertical spacing between sublevels to be extended from
the orebody using up-holes, which were then blasted in one an absolute maximum of 40 m in SLOS mining to 60 m in
single firing starting from the center. Seven 127 mm holes big hole stoping.
were left uncharged to provide sufficient expansion for the
remaining 64 mm holes. After the slot had been opened, 70 However, the risk of damage to the rock structures has to
up-hole fans consisting of eight approximately 17 m long be taken into account as the larger holes will contain more
holes were blasted into the void. explosives. Side rock stability is also important to consider as
it must be very competent to allow this kind of scale. During
As shown in Figure 3, three rows comprising a total of 24 mining, the ore can also be used to stabilize the sidewalls
holes are blasted simultaneously. After each blast is mucked of the stopes, and this technique is particularly common in
out, new waste is discharged into the stope forming a 45 rill shrinkage stoping and vertical crater retreat mining. In these
(hence the methods name) into the drawpoint. methods, the surplus of the blasted ore is mucked out after
blasting, and the major part is left in the stope while mining
continues and is then mucked out at a later stage when all
Bighole stoping blasting is completed.
Bighole stoping is an upscaled variant of sublevel open stop-
ing using longer, larger diameter DTH blastholes ranging
from 140 up to 165 mm (see Figure 2, p. 95). Shrinkage stoping
In shrinkage stoping, a traditional mining method less
The blast patterns are similar to those used in SLOS but with common today, ore is excavated in horizontal slices starting
holes up to 100 m long. A pattern with 140 mm blastholes from the stope bottom and advancing upwards. As mentioned
will break a rock slice 4 m thick with 6 m toe spacing. DTH earlier, part of the blasted ore is left in the stope to serve as
drilling is more accurate than tophammer drilling, allowing a working platform and to give support to the stope walls.

114 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


STOPING METHODS

1. Drill overcut
2. Crater blasting
charges
3. Primary stope no 1
in production
4. Loading drawpoints
5. Primary stope no 2
undercut and drilling done

2 5

Figure 4: Mining by use of the vertical retreat method (VCR). It is an alternative method to shrinkage mining and provides a safer working environment.

1 Drill overcut
2 Crater blasting charges
Blasting swells the3ore by about
Primary stope50%,
no 1which means that a
in production Vertical crater retreat
substantial amount4has to be draw
Loading left inpoints
the stope until mining Vertical Crater Retreat (VCR) applies to orebodies with a
has reached the top5section,
Primaryafter
stopewhich
no 2 final extraction
undercut steep dip and competent rock in both ore and host rock. Part
can done
and drilling
take place. of the blasted ore will remain in the stope over the produc-
tion cycle, serving as temporary support for the side rock
Shrinkage stoping can be used for orebodies with steep dips, (see Figure 4). This mechanized method can be regarded as a
comparatively stable ore and sidewall characteristics, regular considerably safer form of shrinkage stoping, as no men have
ore boundaries and ore unaffected by storage. (Some sulphide to work inside the stope.
ores oxidize and generate excessive heat.)
VCR was originally developed by the Canadian mining
The development consists of haulage drifts and crosscuts for company INCO and uses the crater-blasting technique with
mucking at the stope bottom, drawpoints and undercuts, and powerful explosives in large-diameter holes. Concentrated
a raise from the haulage level passing through the undercut to spherical charges are used to excavate the ore in horizontal
the main level to provide access and ventilation to the work- slices from the stope bottom upwards.
ing area.
The ore gravitates to the stope bottom drawpoints and is
Drilling and blasting are carried out as overhead stoping. The removed by loaders. Each stope is cleaned out before back-
rough pile of blasted ore prevents the usage of mechanized filling with cemented hydraulic fill. Development for VCR
equipment, making the method labor-intensive. As such, stoping consists of a haulage drift along the orebody at the
working conditions are hazardous, and a large part of the ore drawpoint level, a drawpoint loading arrangement underneath
has to be stored until final extraction. Despite these draw- the stope, an undercut and an overcut access for drilling and
backs, shrinkage stoping is still a method that could be used, charging. The ore in a stope block is drilled from the overcut
especially in small-scale operations. excavation using DTH drill rigs. Holes, mainly vertical, are

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 115


STOPING METHODS

drilled downwards, breaking through into the undercut. Hole


diameters vary from 140165 mm, commonly spaced on a
4 m x 4 m grid.

From the overcut, powerful spherical charges are positioned


by a skilled crew in the lower section of the blast hole and
at specified distances from the stope roof. The hole depth is
measured, and it is stemmed at the correct height. Explosive
charges are lowered down each hole and stemmed, usually
to blast out a 3 m slice of ore that falls into the space below.
VCR charging is complex and its techniques have to be mas-
tered in order to avoid damaging the surrounding rock.

Role of raises
In the production areas, raises are often used as openings to
accommodate the initial blast and start up the stoping process.
If these raises are not opened by raise borers, they are created
by long hole drilling. In this case, accurate long hole drilling
is critical to obtain good fragmentation.

This is usually done by Simba drill rigs specially designed for


long hole drilling, equipped with TH or ITH drill hammers
depending on the type and length of the opening to be cre-
ated. In addition, this process requires a long hole charging
unit (up or down).

The prerequisites for selecting a sublevel stoping method are:


Large, steep orebody
(smaller than normally selected for caving methods)
Limited environmental impact
(use of backfill avoids disruption on the surface)
Good productivity
Safety
Low dilution

As in most forms of mining, stoping methods are selected


based on the geology of the orebody, the grade of ore and
the characteristics of the surrounding rock, where technical
challenges and costs are weighed against each other.

The main issue here is that all stoping variants are based on
gravity, which is of great benefit to the bottom-line economics
when setting up a viable mining operation.

Left: Remote operation of LHD when loading in a drawpoint.


Right: Long hole drilling for blastholes using a Simba drill rig.

116 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 117
1

2 3

Hydraulic fill
1 Ventilation tube Low cement
2 Hydraulic sandfill content
3 Ramp Slice 1
High cement
content and Slice 2
reinforcement

Slice 3

Slice 4 Face 1 Face 2

Figure 1 and 2: The methodology of cut and fill mining, suitable for steep and narrow orebodies, where each level is backfilled.

The good, the bad,


and the profitable
Cut and fill mining is a favored choice for irregular orebodies and good to poor quality
rock, and today, modern technology is keeping profits high.

Cut and fill mining (C&F) is generally referred to as a small- 56 meters, where each level is also backfilled. After back-
scale mining method, but that does not mean that it is low- filling, the mining equipment moves back in to stand on
yield. With the right technology, cut and fill can result in top of the fill, using it as a working platform from which to
rich rewards. excavate the next slice. This technique is particularly useful
for orebodies that are steep and narrow (usually 412 m)
Typical for C&F mining is backfill. The drifts are developed with uneven boundaries that would be difficult to follow with
in the orebody and then backfilled, and mining is carried out large-scale mining techniques. Furthermore, C&F is a good
from the bottom upwards in horizontal slices of, for example, solution in poor rock conditions, where it would be hard to

118 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


CUT AND FILL

open larger voids with satisfactory stability, and for areas


where surface disturbance is not permitted. The ore is drilled,
blasted, loaded and removed from the stope, which is then
backfilled using either a cement and sand mixture, cement
mixed with tailings from the dressing plant or waste rock
from development drifts (see Figure 1&2). Before filling,
stope entries are barricaded and drainage tubes are installed.
The stope is then filled with sand to almost its full height,
and the cement is mixed into the final pours to provide a solid
floor for mining equipment.

Minimum waste
As no rib pillars are left and the crown pillar is usually taken
out in a single large blast, most of the ore can be recovered
with a minimum of waste dilution. The development param-
eters for C&F mining include:
A footwall haulage drive along the orebody at the main
level
An undercut of the stope area with drains for water
A spiral ramp in the footwall, with an access drive to the
undercut and also to the production areas
A raise connection to the level above for ventilation and
filling material

The stope face appears as a wall. Breasting holes are drilled,


charged and blasted with an open slot at the bottom providing
swell space for the blasted rock. The mineralization shows
in the stope face, where it can be conveniently inspected
by geologists. The drill pattern is often modified to follow
variations in ore boundaries, and in fact, mining is frequently
diverted from the planned stope boundaries to recover ore
from mineral enclosures in the host rock. Sections with low-
grade ore can be left in place or deposited in adjacent, mined- The same fleet of equipment can be used for both development of the cut
out stope sections. and fill mine and for production.

If the rock in the orebody is exceptionally poor, C&F miners


often create an undercut at the foot of the slice where the back Pros and cons
wall is stabilized with backfill. Mining is started from the While it is true that the C&F method is simple and effec-
upper level by driving a normal drift round where the opening tive, it does require more time in terms of man hours than
is supported by rock bolts and mesh. large-scale methods, and the cost for rock support and drill-
ing and blasting is higher. In addition, C&F requires people
When the first cut is completed, a wire fabric mesh and/or and machines to work inside the stope, exposed to the rock
bolts are installed on the floor of the cut, and the opening is face, which is sometimes highly stressed and is, therefore,
backfilled with cemented, stabilized fill with a higher cement not the most ideal situation from a safety perspective. On
content at the bottom as this will become the roof in the next the other hand, the same equipment fleet that is used for the
level (see Figure 2). It is important to clean the surface in development work can be used for mining the ore, which is
order to obtain good adhesion between the fill and the stope a big advantage, and modern technology contributes to the
wall. Access to the mining area on the next cut is achieved extraction process.
by ramps going downward, where mining is resumed below
the fill. Another clear advantage is selectivity. Even in orebodies with
comparatively scattered mineralization, the high-grade sec-
The smooth fill surface and controlled fragmentation cre- tions can be mined separately, while the low-grade rock can
ated by C&F operations are ideal for the LHD loaders, which be left in the stopes.
are the standard vehicles for mucking and transport in C&F
mines. It is important, however, that tramming distances In an effort to increase productivity and safety, there is a
from the stopes to the ore passes are within convenient range. growing trend towards replacing cut and fill mining with
Alternatively, the ore can be trucked directly to the surface. bench stoping and fill.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 119


Room and pillar
a tricky equation
One of the oldest methods in the history of underground mining is the room
and pillar technique. It is a simple, fast and efficient way of extracting ore, but
determining precisely how much to take out and how much to leave behind is
a challenge.

1. Bolting and cablebolting


2. Vertical benching
3. Pillar
4. Flat benching

Figure 1: Drilling activities in a room and


pillar mine using the classic method.

120 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


ROOM AND PILLAR

A typical room and pillar mining environment where pillars of a pre-calculated dimension are left in place to support the overhead rock.

Room and pillar mining, which has been widespread since The post method is applied to inclined orebodies with a
the 1850s, is still a common and popular method, particularly dip of 2055 degrees, a larger vertical height and where the
for horizontal orebodies where coal, copper shale, limestone mined out space is backfilled (see Figure 3). The fill keeps
or sandstone containing lead, salt and potash are frequently the rock mass stable and serves as a work platform while the
mined. next ore slice is mined.

As the name implies, room and pillar mining enables mate- The step method is applied to orebodies with a dip that is
rial to be extracted across a horizontal plane, leaving a grid too steep for rubber tired vehicles. Instead, a special angle
system of open areas, rooms, together with a system of of stopes and haulage drifts is created in relation to the dip,
pillars to support the overhead rock. Minerals contained in providing work areas with level floors (see Figure 4). This
these pillars are not recoverable and are therefore not included allows mobile equipment to be used for drilling and mucking
in the mines ore reserves. out in the inclined orebody and for mining to be advanced
downwards in steps.
Rooms and pillars are normally arranged as circular or square
sections or as elongated panels. Room sizes and pillar dimen-
sions can vary a great deal and are normally based on the
pillar stress that occurs when mining, as well the retained Development and production
strength of the pillars. This has to be carefully investigated Classic room and pillar mining requires only a minimum
prior to mining. There are three types of room and pillar of development work to prepare the flat bedded deposit.
mining in use classic, post and step and these are Roadways for ore transport and communication tunnels
applied depending on the prevailing geological conditions. are created inside the production stopes. The construction
of roadways can be combined with ore production, with the
The classic method is normally used for flat-bedded deposits mined out stopes serving as a transport route.
of medium to large thickness and deposits that are both large,
thick and inclined. As shown in Figure 1 and 2, mining the ore- The ore is extracted using the same drill and blast technique
body creates large open stopes with a flat floor, which enables as in conventional drifting, where the size of the drifts equals
rubber tired mining vehicles to move around freely. The ore- the width and height of the stope. Provided that the geological
bodies are mined in horizontal slices, starting at the top and conditions are favorable, large, vertical stopes can be success-
benching down in steps. For orebodies that are very thin, it may fully mined using mechanized drill rigs. The ore is mined
be sufficient to simply mine in one slice without benching. in slices, starting at the top and below the hanging wall. At

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 121


ROOM AND PILLAR

this stage, roof control and rock bolting are done at whatever
height is most convenient. The lower sections are recovered
by conventional benching in one or more steps, using crawler
rigs to drill the vertical blastholes. Horizontal drilling and
flat benching are more practical alternatives since the same
drill rig used for drilling the top heading can also be used to
drill flat bench holes.
1

2
3 Ore handling
The blasted ore is loaded at the muck pile using diesel-
4 powered front loaders, and various transport systems are
used depending on the height of the stope and the transport
distance. If height permits, ordinary dump trucks provide
economical transportation between the stopes and the col-
Figure 2: Classic method lection points. For narrow or low-seam orebodies with low
1. Bolting and cablebolting headroom, low profile mine trucks are readily available.
2. Vertical benching
3. Pillar Another option may be to mine ore and waste separately, and
4. Flat benching use bigger drives and standard equipment. The cycle in low
1 Bolting and cablebolting
seam involves drilling the full round, blasting and mucking
2 Vertical benching
3 Pillar
only the waste rock as a bottom part, then blasting the ore
4 Flat benching
on top and mucking it out separately to avoid dilution in the
system. Extremely low headroom stopes can be cleaned out
by LHD loaders and the muck transferred onto trucks parked
in special loading bays for long distance transportation.

1
Finding the optimum
The room and pillar method has many advantages. The grid
layout is easy to work in. Several production areas can be
worked simultaneously. Communication is straightforward
2
and production is fast. All this adds up to efficient utilization
of both personnel and equipment.

Figure 3: Post method However, the key to success in room and pillar mining is to
1. Post Pillar establish the optimum size of the rooms and the pillars, and
2. Backfill this is no easy task. It is in the miners interest to recover
the maximum amount of ore and leave the smallest possible
1 Post Pillar pillars. If the pillars are too large, significant quantities of
2 Backfill
valuable ore may be left behind, reducing profitability. On the
other hand, if the pillars are too small, they may not be suf-
ficient to support the roof and the whole mine may collapse.

Early room and pillar mines were often developed at random,


sometimes with disastrous consequences. In coal mining,
1 pillar failure is known as pillar squeeze. If just one pillar
fails, the weight on the other pillars increases, possibly set-
ting off a chain reaction that would be difficult to contain
even with todays modern reinforcement methods. In addi-
tion, random room and pillar mining also leads to poor mine
ventilation, which means a dangerous working environment.

As a result, todays room and pillar mines are meticulously


planned and involve a great many parameters such as the
Figure 4: Step method percentage of material to be mined, the load bearing capacity
1. Stope mined of the rock both above and below the material being mined
2. Numbers indicate 1
2 and the height of the pillars. All of these and more must be
2
sequence of extraction
3
4
122 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY
ROOM AND PILLAR

A single-boom Atlas Copco Boomer rig gets ready to drill a room and pillar face. Drilling horizontal blastholes in a low profile drift.

factored into the final equation. The challenge is to bal- Step room and pillar enables the footwall of the inclined
ance safety with productivity and profit. One recommended orebody to be adapted for the efficient use of equipment. It
approach is to design the pillars symmetrically, which will applies to tabular deposits with a thickness ranging from 2-5 m
not only simplify the operation but also ensure that the geo- and a dip of 1530 .
logical conditions are responded to in a coherent way.
This method features a layout in which the direction of stopes
and haulage ways cross the dip of the orebody. By orienting
Other variants stopes at certain angles across the dip, stope floors can be
Two other variants of room and pillar mining are also worth comfortably used by wheel-bound vehicles. The transport
mentioning here post pillar and step room and pillar. routes cross in opposite directions to establish roadway
access to stopes and for trucking blasted ore to the shaft.
Post pillar mining is a blend of room and pillar and the cut This method requires a network of parallel transport drifts,
and fill stoping method. In this case, the ore is recovered in traversing the orebody in predetermined directions.
horizontal slices, starting from a bottom slice and advancing
upwards. The pillars are left inside the stope to support the The stopes are attacked from the transport drifts, branch-
roof. The mined out stopes are backfilled with hydraulic tail- ing out at the predetermined step-room angle. The stope is
ings or waste rock, while the next slice is mined by machines advanced forward until breakthrough into the next parallel
working from the fill surface. transport drift. The next step is to excavate a similar drift
or side slash, one step down the dip and adjacent to the first
The pillars are extended through several layers of fill, with drift.
the fill contributing to the pillars bearing capacity. This may
permit a higher rate of recovery than classic room and pillar. This procedure is repeated until the roof span becomes too
The fill also provides possibilities to modify the stope design wide to remain stable. Then a pillar is left, shaped as an elon-
and adapt to variations in rock conditions and ore boundaries. gated strip, parallel with the stopes. The next stope is attacked
Post pillar mining, therefore, combines the spaciousness of in the same way with mining continuing downward, step by
room and pillar with the advantages of cut and fill, enabling step.
miners to work on flat, smooth surfaces and providing easy
access to multiple production points by using mechanized
equipment.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 123


The Boltec SL is specially designed for low seam applications. It is capable of handling bolt lengths of 1.51.8 m and can perform bolthole drilling with roof
heights as low as 1.8 m.

Extracting profits
from narrow veins
Narrrow vein mining is an important part of the mining industry, and as long as market
prices remain favorable, it will continue to be so. The key is tailor-made mechanization.

Not so long ago, mining companies would often abandon Today, it is a different picture altogether. Narrow vein mining
a mine that had ostensibly reached the end of its life, even is now an important niche market that represents a substantial
though it still contained substantial deposits of valuable annual tonnage in global mining production, mostly thanks to
metals and minerals. The reason was that these minerals the development of mechanized equipment specially designed
were contained in narrow veins, and the companies could for the task.
not extract the ore at a cost that was low enough to make it
worthwhile. Narrow veins are found throughout the world. They typically
contain precious metals such as gold and silver, but diamonds,
For one thing, these narrow vein orebodies were not easy tin and base metals are also common. The orebodies vary in
to assess, and the manpower needed to extract such small volume and angle of dip, but the seams are typically narrow,
amounts of deposits with handheld rock drills was too costly often just 0.5 m, wide. As a result, the mines are character-
in relation to the potential profit. ized by extremely small drifts, often as narrow as 1.5 m and

124 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


VEIN MINING

a maximum of 2.0 m high. With such a constricted working


environment, miners have been faced with a series of chal-
lenges, not least how to work the seam in an efficient and
systematic way.

The answer came at the beginning of the 90s with the introduc-
tion of so-called low profile drill rigs and loaders that were
suitable for horizontal, low-seam orebodies. These rubber-
tired machines which- originated in Scandinavia, provided
miners with mobility and productivity in the tightest spaces.
Many of these mines, such as Bell Creek in Canada (see case
story on p. 184) and the Waterval Mine in South Africa, are
accessed by ramps. The orebodies can be divided into two
main types vertical/close to vertical, and horizontal/close
to horizontal and require equipment models that are suited
to the typical size of their respective drifts.

In addition to being low profile, width is often as important, The Boltec SL has an articulated chassis design for high mobility and a foldable
and an articulated design is increasingly being incorporated protective roof for safety.
on mining equipment (see photos), which enables them to
navigate through tight spaces. Nowadays, these compact
machines include a range of face drilling and long hole drill
rigs, as well as bolting and loading and haulage equipment.

Narrow veins are generally mined using either the cut and
fill or sublevel stoping method. But there are also examples
where the room and pillar method is employed, such as the
Polkowice-Sieroszowice Mine in Polands copper belt, one of
three major mines owned by KGHM that together contribute
30 Mt/y of copper-silver ore. Here, most equipment is low
profile and has been specially adapted to the parameters of
the narrow deposit. Transport vehicles are never higher than
1.85 m and typically around 1.4 m in height. A good case in
point is KGHMs Rudna Mine and the development of the
Boomer M1 L (see case story on p. 216).

In addition, miners may encounter a combination of narrow


veins and steep, standing orebodies, where individual Ore and waste rock are mined separately at the low-seam mine Lovisagruvan,
variations of the most common mining methods may be Sweden. The compact Scooptram ST7 is used for safe and productive haulage.
employed. Standardized machinery can also be employed
provided that the mining method is adapted. The Swedish
mine Lovisagruvan is an example where mining is carried features of their full-size counterparts and their systems. In
out using standard equipment, but in a smarter way. drilling, technologies such as electronic drill plans coupled
with semi/full automation have great potential to improve
A modified approach to cut and fill stoping enables miners at efficiencies and reduce wastage through reduced overbreak.
Lovisagruvan to extract ore from veins that are as narrow as This, in turn, reduces the amount of explosives required and
1 m in width, though yielding 35 kt/y of high grade zinc and optimizes fragmentation, simplifying loading and haulage
lead. The ore and waste rock are mined separately as much and generally cutting drilling and mucking costs.
as possible in the cut and fill areas to minimize the dilution
of the ore. The waste rock is used as a platform for machines There are also great savings to be made in loading and haul-
to stand on in order to mine the overlying ore, but as much as age by exploiting the potential of intelligent vehicle operating
one third of the waste rock is also replaced. systems that can cut fuel and tire consumption and increase
productivity.
When it comes to modified fleets, recent developments have
focused on increasing productivity and on improving the rug- Assuming that the prices for precious metals remain high
gedness of these machines to meet the challenging conditions in the international marketplace, or at least stay favorable,
encountered in narrow vein and low seam mines. In addi- narrow vein mining will continue to be a profitable niche for
tion, the equipment now incorporates many of the high-tech many years to come.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 125


126 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY
SAFETY

The Simba E7 C long hole production drilling rig (left) at work. Automated rod handling systems such as this (above) keep the operator out of harm's way.

Safety first underground


Although mining is a good deal less hazardous these days, theres still much that
needs to be done to create a safe environment underground.
Safety is one of the mining industrys prime concerns, espe- recognition for the fact safety goes hand in hand with the aim
cially when it comes to underground operations. The reason of achieving high and sustainable productivity.
is obvious; accidents and injuries can have disastrous conse-
quences, both for mine personnel and for productivity. Todays miners are better equipped for the job than ever
with modern headgear, protective glasses, ear protection,
There is no denying that there are still plenty of accidents that proper coveralls and a range of personal safety devices. The
occur every day in mines around the world, and some involv- equipment that is available to them is chock full of automatic
ing fatalities, but statistics indicate that these are generally features that help to prevent heavy labor and reduce the risk
less frequent and less severe. This is due in large part to the of injury. The most obvious of these is good protective roofs
efforts made in recent years by the worlds leading mining known as FOPS (Falling Object Protective Structure). The
companies and equipment suppliers, who have consistently layout and constructed spaces of the mine are also planned
come up with innovative solutions to a range of hazardous so that maintenance and handling of machines can be done
mining operations. safely.

The driving force behind this trend is a common desire to Global supplier Atlas Copco is one of the pioneers of safety-
eliminate risks and protect miners lives, but also a common focused mining equipment and is constantly launching new

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 127


SAFETY

Operator cabin with modern safety features including FOPS (Falling Object Protective Structure) and ROPS (Roll Over Protective Structure).

innovations. Well protected, ergonomically designed operator be improved and that safety is, and should remain, a never-
cabins that give all-round visibility, rod handling systems that ending quest for excellence.
eliminate heavy lifting, remote control systems, fully auto-
matic drill rigs, autonomous loaders, trucks and mechanized
scaling rigs are just a few of the innovations that have been Technology for safety
universally introduced. At the same time, significant progress Over the next few years, it is reasonable to assume that the
has been made in many other areas aimed at improving health trend towards greater automation will increase substantially
and safety under ground, such as improved mine ventilation and for good reason. Automated systems allow miners to
systems, special solutions to sudden water inrushes, gas and maintain a safe distance from the working area, out of harms
motion detection devices, and traffic management systems way, while autonomous operations enable them to be removed
designed to avoid vehicle collisions. from the most dangerous areas of the mine altogether.

It is also evident that more and more mines are recogniz- Today, long hole production drilling using automated drill
ing the crucial advantages of installing a seismic monitoring rigs and remote control is relatively commonplace punky.
system to help forecast and identify seismic events. A sched- More and more mines are beginning trials with driverless,
uled evacuation of personnel with minimized downtime. In autonomous/semi-autonomous LHDs and trucks that are
fact, as operations go deeper, it is likely that this will become controlled from the safety of a control room on the surface
standard procedure and seismic systems may well be viewed or from a distance (long or short) in the mine.
in the years to come as a necessary requirement, much like
helmets and other protective gear. Coupled with this there has also been an upsurge of new
technology engineering in the field of personal safety equip-
Nevertheless, most mining companies, contractors and sup- ment. Among the more interesting of these is the intelli-
pliers would agree that there are still many aspects that can gent helmet that provides a complete safety system. It can

128 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


SAFETY

Teleremote technology enables operators to work from a safe distance. The control panel shows a drill plan downloaded to a production drill rig several kilometers away.

automatically sense dangers such as gas, impact, motion and being minimized. Moreover, automation means that the most
so on, and transmit warnings, coordinates and other informa- monotonous tasks, which can also pose a risk, will not require
tion to the mine office. human labor. This makes the industry not only safer but more
attractive in the eyes of a younger generation of miners.

The human factor


At the same time, it must be emphasized that the overwhelm-
ing number of day-to-day accidents and injuries that occur in
underground mines today are attributed to the human factor.
A disregard for safety regulations, slight errors made through
the lack of training or correct information, or simply a lack
of communication are all cited as root causes.

But even here, things are improving, not only because of


higher penalties that can be imposed in some regions for acci- RE
CH SCUE
AM
BE
R

dents that lead to fatalities, but also because todays training


courses are heavily focused on safety first.Many of todays
mining companies have adopted a zero tolerance policy in
order to meet the strict safety requirements of the future.
In reality, the name of the game is continuous improve-
ment of safety procedures and the working environment.
Increased automation is also playing an important role as
human exposure to the most dangerous aspects of mining is Refuge chambers provide a safe, breathable environment in case of emergency.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 129


The fast pace of technological
development in mining requires fully
trained and qualified operators.

130 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


OPERATOR TRAINING AND SIMULATORS

A smarter way to go
New equipment and new technologies operations. In this context, the use of simulators for train-
ing purposes instead of real equipment and, to a great extent,
put high demands on mining engineers, outsourcing the training responsibility to external specialists,
regardless of their knowledge and skills. is emerging as the smartest way to go.
Getting them trained up and fit for the
challenges of modern mining has never The power of simulators
been easier. The advantages of this approach are considerable. Firstly,
simulator training enables operators to be trained without
disrupting production or having to take experienced operators
The importance of training in the mining industry cannot be off the job. Secondly, operators can be trained on the surface
overemphasized. Trained personnel perform better, find their where they can learn and practice in a safe environment. And
work more enjoyable and contribute to increased productivity. thirdly, it eliminates putting trainees in charge of an expensive
piece of high-technology equipment until they are fully quali-
Well-trained equipment operators also contribute to increased fied to take on such an important responsibility.
safety in the workplace, which reduces the risk of accidents
and injuries and unnecessary downtime. This policy reduces the risk of machines being damaged due to
incorrect use and, more importantly, it reduces the enormous
To be familiar with todays high-tech mining methods is a costs associated with disruptions to operations, time-out for
basic requirement of the mining engineer. unscheduled maintenance and repairs and, last but not least,
accidents resulting in injuries to personnel.

Human impact on performance Neither the mining companies nor the individual trainees
These days, equipment operators are not only expected to need to worry about the hazards of handling machines in real
operate their machines professionally and safely, they are also mining environments, and the actual cost of training can be
required to have a broader understanding of their professional minimized as the time it takes to get trainees up to speed and
roles and the personal contributions they make to the success into production is substantially reduced.
of the company they work for.
According to studies, training with simulators cuts the time it
The reason for this is twofold: the increasing need for the normally takes to get new drill rig operators trained and ready
lowest possible cost per ton and the fast pace of technological to be deployed by an average of 50%, which is a major advan-
development. tage in the effort to meet the demand for maximum efficiency.

Against this background, no mining company or mining con- Recognizing the need to address the issue of personnel train-
tractor is prepared to put an expensive piece of equipment ing, a number of leading equipment suppliers have been
a computerized drill rig for example into the hands of an proactively developing their own training programs to offer
operator who is not fully trained and qualified. to their customers. A typical case in point is Atlas Copcos
Master Driller program, which is specially designed to match
all of the mining equipment in the companys range.
Skills shortage
In the past, skilled labor was in abundance. New recruits were Master Driller provides trainee drillers with three levels of
relatively easy to find and were traditionally trained by the proficiency Bronze, Silver and Gold and consists of step-
most experienced operators on the mining crew. Today, there by-step courses that teach operators all of the knowledge and
is a worldwide shortage of skilled labor. New recruits are skills they need in order to take full responsibility for their
extremely hard to find and few mines or mining contractors Atlas Copco equipment.
are able to release experienced personnel from production
duties in order to train new operators. The program has been successfully tested by several major
mining companies, among them Swedens state-owned LKAB
The scale of the dilemma differs from country to country, iron ore operations and Bolidens Garpenberg Mine, Swedens
but the common goal is to find a solution that produces new, oldest base metals mine dating back to the 13th century and
well-trained mining engineers without burdening ongoing now a highly automated mine.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 131


OPERATOR TRAINING AND SIMULATORS

Simulator training enables operators to develop their skills rapidly in a safe environment on the surface, without interfering with mine production.

Virtual reality a fun way to learn


The simulator part of the program has been especially success-
ful. Here, the trainee operator gets exactly the same look and
feel of the real machine. All procedures such as start-up, drill-
ing, tramming, drill plan handling and positioning are per-
formed in exactly the same way as the real machine, giving a
totally realistic experience.

Another important advantage is that these simulators are capa-


ble of producing and analyzing performance data that enables
trainees to improve their own performance and compare
results with fellow trainees in groups. This not only produces
higher standards but is also a fun way to learn. Trainees can
also go back and repeat any aspect of their training at any time,
either to refresh a specific skill or to improve on weak areas.

The range of such training simulators now available on the


market is consistently expanding and, in time, will encompass
most types of equipment for both underground and surface
mining, as well as construction equipment. In the future, as
learning devices such as these become more widespread,
mining companies will be able to train new operators to a high
standard with a minimal impact on their day-to-day operations
and resources. And this, in turn, will impact on their flexibility, Atlas Copco's range of simulators provide a realistic on-site experience and
productivity, safety and profits. a wide variety of training scenarios.

132 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


A SMARTER WAY TO GO

MASTER DRILLER PROGRAM


The Atlas Copco Master Driller program
provides trainee drillers with theoreti-
cal and practical training in three steps.
The program combines e-learning or
classroom training for basic knowledge
and skills, as well as simulator training
for practical, true-to-life learning in a
variety of mining scenarios. This is then
followed up by on-site training with an
Atlas Copco specialist. After successfully
completing all three levels Bronze,
Silver and Gold the trainee is awarded
a Master Driller Diploma.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 133


Automating the future
In the global effort to boost safety as well as productivity, more and more under-
ground mines are investing in automation. The use of automated equipment requires
a different mindset than conventional mining and can be a slow process, but the
rewards are worth waiting for.

Global demand for minerals and metals may have declined Automation is the ideal and obvious solution for mines where
somewhat from the unprecedented levels of the last decade, production processes are exceptionally deep, unusually dif-
but automation is still very much on the agenda for under- ficult to access or hazardous.
ground mines.
It enables mining companies to keep their personnel safely
The driving force for change is the global quest for improved out of harms way while simultaneously reducing manual,
safety, along with the need to boost efficiency and productiv- repetitive work and and laying the foundation for a modern,
ity in a fiercely competitive market. safe and productive environment for the future.

134 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


AUTOMATION

Although there are plenty of examples of fixed underground


that has been automated for many years, including pumps,
crushers, hoists and more, automated mobile mining equip-
ment is not yet commonplace.

Deep mine safety


The focus on automation is, however, growing, and especially
when it comes to drill rigs and loaders, and is gradually being
implemented as mines go deeper and new mines are opened.

For example, long hole drill rigs are being used together with
remote control systems to enable operators to do their jobs
well outside the drilling site, and automated LHDs are being
used in the entire production cycle. This includes teleremote
mucking, autonomous tramming to the dump site, auto dump-
ing and returning autonomously to the drawpoint for the next
loading cycle.

Similarly, there are also trucking applications whereby the


trucks are loaded by LHDs or by ore passes and trammed
autonomously to the dump site, and then back again to the
loading area.
Automated "full fan" production drilling in action at LKAB Malmberget, Sweden,
using the Simba WL6 C drill rig.
Real-time impact
At the same time, these automated systems provide real-time
information to management and supervisors, enabling accu-
rate planning, scheduling and process measurement.

However, while it is true that many of the functions of todays


drill rigs and loaders are prepared for automation and autono-
mous operation, many other key operations of the production
process such as scaling, shotcreting and rock bolting are still
largely performed with manually operated machines.

As a result, very few mines can claim to have implemented


automated processes on a large scale, and consequently, the
vision of the fully automated mine is likely to take a few more
years before it becomes a reality.
Six drill rigs operated from one control room central at LKAB Malmberget.
To a great extent this gradual pace of development is under-
standable. Automation is not just a good idea; it requires con-
siderable investment, planning and patience in order to reap
the full benefit. Nevertheless, wherever mines have made a
strategic decision to automate, the outcome has been entirely
positive.

A good example is the iron ore mining company LKAB in


northern Sweden. Its mines at Kiruna and Malmberget are
models of modern mining with high levels of automation in
production drilling, loading and rail transport. (see images
top and center).

For many years, this company has been working together with
its equipment supplier Atlas Copco to develop drill rigs and
systems that could be controlled from a position well away Teleremote technology for autonomous operations can be applied to drilling,
from the mining area, and today this is a reality. loading and haulage in the mine.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 135


AUTOMATION

achieved using this method now exceeds 1 million per year.


There also has been substantial growth in productivity since
two or three operators can remotely control six to eight rigs.
During the night, these rigs are capable of continuing without
any form of manual supervision.

Meanwhile, the rigs RCS system (Rig Control System),


which makes all this possible, has become the standard
platform for fully automatic operation and all automation
applications.

Prerequisites for success


In order to get the full benefits of automation, it is important
that mines use equipment that has been specifically designed
for automation, rather than manually operated machines that
have been adapted.

With an automated process, emergency repairs are not


allowed since this would entail closing off a section of the
mine. If acute repairs were to be performed, this would dis-
The control panel for the Scooptram Automation system. In the background, rupt the planned automation time for the LHDs and it would
a typical mine layout. also be difficult to plan other activities in the same area
around the repair of automated machinery.
In fact, much of the automation technology that is available
to the modern mining industry today has been pioneered by In addition, mine planners should consider automation and
Atlas Copco. This includes everything from computerized plan for it from the start of mine development. This will
control and guidance systems on large underground drill rigs allow only certain areas to be closed off, and will help to
and loaders, to remote control and satellite hole navigation keep downtime at a minimum. Mining areas that are specially
systems for surface drill rigs. designed for full scale automation are clearly those that stand
to reap the biggest rewards.
At LKABs Kiruna mine, the remote controlled longhole
drill rigs are also run during night shifts in automatic mode, It is also interesting to note that wherever automation has
entirely without supervision. The mine says that production been adopted on a large scale, the role of the operator has
has increased by more than 40% since automation was first shifted towards that of a supervisor. He/she now sits in a
introduced in the mid-1990s, and the number of drill meters control room and is empowered to run multiple machines
by having a complete overview and complete control of the
operations. It is important, however, that the operator makes
sure that maintenance is performed according to plan to avoid
breakdowns.

As most of the tonnage in tomorrows world will be extracted


using mechanized equipment, it it reasonable to assume that
automation will continue to grow. Moreover, when it comes
to establishing new mines in remote areas where it is difficult
to recruit personnel, it may be the only viable option.

Another major benefit is that a high degree of automation


will almost certainly improve the industrys image as a safe,
healthy and interesting workplace, and making it easier to
attract new recruits.

The initial costs may be high and hard to justify at times, but
the overall saving is substantial when all cost parameters are
The 14-tonne capacity loader Scooptram ST14 transporting ore from a drawpoint taken into account. Beyond this, the advantage of being able
to an ore pass. to get people out of the actual mining areas is incalculable.

136 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 137
Figure 1: Advanced software in the central monitoring system provides miners with a complete overview of the process, enabling key mining aspects such as drilling,
hauling, ventilation and pump systems to be fully supervised.

Seeing the big picture


To be able to monitor an entire fleet of mining equipment from one central point has
largely been regarded as a future possibility. Now it's a reality.

For years, underground mine supervisors have dreamt of being initiated a project called Mobile Machine Integration. It rep-
able to monitor all of their mobile equipment underground resents a significant step towards large-scale integration of
from one central point and in real time. Not only would they mobile mining fleets into a process control environment.
be able to keep the machines under constant observation, they
would also be able to monitor their individual performances, Mobile Machine Integration brings together ABBs long expe-
identify problem areas and react to disruption in the mining rience of automation with Atlas Copcos expertise in captur-
areas as they occur. ing, transmitting and presenting machine data from mobile
mining equipment. The projects initial step was to integrate
This information could then be processed and correlated in ProMine, which is Atlas Copcos stand-alone monitoring prod-
order to create a truly proactive service and maintenance pro- uct into the ABB system. From there, a combined system was
gram, and a short-term scheduling process that would save developed to monitor production and maintenance data.
considerable amounts of money by reducing downtime and
increasing productivity. To many miners it is still a thing of the In a typical scenario using Mobile Machine Integration, as
future, but that doesnt mean that monitoring systems arent a machine works and moves around under ground, relevant
feasible today. In fact, Atlas Copco has developed its own information is collected by the onboard data system and trans-
monitoring system that has been demonstrated and proven, mitted wirelessly via Wi-Fi access points or pick-up points to
and is now ready for introduction to the mining industry. a server located at the mine.

This data is then available to be displayed and manipulated in


Mobile Machine Integration a variety of ways, as shown in Figure 2, on a standard com-
The new system is the result of a successful joint venture puter screen via a web interface that shows all the vital param-
between mining equipment supplier Atlas Copco and the auto- eters displayed on the rigs monitors, including pressure flows,
mation and power company ABB, who in close cooperation penetration rates, temperatures and drill steel consumption.

138 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


REMOTE MONITORING

Figure 2: Mobile Machine Integration using wireless LAN and RCS enables an entire equipment fleet to be monitored with a variety
of performance data.

Adjusting parameters and acted upon immediately to prevent machine failures. In


To gather machine and production data is the main objective short, having real-time information regarding the status of a
of monitoring. Another important function, however, is to be mining fleet allows operators, supervisors and managers to
able to track all operations online so that the entire mining make informed decisions on how to handle potential problems
process can be controlled with as high efficiency as possible. or disruptions before they occur, rather than after they have
As in all production processes in industry, unforeseen events happened. The positive impact of real-time information on
may occur, which is why it is an invaluable resource to be able operational performance and cost is enormous.
to adjust parameters and set new priorities from one place,
with as little human interaction with working machines as If the system indicates that the rig is reaching a critical point
possible. in any area, an alarm is raised and the supervisor can alert the
drill rig operator directly and, for example, issue an instruction
For optimized results, the Mobile Machine Integration system that the rig must be delivered to the service workshop at the
should be used with computerized equipment such as Atlas end of the shift. This enables potential mechanical failures to
Copcos drill rigs, loaders and trucks equipped with RCS be predicted and averted, and idle machine time to be turned
technology (Rig Control System). The RCS rigs are prepared into productive time. Similarly, bottlenecks in the production
for communication both in terms of available data on the process or ineffective work processes can also be identified
machine and with standardized protocols such as IREDES and analyzed by the system.
(International Rock Excavation Data Exchange Standard).
The technology can be applied to older machines too, though Mobile Machine Integration is designed for the harsh, under-
much needs to be changed on the rigs, plus the fact that only ground mining environment where wireless infrastructure is
a limited range of data will be made available and shared less than perfect. It is also scalable, accessible from anywhere
during operations. and can be easily integrated into other systems. At the same
time, infrastructure such as fiber networks and antennas need
to be installed in a good way to keep the system alive, using
Real-time data rugged components.
Having access to real-time data regarding the status, loca-
tion and activities of the mining fleet allows for much greater With underground mines under increasing pressure to opti-
control over the mining process. For example, a real-time mize their equipment fleets, monitoring technology of this
alert indicating a delay in one process allows for the mine kind is an ideal solution, and step-by-step developments can
schedule to be altered immediately, minimizing any flow-on be expected until it is possible to observe and track all activi-
effects. Similarly, real-time alerts regarding machine opera- ties underground from one centralized control room.
tional issues can be sent directly to the service department

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 139


Compared with diesel-powered loaders and trucks, Atlas Copco's "green line" range of LHD vehicles reduces energy consumption by an estimated 70%.

On the road
to sustainable operations
Reducing energy consumption in mining can be a lot easier than companies might
think, and intelligent resources management is already providing the call to action.
If practices are bad for the environment, they are also bad for business.

Electricity, water, ventilation and compressed air these mines can be equated with factories and mass production.
factors are the lifeblood of any underground operation. But Diesel-operated machinery has meant a lot in terms of raising
they also account for why mining is, and always has been, productivity, but has also increased ventilation needs. Since
an energy intensive industry that is now facing the pressing ventilation often accounts for the greatest unit cost in terms
challenge of having to reduce its consumption. of energy, consumption trends have increased substantially
in recent decades.
Throughout history, man has striven towards increased pro-
ductivity, and through developing faster, bigger and more At the same time, it would be impossible to extract ore below
productive machinery, productivity has increased from ground and feed the worlds demand for minerals and metals
grams per man-hour to todays situation with several tonnes without a steady supply of the resources mentioned above.
per man-hour. In some cases, the most modern underground But the good news, in light of the heightened concerns

140 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


ENERGY CONSUMPTION

By installing service/utility holes in the mine, in this case with the Atlas Copco Robbins 34RH raiseborer, the distances for cables, pipes and wiring are significantly
reduced, resulting in energy savings and less material usage.

regarding the Earths climate as well as rising energy and times that it has the stability to survive and prosper over the
fuel prices, is that much can be done to improve the practices long term, including during down periods. But it naturally
of mining operations. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that follows that a sustainable mine is one that is also sustainable
a transition toward a greener, more sustainable future for from an environmental ppoint of view, not only because it is
mining is already well underway, with available opportunities an equally important goal but because there are also substan-
for improvement in areas ranging from ventilation to water, tial cost savings to be made.
utility holes to equipment.
Political decisions, profit goals and productivity have partly
controlled development thus far, but the greatest factors where
Sustainable mining improvement is concerned lie with an increased understand-
Nowadays, stricter demands are imposed regarding envi- ing of the totality of a mines production and consumption
ronmental issues, but with the current high electricity costs, and how these factors interact.
and those expected in the future, the need to both increase
productivity and reduce total energy consumption cannot be
ignored. Good housekeeping
While the efforts needed might seem monumental, equilib-
It is becoming increasingly clear that reducing CO2 green- rium between production and consumption is actually well
house gases, which have a negative impact on the worlds cli- within the grasp of every mine on the planet. The answer lies
mate, not only makes environmental sense but is also sensible in adopting the approach of good housekeeping, in other
from an economical perspective. This is largely thanks to new words better resources management.
efficiency-boosting methods and technologies and a different
mindset that is gaining momentum, which is recognizable in There are plenty of ways that mines can do this, but first it
the now frequently used term sustainable mining. requires a departure from the traditional purchasing strategy
of focusing more on price than the long term gains of invest-
What is meant by sustainable mining? The answer is two- ing in a total system, one that could potentially enable energy
fold. It refers to an operation that is run so efficiently in good savings of as much as 3050%.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 141


ENERGY CONSUMPTION

Operator activates air-mist Operator drills the hole as


flushing (adjusts amount of normal, though may adjust
water to control dust), rota- the amount of water introduced
tion, feed forward and percus- into the flushing stream to keep
sion and begins to collar hole. dust production under control.

Figure 1: Air-water mist flushing operation sequence.

Water retention is a typical example where modern systems needs close attention. Often the air is supplied from a fixed
can give rise to reduced total consumption. In underground installation on the surface and is delivered into the mine by
mining, water is primarily consumed for the purposes of running galvanized pipe, bolted together every 5 m, usually
binding together dust particles, but it is also used to flush along the walls of the ramp or in a shaft. This pipe system can
away the residual product of drill cuttings from the drill be up to several kilometers long, with great risk of leakage
hole. from the joints.

There are already solutions available for reducing unit con- In the mining industry, it is still possible to come across
sumption on drilling machines by mixing incoming flushing nightmare examples where half of the compressed air escapes
water with air. Atlas Copco has an available option called along the way through joints and goes to waste, and even the
Water Mist (see Figure 1) that can reduce the need for flush- best system can lose up to 30%. But there is a solution here,
ing water by up to 80%. Although compressed air via an too. Installing the compressors under ground, close to where
onboard compressor or a compressed air system will then be the air will be used, will reduce leakage and the cost of the
needed, it is an option worth considering. electricity needed to drive the air such long distances.

Apart from equipment needing more water, mining is increas- By installing so-called utility holes for electricity connec-
ingly taking place at greater depths, which also means that tions in the rock instead of in existing drift systems, cable
transporting the water upwards requires bigger pumps with lengths can also be reduced by up to 90%. Reduced cable
greater capacity, which, in turn, leads to greater energy length means less disruption and reduced risk of damage to
consumption. In addition, large volumes of water are often the installations by large vehicles in tight spaces.
pumped over long distances at high cost, and this can be
changed by recycling and treating water closer to the work-
site. A better way to ventilate
The need for ventilation capacity has increased over time,
on the one hand, to meet increased demands for an improved
Electricity and installations working environment and, on the other, to future mines pro-
Electric energy represents a large part of a mine's total costs, ducing at greater depths and with bigger machines.
and as the price of oil and electricity is expected to remain
high in the future, all mines will have to consider their energy Diesel-operated loading machines often have a greater
costs when deciding what equipment to buy. demand for ventilation in order to provide a good working
environment. Electric-powered loaders with cable operation
In the last few years, product development has shifted from have been available for a long time but have not enjoyed major
a purely productivity and safety-driven focus toward also success, despite many advantages.
achieving the lowest consumption possible per tonne pro-
duced. The use of more environmentally friendly equipment A big disadvantage is that the cable length often reduces
is one sign of good practice, and another is to take an intel- the machines working area, in addition to the fact that
ligent approach toward installations such as utility cables. they cannot move around with sufficient ease and effi-
The way compressed-air supplies are arranged is an area that ciency between different production points. The industry is

142 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


ENERGY CONSUMPTION

Energy output (kWh)


Blasting Blasting
100%

Mucking and Mucking and


Haulage Haulage

Scaling Scaling
Shotcreting Shotcreting
Bolting
50%
Drilling
Bolting
Drilling

Average total energy savings 3050% (minimum)


0%
SwedVent variable frequency system Mining activity

Figure 2: Energy savings of as much as 3050% can be achieved in mines by installing variable frequency systems, providing ventilation-on-demand.

expecting solutions whereby electric-powered underground Total process optimization


vehicles can be maneuvered independently without cable By optimizing the entire value chain, from electricity and
installation. Until then and even beyond, it will be imperative water to ventilation and installations, mines can achieve real
to manage ventilation systems in better ways. Some mines savings that will both strengthen their ability to comply with
are still losing fortunes in ventilation costs because they 21st century environmental regulations and secure competi-
allow these systems to operate at full flow at all production tiveness in tomorrows market for minerals and metals. This
points at the same time, even in areas where no mining is can only be achieved by bringing monitoring to a higher level,
taking place. which enables data gathering and an overview of all modern
equipment and communications systems.
This method of working is growing obsolete with the arrival
of modern, ventilation-on-demand systems. Using sensors When it comes to loaders and trucks, which are the big con-
and automated communication between equipment and sumers of diesel as they travel over large areas, control sys-
ventilation control, these systems will regulate the air flow tems such as the RCS system, which is the integrated control
frequency in the ventilation fans according to specific mine platform on which Atlas Copco equipment is based, should
areas and ongoing activities. be given priority as it reduces consumption by 2030%. And
thats just for the interim period before electric equipment
As illustrated in Figure 2, frequency control provides ventila- becomes viable on a larger scale. Some mines are struggling
tion only where it is needed and closes it down in areas that with large inflow of water that in many cases causes major
are lying dormant enabling huge savings, 30% or more, in expenses for pumping. Modern grouting technology offers a
energy and costs. great potential for reducing the inflow and pumping costs.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 143


ENERGY CONSUMPTION CONTINUED

The Electric Minetruck EMT35 is twice as fast as any diesel truck in up-ramp haulage with the same payload capacity, making it the most productive truck in the world.

Greener days for loading and haulage


Besides ventilation and cooling systems, the second largest consumer of energy in
underground mining is loading and haulage. Now a change is under way as
mines begin to switch from diesel to electric powered LHDs and trucks.

With energy efficiency as one of the biggest challenges huge in terms of reduced costs, increased job satisfaction and
currently facing the underground mining industry, electric reduced personnel turnover.
powered vehicles for loading and haulage are gaining ground.
This is not only due to the soaring cost of energy which has Various types of electric loaders have been around for some
reached unprecedented levels, but also to a major upsurge in time, but electric trucks are few and far between. Over the
product innovation from equipment manufacturers. next few years it is predicted that both types of vehicles will
be commonplace as more mines go deeper. The deeper a mine
Over the last few years, highly efficient electric powered goes, the more expensive it becomes to pump fresh air in
loaders and trucks have arrived on the market, competing and toxic air out. To meet this challenge, a range of solutions
very favorably with their diesel powered counterparts. These are now available, among them The Green Line family of
vehicles not only enable mines to slash their fuel and ventila- loaders and trucks from Atlas Copco. There are a total of
tion costs but at the same time to lower their carbon footprint seven products in the family four LHDs, a trailer-mounted
and significantly improve the underground environment for generator and two trucks.
their operators.
Reports from Canada, the U.S. China and Sweden prove that
In this process, the human factor cannot be overestimated. the use of electricity instead of diesel to power loading and
People are a precious resource and the health and safety haulage equipment increases productivity substantially and
laws governing underground mining are increasingly strict. lowers overall running costs. The two trucks are Electric
Miners are dependent on a constant supply of clean air in Minetruck EMT35 and EMT50, with capacities of 35 and
order to breathe and to carry out their duties without risk- 50 tonnes respectively. These are powered up and down the
ing their health. This means that the toxic emissions from ramp by an overhead, electrified trolley rail. Where there
diesel powered equipment have to be constantly evacuated is no access to an overhead trolley rail, for example at the
by powerful ventilation systems. This requires significant loading and dumping station, the truck disengages itself from
amounts of energy, depending on the size and complexity of the rail which activates a small, onboard diesel engine. This
the mine structure. By replacing diesel powered equipment unit, with an output of just 80 kW, uses only 10% of the fuel
with electric powered equivalents, the potential gains can be used by a large diesel engine but is powerful enough to move

144 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


100 30

25
80

20

m3/min per tonne


60

15

40
10

20
5

0 0
Renewable Natural gas Crude oil Coal Diesel EMT50 Diesel truck
electricity electricity electricity electricity

The diagram shows an average reduction of 50% in CO2 emissions when producing electricity from coal and natural gas, compared to diesel. Using only coal,
emissions are reduced by 25%. The amount of ventilation required for diesel vs electric vehicles is also shown, in accordance with the British Standard.

the truck into the correct position for loading or dumping EST1030 and EST14 also share a large number of components
and to return the truck to be re-engaged with the trolley rail. with their diesel equivalents, which ensures the availability
The system results in a minimum of diesel emissions and of spare parts and support. It is estimated that these vehicles
exhaust fumes. reduce energy consumption by about 70% compared to diesel
powered loaders, and maintenance is also greatly reduced,
In addition, the empty trucks traveling down the ramp are giving further savings.
used to replenish the mines electricity grid. This is accom-
plished by their high efficiency electric motors which drive Transporting the loaders to wherever they need to be in the
the axles, thereby minimizing transmission losses, together mine is carried out with a trailer-mounted generator system,
with a regenerative braking system. In this way, about 30% Gentrail GT325, specially designed for the underground
of the energy consumed by the fully loaded trucks driving up environment. It hooks up behind the loader and provides this
the ramp is regenerated by the empty trucks driving down. power for as long as it is necessary. Once a loader has reached
It is estimated that the extremely low level of emissions that its destination, the generator can be unhooked, parked or
are created using this system reduces the cost of ventilation towed away. A single generator is normally enough to support
by up to 90% while still keeping ventilation rates to the a fleet of loaders and can also double up as an emergency
British mining standard. power source for the mine.

Productivity is another major plus. Due to the trucks speed The Scooptram loaders unique cable reel management
on ramps fully loaded on a 15% gradient they are twice system is a patented Low Tension System which makes it
as fast as any diesel powered equivalent fewer trucks are possible to keep a 300 400 m cable under control. As the
required to transport the same volume of material, increasing loader moves away from the electric power point, the cable
productivity by 20% or more. This means that when a mine extends at a controlled speed, and as the loader backs up, the
decides to go deeper, it is much more economical to extend cable is automatically reeled in again. As a result, the ten-
the ramp and prepare it for electric trucks than to extend the sion is minimized at all times, which extends the life of the
main shaft, which is a large and extremely costly undertak- cable, and the operator does not have to worry about it while
ing. maneuvering the vehicle.

Furthermore, ventilation costs increase exponentially with The advantages offered by these vehicles are also important
depth. In fact, only slight increases in depth result in much from a global environmental point of view. All industries
greater energy consumption. For example, if a mine 1 000 m must consider how energy is produced in the first place and
deep increases its depth by only 100 m, it will require a 10% an electric vehicle, even when powered by electricity made
increase in ventilation but a 33% increase in energy. Likewise, from coal, reduces CO2 emissions by as much as 25% com-
the LHDs, which range from 3.514 tonnes, consume less pared with the equivalent vehicle powered by diesel. If pow-
energy, generate less heat and create less noise than their ered by renewable energy such as windpower, CO2 emissions
diesel counterparts. The Electric Scooptram EST2D, EST3.5, are negligible.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 145


Technology and new thinking are laying the groundwork for safe, lean and green mining practices.

The rise of modernity


In the transition to 21st century mining, there is no contradiction between high
productivity and safe, green and lean practices. Modern benchmarks for quality are
a prerequisite for future competitiveness.

As emphasized in the beginning of this book, the need for According to a recent projection by the US Energy Infor-
minerals and metals such as iron, copper, silver, zinc, lead, mation Administration, the worlds energy consumption will
and rare-earth metals is large and growing throughout the increase by more than 40% from 2008 to 2030. This will have
world. These materials, sourced from the Earths crust, are a tremendous impact on the energy-related footprint. It has
a prerequisite for modern-day society used all around us been calculated that the mining industry consumes about 6%
to construct buildings, create infrastructure, develop products of the worlds total energy, which is a very large proportion
and much more. compared with the industrys global share in the number
of employees or employee turnaround. Needless to say, the
Looking to the future, the production of primary metals and industry has a responsibility to considerably reduce energy
minerals is expected to increase at an accelerating rate as the consumption in mining.
urbanization of communities continues to expand. Another
driving force is the high demand for consumer goods and the The good news, however, is that a major transition to greener,
fact that the global economy is becoming more technology leaner and more effective mining practices is well underway,
driven. in parallel with the technological development that is paving
the way for automation, improved safety and other advance-
There is an old saying sometimes used on bumper stickers, ments.
If you cant grow it, you have to mine it, and this remains
an inescapable truth for the foreseeable years ahead. As a
result, continued progress depends on the ability of the mining Transition underway
industry to deliver quality products at competitive prices, at Minimized waste in all its forms, improved methods of facili-
the same time as the industry is facing immense challenges. tating ore recovery, lowered CO2 emissions, and the ability to

146 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


QUALITY IN MINING

offer an attractive workplace away from hazardous production


areas are all issues that are currently topping the agenda. A
large part of the mission of this book has been to increase the
awareness of modern capabilities and technologies that are
now available on a growing scale. These solutions are not only
greener but more sensible in every aspect.

To illustrate with an example given in earlier chapters, the pos-


sibility of reducing energy consumption by as much as 50%
using ventilation-on-demand systems is no small achievement,
both in light of the environment and from an economical point
of view, as energy is very often the largest expenditure item
for mines. Similarly, by using electric LHD vehicles for haul- Keeping quality levels high and up to standard at all times is a crucial task in
age and implementing other efficiency-boosting measures, modern mining. QA/QC protocols enable internal specialists and external
surveyors to manage the process on a regular basis.
some model mines are considerably reducing their CO2 emis-
sions while maintaining high productivity, thereby taking
important steps toward tackling the environmental impact of
Beyond Vision 2030
mining. At the same time, more needs to be done. In-situ production of base metals.
Zero waste.
Fully automated mining operation without human interface.

Short-term steps: QA/QC protocols


Environmental regulations have become stricter in all parts of
the world, and a zero-tolerance approach toward accidents in Vision 2030
the workplace is rapidly gaining ground. While some mines No human exposure at > 30% reduction of
the production face. ore losses.
are reaping the benefits of having made large investments in No harmful emissions. > 30% energy reduction.
new equipment and in modern mining methodology, others No accidents. > 30% CO2 reduction
may find it difficult to chart a viable course for action that Employment satisfaction. > 30% reduction manh/t

lies within their scope and capabilities. The idea of adopting Waste into products.
> 30% reduction deposit
waste.
a holistic approach doesnt necessarily require a comprehen-
sive reorganization of operations. By implementing QA/QC
programs (Quality Assurance/Quality Control), significant
short-term results can be achieved relatively easily, provided
that dedicated teams, both internal and external, are assigned Figure 1: The SMIFU vision (Sustainable Mining and Innovation for the Future)
the task of monitoring quality levels. for mining practices up to and beyond 2030.

Quality control (QC) is the term applied to a companys own


efforts to make sure that rules, procedures and specifications
are complied with and that promises to customers are duly As customers for minerals and metals are placing higher
delivered. Regular input and approval, however, is needed demands on not just the quality of end products but also on
from independent auditors. These are specialized consultants production processes and health and safety standards, QA/
who can formally reassure that mining practices are kept to QC programs are indispensible tools for future success in the
standard at any part of the production cycle a process known industry.
as quality assurance (QA).

Although universal QA/QC protocols are often adapted and Innovation and long-term sustainability
tailored to fit the needs of individual mining operations, with Over the past few years, a consortium of two Swedish mining
their distinct processes and challenges, there are a few impor- companies, Boliden Mineral AB and LKAB, the Polish mining
tant points that are generally followed. company KGHM and several leading global suppliers from
Checking of written routines to make sure that they are cor- the Nordic region have, together with two universities, carried
rect and that nothing important is missing. out a conceptual study that paints an attractive and ambitious
Follow up on routines. A dedicated team checking that pro- picture of mining up to and beyond the year 2030.
mises are kept and that work is performed according to plan.
Data gathering regarding all processes and tasks, from drill- The project has been named Sustainable Mining and Innovation
meters and tonnages to utilities, service and working condi- for the Future (SMIFU) and is aimed at formulating a vision
tions. for safe, lean and green mining. The group consists of leaders
Economic follow up on maintenance, condition of spare in technology and modern mining practices who have commit-
parts and other material, supervisor inspections and more. ted themselves to contribute to sustainable mining by cutting
Tracking of Key Performance Indicators (KPI). energy consumption, CO2 emissions and ore losses by more

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 147


QUALITY IN MINING

Source: Sustainable Mining And Innovation For The Future, published by Rock Tech Centre (RTC), 2012.
Figure 2: Challenges and solutions for future mining operations, proposed by the SMIFU consortium.

than 30% (see Figure 1) and by striving for zero accidents 5. Pre-concentration: barren rock is separated underground to
and the prevention of other harmful emissions from mining. minimize the energy needed for haulage and transport, as
well as environmental impact on the surface.
The group has initiated a comprehensive Research, Deve-
lopment and Innovation program (RDI) to identify strategic 6. Resource characterization: sensors and monitoring systems
problems and solutions for future mining operations and to are used to describe the mineral content and structures of
determine a course of action to meet the 2030 and beyond the rock for optimization of ore recovery, safe underground
vision. Some of the key issues addressed in the programs openings and efficient product control.
strategic agenda are illustrated in Figure 2 and include:
1. A central control room: the control room receives online 7. End products: for reasons of sustainability, waste rock
processed information from the rock, from personnel and should be turned into products. Mine site metal production
from machinery and equipment. Makes it possible to control should, if possible, be carried out to avoid unnecessary
and fine-tune a complete operation, backed up by the exten- transportation.
sive use of sensors, cameras and advanced imagery tech-
niques that enable live broadcasts. 8. Suppliers: equipment manufacturers need to design reliable
machinery and have online contact with equipment for con-
2. No human presence in the production areas: all work pro- dition monitoring and for carrying out maintenance and over-
cesses are remote-controlled or automated. Special robots haul of components to safeguard production performance.
are developed for field maintenance of equipment and safe,
retrieval operations. The efficiency of the future production system is a key focus
of the SMIFU consortium, which bases its vision on a 30%
3. Continuous mechanical excavation: continuous flow is reduction of ore losses, energy consumption, CO2 emissions,
essential for lean mining, which, in turn, depends on a high manhours per tonne and deposit waste. So far, 14 final reports
reliability of the mechanical operations. have been developed in the conceptual study.

4. An attractive workplace: nurturing a safe and progressive The group has concluded that future underground mines will
learning environment that creates a culture attracting tal- be deeper (>1 500 m) and will extract lower grades under
ented young men and women who become highly skilled more stringent workplace and environmental regulations.
and motivated. They will also probably be located in remote areas with harsh

148 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY


QUALITY IN MINING

The Green Line is a range of electric underground loaders and trucks that keep productivity levels high and CO2 emissions low in haulage operations.

climatic conditions coupled with more consistent demands for industry needs to move towards becoming a process industry.
societal responsibility. As such, an attractive life environment It is also clear that the use of IT for managing and controlling
is a prerequisite to be able to attract workers to the mines. the mine and mineral processing is still in its infancy. The role
These communities need to develop good housing, living of equipment suppliers is destined to grow as high reliability
conditions, education, healthcare and childcare, culture and and availability will not only be demanded but, to a greater
rich leisure-time opportunities. extent, be expected by the industry. Preventive maintenance
is a key challenge on the path toward achieving automated
mining processes. This relies on close collaboration among
Safe, Lean and Green mine planners, operators, suppliers and service personnel
Over the years, mining has become much safer, but the and their ability to communicate using online audio-visual
situation still needs to be improved so that the trend towards technology backed up by monitoring capabilities and real-time
improved safety does not level out. The safety vision is zero data processing.
accidents, built on a foundation that includes safety manage-
ment and safety culture, no human exposure in the active It is the firm belief of the consortium that the only way to stay
excavation areas, ground control, safer technology and safer competitive is through vigorous efforts in research, develop-
equipment. ment and innovation. To foster an innovative organization
has also been deemed a prerequisite for attracting the talented
Lean production is about eliminating equipment breakdowns, young men and women who are vital for the industrys future.
disruptions and expensive built-in redundancy. The mining Despite a long period of consistently intensified demands for
industry currently uses drill-and-blast methods in its under- high productivity, it seems that a more balanced future for
ground production. In the underground environment, a con- mining is within sight. Adopting 21st century mining practices
tinuous process is needed rather than the present batch process is a prerequisite for competitiveness, and as more mines make
using drill-and-blast, which is very sensitive to disruptions. the transition, the pace of change will gather the momentum
The mining industry has successfully produced an increasing it needs.
number of tonnes of metal with a considerable decrease in
environmental impact, thereby proving that decoupling growth This article has been produced with information and images
from environmental impact is possible. The improvements are sourced from the SMIFU II Consortium report, 2012, Rock
a result of better processes, recirculation of process water, Tech Centre.
and clean and green technology. In conclusion, the mining

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING TALKING TECHNICALLY 149


150 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES
Case studies
152 Introducing automation to the goldfields
158 Boosting efficiency and safety in Yunnan Province
162 Platinum service is the key for Bathopele operations
170 A bright future for Black Rock
178 Making the deepest even deeper
184 Profitable choice for Bell Creek gold miners
188 Powering up for Sedrina raises
194 Raising the bar for automated drilling at Malmberget
204 The perfect match for Aljustrel's haulage operations
210 Modern fleet meets ancient white marble
216 Deep mining challenge in Polands copper belt
222 Peruvian mines best laid plans proved less is more
226 Innovation takes flight at Cerro Lindo
230 A charging challenge in the Atacama desert
234 Semi-autonomous LHDs prove their worth in the Andes
240 Fresnillo polishes up its silver medal
246 Taking it to new levels at Tara
252 Long hole drilling meets high demands in China
254 Breaking ground at Khumani

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 151


Reduced setup
time and travel
time give
significant
savings.
Kim Gunderson, Production Engineer,
Granny Smith

A major step toward automation has been taken at the Granny Smith gold mine using the Boomer M2 C for drifting. Equipped with RCS (Rig Control System),
it has three automated drilling modes.

Introducing automation
to the goldfields
Australia's gold mining industry has traditionally followed its own tried and tested
ways, relying on skilled operators and manual markup for its operations. But com-
puterized equipment is demonstrating the cost and safety benefits of modern rig
control systems.

There are plenty of gold mines scattered through the undu- The heaps often indicate one of the open pit excavations that
lating, reddish scrubland and gum trees of the Western pepper the region, but many of the mines also have under-
Australian outback. The driver of an occasional passing 4x4 ground works, to chase the deeper white quartz veins carrying
on the long empty roads, or a long-distance road train the glittering specks of precious metal. These are worked with
multi-trailer truck will sometimes see a low, long hill near conventional methods using perhaps one- or two-boom drill
the roadside, a spoil heap serving as a manmade landmark rigs to develop mine access and longer bore machines for
for another rich seam in one of the world's largest gold pro- the stoping to pull out the ore. Mostly the drills are manually
ducing areas. operated with blasting faces marked up by hand.

152 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


GRANNY SMITH, AUSTRALIA

Unlike the gigantic open cut iron ore mines to the north of the
state, now becoming more and more automated and remotely
operated even from hundreds of kilometers away in the states
capital, Perth, the underground gold miners have not much
picked up on the newest technologies.

Certainly robotic control is difficult underground where sig-


nals cannot reach from GPS and other satellites, and there is
a way to go before fully automated operations can be contem-
plated along the lines already begun in Europe, for example in
deeper mines for some loading and hauling operations. But the
industry also likes to stay with its well-established methods
and what it sees as the flexibility of skilled manual operators.

That is largely because jumbos, or production drill rigs,


are used as all-purpose machines, drilling the rounds for
advances in the development passages, then returning to do
scaling work, to install and pin up reinforcement mesh on
walls and often safety mesh on tunnel faces, too. They also
do the anchor installation for support.

Automation in sight
The mine managers have tended to stay with their basic
machines for these multiple tasks, switching them to and fro
in different access tunnels at will.

But that might be slowly changing. At one of the larger mines,


Granny Smith, a new Atlas Copco Boomer M2 C twin boom The Granny Smith gold deposit in Western Australia was discovered in 1979.
drill rig fitted with an RCS, rig control system, is being used The mine is operated by Barrick Gold.
for virtually the first time in Australia for underground work
on metal extraction. Not only the immediate mine team is
watching the progress carefully but so, too, is the parent com- making the long trips across the outback to support the mine
pany Barrick Gold, one of the world's largest gold mining team in setting up and getting used to the new machine.
companies. An interest is also being taken by the rest of
Australia's gold miners. Future automation is not the immediate issue at Granny Smith,
which is using the rig to improve the speed and efficiency of
The use of the machine offers two major benefits. First is its development drives.
immediate savings and efficiencies in the drilling work within
the mine from greater accuracy in drilling, the use of longer
rounds, and from reduced machine maintenance and wear. A Optimized drilling
second benefit is the potential in the future for the next step, In its overall look and feel, the new RCS rig is similar to an
the move to remote operation. existing Boomer M2 D already used by the mine, which has
been a long time customer of Atlas Copco equipment. The
Once the RCS type of machine is accepted and adapted too, mine operates two Boomer M2 D machines, as well as two
there is the capacity to move on to full automation, with Simba M7 C long hole drill rigs for the orebody drilling.
remote control of the drill rig either by wire or a radio panel Additionally, it has a fleet of the highly thought of Atlas
control from relatively close by, or ultimately even from the Copco MT6020 mine trucks, currently top of the list for the
surface. The increasing use of fiber optic communications in Australian underground mine industry.
mines will be a factor in this.
The difference with the new machine is the onboard comput-
For automated operation you need first of all to have a ers that direct the booms and drilling operations, positioning
machine that can carry out the drilling operation under its own the booms accurately for the drill pattern and then operating
control, explains Dave White, manager of the Atlas Copco the drilling. The rig is able to control its movements and drill
depot and service center in Kalgoorlie, a town founded during rates in an optimized manner for the engine, the hydraulics
a gold rush in Victorian times and now the region's main town- and the bearings, which reduces wear and increases accuracy.
ship and support center. It is a four-hour drive away from It also uses the most efficient path from drill hole to drill hole
the mine. His engineers and mechanics have been regularly to minimize movements.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 153


PREPARING FOR AUTOMATION

Deeper drifts require more rock reinforcement, here using a Boomer M2 D rig for the task of meshing once bolts have been put into place.

Drilling patterns are not marked up by hand but calculated brought into use about two years ago. He confirms: The
above ground by a mine engineer, using the survey and core interlocks and cutouts prevent any damage if the boom gets
drill data from the geophysicists, which is constantly being too close.
updated, refined and extended to give the best precision pos-
sible in reaching and extracting the ore. Perhaps more than The operators seem to have embraced the new rigs, says
on most mines, the sheer value of gold makes it important to Cooper. Overall he says the machine can help the operator
be as precise as possible in avoiding any dilution with non- achieve a good result more consistently even when he might
bearing or low content rock. not be as experienced as some of the most highly skilled
operators.
The output from the software feeds into the machine and
either controls it directly or is displayed on a screen for the The operator is less reliant on skill and judgement and on
machine operator to follow. positioning the booms by eye, he says, even though he still
needs to know what he is doing. But there is potential to keep
The rig operators at Granny Smith declare that the drill production going even when there is a shortage of the most
rig is much easier to use, and for much of the drill pattern highly skilled rig operators, which in the current high levels
they can usually simply load the engineer's design and go of output in Western Australia can always be an issue. Labor
straight ahead. There is still some manual work to do since and especially skilled labor is at a premium for both iron and
the machine does not drill the outer perimeter of the drill hole high value metal mines.
pattern. It brings the boom close to the wall of the tunnel and
there are automatic cutouts that operate, one of the operators
explains. Deeper boreholes
Cooper recognizes the good backup and training provision
Andrew Cooper, Mine Manager at Granny Smith, has been for the drill rig from the local Atlas Copco depot, and its main
tracking the progress of the machine carefully since it was Western Australian base in Perth has also helped. We have

154 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


GRANNY SMITH, AUSTRALIA

Long hole production drilling in action using the Simba W7 C with a hole deviation of less than 1%.

had dedicated support from Kalgoorlie, he says. Particularly But the longer feeds and the longer rounds that are enabled,
good, he explains, has been a reduction in overbreak on the reduce the number of cycles needed to blast and excavate
blasts due to less deviation. On average he estimates an 8% tunnels. Three cycles can replace four or five, which gives
gain, though on some rounds a 50% reduction is achieved. significant time savings, particularly for loading and for
installing the necessary support. Combined with the enhanced
But the machine is also useful because it is able to drive accuracy of the RCS, this adds up significantly.
deeper boreholes than most of the other production drill rigs.
We are using a long-feed mount for the drills on these There is less setup time overall and less travel time. It adds
booms which allow drilling rounds up to 4.6 m deep on aver- up over time to a lot of material we don't have to move, espe-
age, he says. This configuration is different from the other cially on longer development drives, says Cooper. The gains
three rigs used at Granny Smith and, in fact, at many of the are perhaps more of an advantage on the medium-size Granny
other mines. Smith than it might be on a smaller mine, and the more so
because of a very particular shape to the ore deposit.
Normally we use a split feed, explains Kim Gunderson, a
production engineer who has been working with the machine.
The telescopic mount of a split feed allows it to be shorter Flat orebodies
when withdrawn, which gives the rig flexibility in the rela- Unlike the majority of the Kalgoorlie area mines, which often
tively small-diameter tunnels used in the mines. Development have rich but narrow seams maybe a meter or 1.5 m thick
tunnels are usually 4.6 m2 for the ore drives and 5.2 m x 5.7 m and usually running nearly vertical which can be chased with
for the main haul and access tunnels for the trucks. spiralling ramps from level to level, Granny Smith has flat
orebodies.
With the split feed, booms can be turned and angled in all
directions, allowing installation of anchors into the tunnel roof The geological formation seems to have seen an upwelling
and a rapid change of direction when using the rigs for scaling. into ground with relatively porous lenses of rock every 120 m

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 155


PREPARING FOR AUTOMATION

The robust 60 t capacity MT6020 Minetruck is a highly valued asset at Granny Smith, which has an output of more than 9 000 tonnes per day.

or so, explains Gunderson. That leaves us with quite large owner uses a contract company for continuous core drilling
bodies of ore about 67 m deep and quite long. work to assess the orebody and map the deposit for the stopes
and extraction.
Many mines would use quite short ore drives and then push
out quite long production holes, whereas here we have much Stopes are relatively small, between 5 00010 000 tonnes,
more development, with maybe 1200 m driven a month and though we have done up to 80 000 tonnes, says Gunderson.
then relatively short production. It is a little bit more than the
200 m some other mines might do. The ore is loaded onto Atlas Copcos 60 t capacity MT6020
trucks, of which the mine is currently running five. Cooper is
The longer drives give the RCS rig a chance to show its ben- fond of these, declaring them to be the leading model in the
efits and make it worth using. industry at present and unbeatable for reliability.

There are some counterpoints, however, says Cooper. The


machine needs to be backed up with one of the other drills Convincing progress
for mesh and scaling, though admittedly there is less of that Granny Smith mine is still reviewing its assessment of the rig at
to do. The ground is relatively good too, he says, which means present, says Cooper. The decision to use it put Barrick out on a
there is less anchoring and support needed than might be the limb in the Australian industry, which has been biding its time
case elsewhere. on these advances. Being first is never easy, adds Cooper,
though he says the decision to try the machine was carefully
That, perhaps, means a smaller mine might have second thought through in consultation with senior management.
thoughts, though his mine has enough work going on to be
able to shift the machines easily from section to section and But the continuing improvements needed in safety in mines,
make good use of them. and the growing capacities of computers, data transmission
and satellites, are factors likely to push the world in the direc-
The mine is currently doing well, and its estimated reserves tion of more automation and remote control. The experience
seem to keep on expanding as the drives go deeper. The mine must surely be a useful one.

156 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 157
Safety and environmental
protection are of great
concern. This reflects on
our choice of equipment.

158 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


DAHONGSHAN MINE, CHINA

Boosting efficiency and


safety in Yunnan Province
Dahongshan is a mine on the rise in the Yunnan Province of China, which boasts a
nearly two thousand year history of copper mining. Having adopted advanced tech-
nology and modern sustainable practices, it has achieved remarkable growth in just
ten years.

Dahongshan Copper Mine is located in the far southwest of to the copper ore is 80900 m, with a span from east to west
China and is the third largest mine in the Yunnan Province. that is approximately 2 000 m.
Owned by the second largest producer of copper in the coun-
try, Yuxi Mining of Yunnan Copper Industry (Group), it has The current workings of the mine extend to 400 m below
seen an impressive development in recent years, going from ground and, due to the mines geographical location, present
an annual output value of virtually zero to 3 billion Yuan in a tough mining environment as ambient temperatures at the
just over a decade. various seams often reach 3338C degrees, with humidity
levels of 8085%. This means that ventilation requirements
This achievement is in large part due to a modernization are different at each seam.
process undertaken by Yuxi Mining, which owns over
1 M tonnes of copper ore resources and 100 M tonnes of The exploration work currently being carried out includes
iron ore resources in the region. High efficiency has enabled samples being taken with a tower-type drilling machine.
the group to continuously ramp up its production at the site, Using traditional methods, Phase I of mine exploration has
which was officially put into production in 1997, although been completed, while Phase II and III are already underway.
workings of various forms have existed since 1955.

The Yunnan Province has a vast history of copper mining. Rapid growth
In Dongshan, some 40 km away, copper mining dates back The mining method used at Dahongshan varies according to
more than 1 800 years to Emperor Kangxi (AD 1685) the thickness of the seam-type orebody at the various mining
during the Qing dynasty. The Dahongshan Mine was estab- areas, but room and pillar is dominantly employed.
lished during the transitional period of planned economy
and market economy in Gasa Town, Xinping Yi and Dai Following a substantial investment in modern mining tech-
Autonomous County. nology, the mine has increased the value of its production
output in a short number of years. In 2006, the output value
In the construction and development process, the mine, reached 1 billion Yuan, with an annual production capacity of
through a series of reforms, gradually established a set of copper concentrates and iron ore concentrates of 22 000 t and
streamlined and efficient mechanisms for operations that 520 000 t respectively.
were adapted to a market economy and modern enterprise
development requirements. Just two years later, using Atlas Copco mining equipment,
the annual production capacity reached a remarkable 5M t,
and since then, these numbers have increased year on year
Geology and ore reserves multiplying 21 times since the beginning of operations. Eighty
The proven reserve of Dahongshan is over 700 000 tonnes, percent of the production and development drilling is carried
and the study reserve is 1 million tonnes of high-grade ore. out using mechanized equipment and 20% using manual
The orebody is gently inclined at 14; where copper coexists machinery, although this is gradually being phased out.
with iron, the first layer is copper and the second layer is iron.
Mechanized equipment is also used for ore transport; load-
The rock existing in the mine is granite and the average copper haul-dump and mine trucks for terminal transportation.
grade is 0.55%. The grade of cooper near the ore is 25% and Blasting is carried out using No.2 rock explosives coupled
that of the iron is 63%. The vertical depth from the wellhead with magnetic electrical detonators.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 159


BOOSTING EFFICIENCY AND SAFETY IN YUNNAN PROVINCE

The Boomer H104, previously used for drifting, has been converted into a production rig drilling 835 m deep holes.

Improved quality and safety basic knowledge among many of the operators was a major
Production drilling at Dahongshan is operated on a seven- challenge in ramping up the mines production. This issue
hour work shift per drill rig, drilling 835 m deep holes at an was dealt with in 2003 when the first mechanized equipment
advance rate of 1 m per minute. The Atlas Copco Simba 1354 from Atlas Copco was introduced and training instructors
is the mines biggest contributor to copper production, where were sent to the site, not only to enable personnel to familiar-
each rig accounts for approximately 11 000 m drilled per ize themselves with the new equipment and how to optimize
month. Altogether, the fleet of Simbas achieve some 240 000 m its performance, but also to enhance their abilities to solve
per year. problems in the shortest time possible, as safely as possible.

The quality of the holes varies due to the different type of One of the mines key managers, who was involved at an early
seams and different hole depths. However, the Simba 1354 stage in this process, comments: Safety and environmental
guarantees a remarkable performance by keeping deviation protection is of great concern and affects everyone at the
at less than 1%. An Atlas Copco Boomer H104 previously mine. We attach great importance to these issues and this also
used for drifting has also been converted into a jumbo drill rig reflects on our choice of equipment.
which has greatly improved the safety of mining personnel.

The mine adopts a shift-work system consisting of three avail- Green approach
able shifts per day, with each shift having the potential to The steps taken at Dahongshan toward environmental care
complete 150 m of drilling. As each set of drill rods can drill include the screening of copper and iron ore according to their
80010 000 m, there also exists the potential for 80 000 m to grades. The low-grade waste rock is used as backfill, while
be drilled per year. high-grade rock is recovered. During the most recent con-
struction of the western mine area, Phase III of development,
Dahongshan currently has nearly 5 000 employees, with three which is an in-depth exploitation area, Atlas Copco equipment
operators allocated to each work shift. At first, the lack of has also demonstrated environmental benefits, in addition to

160 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


DAHONGSHAN MINE, CHINA

The Dahongshan Mine in China's copper region has multiplied its output in just over a decade. Rapid growth is the result of modernizing the mine's equipment
fleet and practices.

increased efficiency and stable voltage, including reduced it says, due to excellent product quality, training and support
noise levels and reduced emissions. service.

The safety index has also been very high, especially in the Dahongshan is one example of a model mine that is paving the
trolley production area, and we have had no incidents or inju- way for advanced, modern mining practices in today's China
ries, the manager continues. and which are clearly instrumental to future growth.

Modernized operations
To lift the profile of Dahongshans production and output, as
well as health and safety and environmental practices, has
firmly transported the mines operations into the 21st cen-
tury, setting an example for others to follow. The company
describes its investment in a modern equipment fleet as a
historical turning point, both in terms of mine development
but also when it comes to improving the working environment
for personnel.

We are dedicated to environmental and sustainable reform


and this includes making sure our mining equipment performs
with as high efficiency as possible," the company points out.

This investment has clearly paid off for Yunnan Dahongshan A fleet of Atlas Copco Simba 1354 drill rigs is the largest contributor to
Copper Mine, where Atlas Copco has been a favored supplier, copper production at Dahongshan, drilling approx. 240 000 m per year.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 161


Situated near the town of Rustenberg, the Bathopele Mine covers a total area of 17 km2. Its rich platinum ore deposit is mined at depths ranging from 40350 m.

Platinum service
for Bathopele operations
In the heart of South Africas rich territory for platinum ore, the Bathopele Mine meets
the challenges of low profile, dual seam workings with a large mechanized fleet
of mining equipment. Underlying its progress is cutting-edge expertise in service
and maintenance.

Anglo American is not only one of the largest mining com- South Africa is one of the primary producers of this highly
panies in the world, it also accounts for more than 40% of the valued commodity, and mining operations are largely cen-
global output of platinum, a precious grey-white metal, which tered on the town of Rustenberg, some 120 km northwest of
in Spanish (platina) translates as little silver. Considered a Johannesburg. It is an area where several adjoining properties
noble metal, as it is remarkably ductile and resistant to cor- are located and owned by Anglo Platinum, the companys
rosion, platinum has applications in everything from sensor subsidiary. Among them is the Bathopele Mine which con-
devices for auto emissions control and medical equipment to sists of two active shafts, the Bathopele East Shaft and the
turbine engines and jewelry. Bathopele Central/West Shaft.

162 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


BATHOPELE MINE, SOUTH AFRICA

The Scooptram ST7LP is a robust 6.8 t capacity loader that is specially adapted for mucking out low-profile drifts.

Following a decrease in the production of platinum in the Group 2 (UG2) reefs and, in the East Limb only, the Platreef.
latter part of 2012 due to the integration of new processes and Most of the mines in the Rustenburg area are working both
equipment, coupled with the impact of industrial action taken the Marensky and UG2 reefs with economic Platinum Group
by miners, the platinum mines in the Rustenberg area are now Minerals (PGM) levels, but the Bathopele Mine itself works
moving to improve operating efficiencies in terms of safety, only the lower UG2 reef. The Marensky reef outcrops through
costs and ore recoveries. At Bathopele, recent efforts to boost the Bathopele property and has been largely worked out
safety have included the installation of alarm systems that in most of the mines in the area, with the exception of the
warn LHDs (load-haul-dump vehicles) and their operators down-dip areas of Thembelani, Khomanani and Siphumelele
when people are near loading and transport areas. shafts.

The UG2 reef has a very brittle carbon leader seam towards
Geology land of platinum the top of the reef. In the East Shaft area of the mine, this is
The Bathopele Mine operates on a 17 km2 right and is situated left in the hanging wall. In the rest of the mine both this and
within the Western Limb of the Bushveld Igneous Complex. the Main Seam are worked where ground conditions are suit-
This was formed over two billion years ago from multiple able. The reef is generally less than 0.7 m thick, although in
injections of magma, then many kilometers beneath the sur- many places this can be increased to a meter if more diluted
face, which formed a saucer-shaped intrusion over 350 km ore in the hanging wall can be included.
wide, 250 km long and 12 km thick.

Subsequent erosion has exposed the saucer on the Western, Dual-seam workings
Eastern and Northern limbs. The exposed rock types include The East and Central/West shaft workings are joined together
pyroxenites, norites, gabbros and chromites in consistent underground at only two points but otherwise operate sepa-
layers. The layers include various types of mineralization, rately. The West Shaft is not connected to the surface as it
including platinum group minerals in the Marensky, Upper is accessed via the Central Shaft. Development of the West

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 163


MAINTENANCE PLANNING EQUALS HIGH PRODUCTIVITY

Bathopele's drill rigs, bolting rigs and loaders are run on a full service contract to ensure minimized downtime.

Shaft workings commenced in January 2011, and these extend faulting and dykes can cause other anomalies where mine
from each side of main (Central) drives on the reef dip, with plans may need some modification of specific areas. Any new
these two development spines of the mine diverging slightly areas of development where rock conditions cause concern to
to follow the main dip of around 9. mine overseers are examined by the mines rock engineers
to determine where additional support measures are required
The development drives for the room and pillar workings are, and of what type. Typically more frequent rock bolts and
therefore, directed along the strike, with production panels longer anchors are installed in such cases. There are four
oriented up and down the dip from this strike drive, although dip belts belt conveyors following the main dip spine of
normally in one direction. Nine to 11 panels are worked from the mine layout to carry ore to the surface. Another main dip
the strike drives, with the longest strike drive 2.2 km to the drive is used for vehicle access.
west of the main dip drives. The current working depths are
from 40 to 300 m below the surface. Currently in the West Shaft area, there are six panels being
worked from each of five strike drives, known as 3 West to
As the dual seam UG2 reef is thin, in order to maintain high 7 West. Further developments are underway as strike drives
productivity the extracted ore has to be kept as undiluted as are numbered up to 12 West. All these areas represent the
possible and removed with the highest possible efficiency. main production of Bathopele, where miners rely heavily on
The logical answer is mechanized low-profile mining. This mechanized equipment from Atlas Copco. In the East Shaft
is employed within a bord and pillar system in most of the area and at the top side of the mine, the workings use
mine, but using breast mining in the very low-profile work- special extra low-profile equipment for working in heights
ings of the East Shaft area. The bord and pillar method is a up to 1.4 m on a system of breast mining. In addition, an
technique similar to room and pillar mining, although the ultra-low-profile section is being developed for working at a
arrangement of pillars differs compared with normal room height of only 1.2 m.
and pillar.

Bord and pillar workings are generally uniform, although The Bathopele fleet
in some areas, known as potholes, the ground is avoided Fully mechanized operations mean that there is a great depen-
due to difficult ground conditions and lower grade ore. Some dency on the availability of efficient mobile equipment to

164 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


BATHOPELE MINE, SOUTH AFRICA

The Scooptram loaders can work in drifts with roof heights as low as 1.6 m.

exploit resources in the most efficient way. At Bathopele, 1.6 m. They are equipped with the Atlas Copco Rig Control
most underground equipment is assigned to teams and sec- System (RCS), providing service information and perfor-
tions that are overseen by supervisors. The various teams are mance diagnostics that are displayed on the operators screen
assigned to work individual panels on each side of the drives and stored as log files on servers.
on the orebody strike. Each strike drive has 1015 panels and
in each strike section there are normally 1617 machines in The semi-mechanized Boltec SL rigs have remote control
operation. available for additional safety and high productivity, par-
ticularly where ground conditions are poor. The electric pilot
Bathopeles Atlas Copco fleet comprises 38 Boomer S1 L system has controls for drill positioning, drilling and bolting
single-boom face drilling rigs; 55 Scooptram LHD vehicles, using a portable operators control panel. A wide range of
including 12 Scooptram ST7LP units; and 28 Boltec mecha- bolt and anchor types can be handled, including Swellex,
nized roof-bolting rigs, all in all comprising 133 main units. resin-anchored rebar and mechanical bolts. The maximum
In addition, there is an extra Scooptram and Boomer drill rig bolt length that can be installed in 1.8 m headroom is
available to each section on swing, i.e. to cover in the event 1.61.8 m long, suitable for roof heights up to 2 m. The drill
of breakdown or if additional capacity is needed. used is the COP 1132 with dual-damping and 11 kW of impact
power. All recent equipment is powered by Tier3/Stage IIIA
Similar to most Atlas Copco face-drilling rigs being used low-emission Deutz or Cummins diesel engines.
in South Africa, the Boomer S1 L rigs are equipped with
COP 1838HD (heavy-duty) rock drills with dual damping to
handle the harsh drilling conditions. The hydraulic control Low-profile techniques
system features an anti-jamming function within the rotation As mentioned, the height of extraction depends on the thick-
pressure-controlled feed (RPCF). The low-profile articulated ness of the UG2 reef and the ground conditions in each area
carrier has 4-wheel drive and four hydraulic jacks for a stable of the mine. This results in both low-profile and very low-
setup. A telescopic canopy protects its operator position. profile mechanized workings. Excavation of each low-profile
panel board needs about 87 blastholes, 3.4 m deep, drilled
The latest Scooptram ST7LP LHD vehicles have a bucket using an Atlas Copco Boomer S1 L drill rig. The blasting
capacity of 6.8 tonnes and can work at heights as low as agent is an emulsion produced locally by AEL for delivery to

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 165


MAINTENANCE PLANNING EQUALS HIGH PRODUCTIVITY

Due to Bathopele's low seam workings, each 1.6 m long rockbolt is installed in three sections, using the Boltec SL, to secure the roofs and walls.

the mine and directly transported underground. During charg- Maintenance planning
ing of holes it is gas sensitized. Blasting is initiated centrally Atlas Copcos service support of Bathopeles equipment fleet
from the surface, requiring the underground to be cleared. is all included in a full maintenance contract, including parts
supply, the surface workshop, on-site technical specialists and
The blasted ore is removed using the Atlas Copco Scooptram management. This has been in continuous operation since
loaders and it normally takes 63 LHD loads to clear a panel 2001. Preventative maintenance intervals are all based on
in just over four hours. Meanwhile the drill rig can work an hours actually worked plus, of course, provision for unsched-
adjacent panel. Loading out is made more efficient by vibra- uled breakdowns and any damage preventing proper and safe
tory feeders placed as close to the working faces as possible, working.
about 60 m away in the West Shaft area and on average 100 m
away in the Central Shaft zone. Grizzlies, also on vibratory The feasibility of such a large maintenance operation is
feeders, are situated 200300 m away from blasting faces. negotiated with the mine management to include expected
We did trial a crusher with the grizzlies, reports Hendry unit availability according to the expected life of each
Consalves, Central/West Shaft Manager, but it didnt really piece of machinery, so that both parties are happy with the
do the job. arrangements. For example, the lifespans of equipment and/
or major components are agreed, including 20 000 hours for
The strike conveyors from the working panels feed onto a Scooptram loaders, 10 000 hydraulic power pack hours on
main dip conveyor that delivers the ore directly to feed stor- Boltecs, and 8 000 drilling hours on drill rigs. Beyond these
age silos on the surface. hours it is agreed that continued maintenance within the
service agreement is uneconomical, and the equipment unit
Standard roof support requires 2125 rockbolts in three concerned should be replaced.
rows of seven or eight each, but additional measures may
be required in less stable ground. The Boltec rigs are semi- Having just replaced seven Boltec rigs, two Scooptram
automatic in operation but, due to the low profile of the work- loaders and four drill rigs, Bathopeles Central/West Shaft
ings, each 1.6 m long rockbolt has to be installed in three Engineer at the time of writing, Hendry Consalves, com-
sections. A modified prototype Boltec has been trialed and mented: This has given us a big replacement bill, but its
tested in Sweden. This is fitted with a shorter drill and boom due to the sins of our past. We were running Boltecs and
to allow quicker rockbolt installation. other drill rigs out of their service contract life. However, all

166 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


BATHOPELE MINE, SOUTH AFRICA

With the RCS equipped


Scooptram loaders we
can do live monitoring
on services.
Hendry Consalves,
Central/West Shaft Manager,
Bathopele Mine

Using a combination of methods, bord and pillar mining and breast mining, Bathopele achieves an output of 47 Mt/y for the UG2 reef.

due machines were to be replaced by the end of 2012, so none service crews are assigned to daily inspection and any neces-
are now out of contract. sary breakdown rectification. While Atlas Copco provides
full coverage Mondays to Fridays, maintenance staff is on
Investment in or replacement of new units at the agreed end duty every second weekend, too, including a normal Saturday
of their service life is seen as a benefit to both owner and morning shift. Major repairs and overhauls are generally
maintainer. In the past, a lot of time had been spent on break- scheduled for Sundays.
down rectification and repairs of old machines. The mines
use of more up-to-date units ensures more reliable availability
and better performance. Tracking operational hours
Consalves and Atlas Copco Sales Representative Francois van
Over the years, Atlas Copco has made a substantial invest- der Merwe explained that a new strategy has been adopted
ment in service arrangements for Bathopele to cover a large for Bathopeles service program, which involves major equip-
workforce. Connie Brinsloo, Atlas Copcos Mine Mainte- ment components as well as the overall units. Previously we
nance Manager in charge of underground maintenance and ran components to failure, says Consalves, but this year
workshops at Bathopele Central Shaft, says that 175 Atlas (2012) we have been tracking the operational hours on all
Copco service personnel are stationed at the mine, including major components.
85 technical personnel working on a shift basis. As 8-hour
shifts are normal in the mine, round-the-clock coverage is Such a strategy should avoid unscheduled stoppages due to
required. component failures, as well as maintain a record of the life of
each major component. With the (Atlas Copco RCS) control
In addition, there are around 10 more Atlas Copco personnel systems on our new Scooptram ST7 loaders we can do live
visiting on product-support duties. Most of the Atlas Copco monitoring on services, he says.
personnel are organized into teams assigned to one of the
mine overseers sections of the mine, with each team led So why does Bathopele Mine rely on Atlas Copco for the
by one of seven foremen. Four of these report to the East majority of its mobile equipment maintenance? One advan-
Shaft workings and three to the Central/West Shaft. There tage of an outsourced service strategy is that Atlas Copco
is one maintenance manager for each of the two sides. The provides three dedicated people who can do machine analysis
Atlas Copco service personnel not included in the production and provide advice on what to do and what not to do. They

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 167


MAINTENANCE PLANNING EQUALS HIGH PRODUCTIVITY

Preventive maintenance and the availability of round-the-clock service is the key to uninterrupted production.

will also attend strip downs of failed components to check low-profile workings has been matched by service bays of
what has caused the failure. lower height, 1.81.9 m in the East Shaft area, rather than the
more normal 2.2 m height.

Multi-bay workshop
The main maintenance facility is a major multi-bay workshop Safety and training
on the surface, most of which, together with an adjoining Similar to many major mining operations in Africa, precau-
parts store, is dedicated to Atlas Copco, which occupies tions against the hazards of moving equipment around the
six bays. The bays feature drive-through concrete ramps to mine are a major priority. In addition to the forward and
facilitate work on the undercarriages and overhead cranes rear-view CCTV cameras available on Scooptram loaders, at
with 10 t capacity. Each elevated level section of the ramp Bathopele the management has chosen a system developed by
can accommodate two Scooptram loaders. These facilities local developer Hoyco Electronics to separate personnel from
are intended to rectify breakdowns and to carry out major moving machinery, particularly load-haul-dump vehicles
overhauls, including replacement of major components. (LHDs). This is based on the principle that personnel on foot
have the right of way over vehicles.
Routine maintenance is carried out in six underground ser-
vice bays, three of which have overhead cranes installed. The Hoyco system links a device, together with a flash-
We hope, by the end of the year, to have satellite service ing unit on everyones headlamp in the mine. If this unit is
and washdown bays on each active strike drive, reports within a given radius of a vehicle, an audible and flashing
Consalves. Each will have a five tonne overhead crane, two alarm operates in the vehicle cab to warn the operator of the
ramps, a dedicated washbay, and dedicated tanks for diesel proximity of personnel who may be out of visual contact.
and hydraulic oil, plus filtration. The operator should then ensure the way is clear, and take
additional precautions to ensure the safety of anyone nearby.
With the continued expansion of Bathopele Mine, its foot-
print is now too large for optimum efficiency of operations Bathopele is proud of its safety record, with no fatalities in
in the current layout. Therefore, the new underground ser- 2010 but, regrettably, two in 2011. The lost time injury fre-
vice facilities will help reduce excessive tramming, as will quency rate (LTIFR) of 0.84 (2011) is also relatively low and
larger ore-holding capacity. In addition, the extension of very an improvement over 2010 and previous years.

168 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


BATHOPELE MINE, SOUTH AFRICA

Safety is vital to Bathopele not only from the humani-


tarian point of view. The main causes of production
stoppages recently have been due to safety concerns or
wild-catstrikes and other labor action. The Mine Health
and Safety Executive with Section 54 and self-imposed
safety stoppages have strictly followed up directives and
Enforcement Guidance issues to many Rustenburg area
mines by the South Africa Department of Mineral Resources
(DMR) in 2010 and 2011.

It follows that good safety practices should benefit all con-


cerned, led by best practice in machinery movements and
roof support, the latter being aided by the semi-automatic
roof bolting that is possible with Atlas Copco Boltec rigs.
The 2010 DMR safety directive reduced the maximum bord
widths in mechanized bord and pillar workings from 10 m to
8 m and set the maximum ore excavation at 75%.

Atlas Copcos product support at Bathopele does not end with


maintenance, extensive though it is. It provides operator train-
ing under a separate agreement with Anglo Platinum, sharing
the work with the Anglo American Trackless Training Centre
situated on the Waterval property near the smelter.

Continuous production
The planned production of Bathopele Central and West Shaft
workings is 2 000 t of ore per shift per shaft, making 12 000 t The platinum ore is transported using Atlas Copco Scooptram LHD vehicles
in a 24-hour day. Near the shaft portals are two 4 500 t silos and underground silos that discharge onto a surface belt conveyor, leading to
to receive the ore from the dip conveyors and provide bunker- Anglo Platinum's smelter plant.
ing capacity.

The silos discharge onto another surface belt conveyor, The mine is being developed on an ore replacement basis.
2.75 km long, that delivers the ore under the main highway The current Phase 4 development project features extension
to Anglo Platinums Waterval smelter on the north side. Here, of the existing central decline, which was 76% complete in
there is another 4 500 t bunkering silo. The silos ensure that 2011. However this work advanced at a slower speed than
there is sufficient storage capacity for one days production. anticipated due to worse than anticipated ground conditions.
Waterval also takes ore from all the other Anglo Platinum This development phase is valued at USD 76 M to produce
mines in the area. around 3M grams (108 000 oz) of platinum yearly with the
steady state of ongoing production.
The Bathopele UG2 ore is relatively low grade at 3.2 g of
platinum per tonne, but it is fairly consistent due to the For the next development Phase 5 feasibility was approved
mining methods, according to Consalves, easing the plan- at the end of 2011 and the work is now in preparation. It
ning of subsequent beneficiation. Quoting production records, includes further extension of the existing decline shaft work-
Consalves says that in the year 20112012, Bathopele Central/ ings up to the mine boundaries to produce 3.85 M grams
West shafts achieved a monthly production of 286 000 t per (136 000 oz) of platinum a year, with full production to be
month on two occasions and only fell just short of that in reached in 2018, Q2.
four months.
The project is valued at USD 236 M, with an overall capital
expenditure of USD 1 232 M, and will include additional
Future development major belt conveyor installations and drainage pumps. In
Bathopeles planned life-of-mine lasts until 2026, currently terms of layout, the project will again extend the Central and
consisting of a mineral resource (not including reserves) East Shaft declines but will also involve a new sub-outcrop
of 8.5 M 4E grams (0.3 M ounces) and an ore reserve of main decline on the western spine (West Shaft), including
116 M 4E grams (4.1 M ounces). 4E means that the figure is development of existing dip drives. The West Shaft will
a combination of expected extraction of palladium, rhodium be connected to the Central Shaft by an upgraded 3 West
and gold as well as platinum. Other metal by-products not roadway.
included are nickel and copper.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 169


The decline shaft at Black Rock Mine houses a conveyor belt carrying over 250 t/h of crushed manganese ore to the surface. Drilling is conducted using a fleet
of twin-boom Atlas Copco Boomer 282 drill rigs.

A bright future
for Black Rock
With high standards pursued in all aspects of mining, South Africas Black Rock Mine
excels in its operations as it supplies the iron and steel industries with a quality base
ingredient. Welcome to life underground at the richest manganese deposit in the world.

The Black Rock underground mining complex operated by northern edge of a huge zone of iron and manganese min-
Assmang in the North Cape Province of South Africa, prides eralization that stretches all along the edge of the Kalahari
itself on high standards in all things. This encompasses Desert to Postmasburg in the south. The mines products
everything from its virtually spotless underground service complement those for the steel industry of the Assmang Iron
bays and workshops and thorough maintenance procedures Ore Division of Beeshoek, and now for Khumani, at both
to its mobile equipment fleet. ends of the main hematite iron ore zone.

Quality is what enables Black Rock, situated about 700 km Mining commenced in the region in the 1940s when
southwest of Johannesburg, to produce the exact manga- Associated Manganese acquired an ore outcrop at the Black
nese ore that its customers demand. The complex lies at the Rock hillock, now part of the Nchwanging farm property.

170 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


BLACK ROCK MINE, SOUTH AFRICA

The nearest town to the Black Rock community, lying 80 km


to the east, is district capital Kuruman. This owes its fame
both to a major oasis in the Kalahari and to the nearby
Moffat Mission, where David Livingstone first came to
Africa, met and married his wife Mary Moffat, began his
own missionary work and set off in exploration of the north
and northeast.

Manganese a key ingredient


Assmang is an equal joint venture of African Rainbow
Minerals (ARM) and Assore Limited, a mining holding com-
pany, listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The com-
pany is split into three divisions Iron Ore, Manganese and
Chrome all being largely dependent on the steel and alloys
industry. Approximately 90% of global manganese output is
used in the production of iron and steel.

Although technological advances in steel-making in the past


have resulted in a drop in manganese demand, new high-
technology steels are expected to increase the demand for
manganese for special grades of steel. Assmangs products
from South African mines and smelters are ferromanganese,
ferrochrome and related alloys.

The Manganese Division operates the Nchwanging and Gloria


mines headquartered at Black Rock, ferromanganese smelters
at Cato Ridge, near Durban, and at Machadodorp, and a ferro-
manganese refinery joint venture with Japanese companies at
Cato Ridge. The Iron Ore Division operates opencast hematite
iron ore mines at Beeshoek and Khumani to the south of Black
Rock and also in the Kalahari region.

Geology
The manganese ores of the Kalahari Manganese Field are
contained within sediments of the Hotazel Formation of
the Griqualand West Sequence. This is a subdivision of the
Proterozoic Transvaal Supergroup. The high grade (+ 48%
Mn) manganese ore deposit is held within regular, gently dip-
ping strata, which has undergone a hydrothermal upgrading
associated with faulting. Major thrust faults strike from this
area in the north towards the south around Postmasburg and
Beeshoek. The ore is of exceptional quality for smelting, with
low impurities and high metal content.

The Kalahari Manganese Field contains about 80% of the


worlds known, high-grade manganese ore reserves and is
mined mainly by two major companies, including Assmang.
Total production of manganese ore from the area is over 3
million tonnes.

Three mining areas


Work commenced at Nchwanging, now part of the Black Rock
complex, in 1972, with the 450 m deep No. 2 shaft coming
into production in 1981. This shaft is still used, with a capacity Using a fleet of Boltec 235 bolting rigs, the roofs and walls of the mine are
of approximately 120 000 t/month, using skip hoisting. secured to a high safety standard.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 171


EXPANDING OPERATIONS AT BLACK ROCK

Dump trucks travel to tipping points and bunkers that feed underground crushers, centrally located in the mine.

The Nchwanging 3 shaft complex (including a 350 m deep exported, with 25% sent to Cato Ridge or sold to other local
personnel shaft) has only been in operation for eight years, consumers.
having been sunk to exploit long-term, high quality ore. Full
production was achieved in February 2006. The two mines
(Nchwanging 2 and 3) are separated by a graben faulted Room and pillar
area, recently reached by development drives to gain access Room and pillar mining methods are used throughout the
to the lower orebodies. mine, with careful vertical positioning to cover the orebody.
Before continuing the mining of each room, or development
A decline shaft is used for both vehicular access and to house drive, samples are taken at the face to check on manganese
a conveyor belt that carries over 250 t/h of crushed ore to the content in the mine laboratory in a first step to ensure product
surface, giving a capacity of around 200 000 t per month with quality. This helps to locate the mining horizon in the most
round-the-clock working. The shafts have automatic winders productive vertical position.
without the need for drivers.
Each face is drilled in a set pattern of 52 blastholes using the
The neighboring mine to the south commenced produc- Atlas Copco Boomer rigs equipped with Atlas Copco Secoroc
tion in 1978. Like the Nchwanging mines, the orebody has drill rods and button bits, also known as cross bits. Most holes
a regular and gentle dip, but the manganese-to-iron ratio is in the pattern are 33 mm in diameter, with 50 mm holes in
higher, making the material good for blending. Similar to a central burn cut. Each drive or room and pillar is 9 m
Nchwanging 3, Gloria has a vertical and a decline shaft, the wide and from 3.3 to 4.2 m high, depending on the orebody
latter holding a belt conveyor for transporting ore to the sur- thickness. Mineralization is in a strata-bound seam of 56 m
face, giving the mine a production capacity of a million tonnes thickness. Natural marker layers, 2 m above the footwall and
of ore per year. 2 m below the hanging wall, assist identification.

In 2008 the three mines at Black Rock had a total pro- The twin-boom Boomer 282 drill rig can drill sections up to
duction capacity of 4 million tonnes which increased to 45 m2 from one position, and features the robust and reliable
4.8 Mt by 2010. Approximately 75% of the production is direct control hydraulic system (DCS). It features BUT 28

172 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


BLACK ROCK MINE, SOUTH AFRICA

Each drive or room and pillar is 9 m wide and from 3.3 to 4.2 m high, depending on the orebody thickness.

booms and either COP 1638 or COP 1838 drills, both with 1.5 km. Smaller Scooptram vehicles are used for cleaning up,
dual damping. development work and utility duties.

Blasting is carried out on a set schedule so that the mine can


be cleared before initiation without disrupting production too Grade separation
much. Each blast produces around 350 t of rock, mainly ore. The mines dump trucks travel rapidly to a group of centrally
The ore is loaded out using a large fleet of Atlas Copco located tipping points and bunkers feeding underground crush-
Scooptrams of various capacities. The latest and largest are ers. Each tipping point has a boom-mounted hydraulic breaker
ST1030 and ST14 models. These travel a short distance from to dislodge hold-ups or to break oversized lumps.
the working face to a waiting dump truck, usually an Atlas
Copco Minetruck of 32 or 42 t capacity. In Nchwanging 3 there are seven underground silos to store
different grades of ore (depending on source). This allows
Our requirements are high in terms of tramming speed, different grades of ore to be kept separate and to be sent to the
maneuverability and the need to back away every nine meters. surface as required. The bunkering function provides a buffer
This makes it difficult for operators, too, so the controls need for any fault or maintenance required to the belt conveyor.
to be easy to handle, says Black Rock Operations Manager Such is the importance of the conveyor that it is continuously
Jan Nel. monitored with instrumentation, measuring factors such as
drive-bearing lubrication and temperatures.
Engineering Supervisor Derek van Neel explains that the capac-
ity of the ore loading and transport units used depends mainly After transport to the surface either on the drift belt conveyor
on the location of the faces being loaded out and the haulage or shaft skips, the ore is carried to the beneficiation plant
distance to the crusher tips. Typically a Minetruck MT436B of which has been upgraded to take ore from both Nchwanging
32 t capacity has one Scooptram LHD working with it, while 2 and 3. The old Gloria Mine processing plant is being dis-
a Minetruck MT42 (42 t capacity), used over longer distances, mantled. The ore is crushed again, washed and screened
will have one Scooptram LHD for two trucks. At present, the to various sizes. The treated material, as fines (<9 mm), is
average haulage distance from the faces to the crushers is stockpiled in bulk, while lumpy material (975 mm) is graded

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 173


EXPANDING OPERATIONS AT BLACK ROCK

Black Rock prides itself on an underground workshop complex that is unique among South Africa's mines. Maintenance workers enjoy good lighting and open,
well-equipped spaces for full overhauls, including ramps and pits, with possibilities for welding and cutting.

and stacked with capacities of 280320 t. This ore preparation and productivity, Atlas Copco has become Assmang Black
and sorting has resulted in the mine meeting ISO9001 registra- Rocks preferred supplier.
tion for product grading, customer service, and similar values.

Increased safety
Costs vs. production From production drilling and rock reinforcement to loading
In line with Black Rocks meticulous adherence to standards, and hauling, Black Rock currently relies on 57 units from
Operations Manager Jan Nels team carries out a thorough Atlas Copco that help to keep up with productivity and main-
analysis of all plant operating costs. This highlights any prob- tain efficient operations.
lems related to machines or manpower so that efforts can be
concentrated on the worst situations in order to bring down A crucial and continuous challenge is to make sure that all
overall costs. Tables have been published that include all the working areas are safe and stable using various rock rein-
costs of operating each machine. In the case of dump trucks forcement techniques. Rock bolt installation, for example, is
and LHDs, the costs are related to tonnes hauled, and against carried out using a fleet of 13 Boltec rigs, of which eight
drilled meters in the case of drilling rigs. units were recently delivered. Assmang has made a substantial
investment in mechanized rock bolting at Black Rock with the
The resultant tables and charts demonstrate the quite dramatic large purchase of Atlas Copco Boltec 235, which are rigs used
increase in costs of operating older models, despite thorough for systematic stabilization. With this capability, Black Rock
maintenance procedures, of drill rigs and haulage vehicles. has become a leader in the full mechanization of mining roof
For example, the mines Scooptram ST14 loaders delivered support in South Africa.
between 2008 and 2011 show a significant decrease in cost
per tonne in the overall load and haul capacity of the mine, Although it may require a substantial investment that cannot
to ZAR 6 from ZAR 136 with the previous fleet. Similarly, easily be related to production, the standardized support that
two new Minetruck MT42 units have yielded a 75% increase the Boltec allows for greatly improves safety by minimizing
in efficiency in terms of cost per tonne, compared with the human error in rock bolt installation. The Boltec rigs also
mines previous machines. For this reason, coupled with safety remove the installer, or machine operator in this case, from
any unsupported area of roof in case of any rock falls.

174 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


BLACK ROCK MINE, SOUTH AFRICA

We are mining
the biggest
manganese ore
deposit in the
world.
Jan Nel, Operations Manager,
Black Rock Mine

The Boomer 282 drill rig is equipped with Atlas Copco Secoroc drill rods and button bits. Before each development drive is drilled, samples are taken at the face
to check on the quality of manganese.

At Black Rock, the Boltecs are used to install square rebar temperatures are important factors. To facilitate this without
bolts, each 2 meters long inserted into 1.8 m long drilled placing undue demands on natural resources, the mine and its
holes, using resin cartridges. All operations are remotely preparation plants recycle water using filtration.
controlled from the operators cabin. The Boltec 235 with
MBU bolting unit can handle rock bolts of all types in lengths Another source of pride for Jan Nel is the mines extensive
of 1.52.4 m for installation in roof heights up to 8.5 m. A underground workshop complex, believed to be the only one
storage carousel can store 10 bolts to avoid frequent manual of its kind in South Africa. Whereas many maintenance work-
handling. The rig features the COP 1132 high-frequency ers have to cope with cramped, badly lit conditions, or the
hydraulic rock drill that is specially designed for bolt-hole mine has to send equipment to the surface for most work,
drilling with high penetration rates and excellent drill steel Black Rock has large working spaces, incliuding ramps and
economy. pits, for full overhauls. With good ventilation, all metal weld-
ing and cutting can be carried out underground.
If the supervisor is concerned about the presence of a fault,
dyke or other structural anomaly, the mine geotechnical There are also strategically placed bays in the mine for regular,
engineer is called to the location to make a decision on what short-term tasks such as oiling and filter checks. The location
additional support measure may be required. Usually this will of both types of facility close to the point of use of the plant
be a matter of extra rock bolts and/or application of a sprayed makes obvious savings in time and costs.
concrete lining to prevent spalling.

Training and simulators


Environment and maintenance As part of its commitments, Assmang Black Rock attaches
Quality of products and efficiency of production are not the great importance to thorough training. Methods used include
only standards that Black Rock abides by. Care for the envi- practical training on the surface and underground with close
ronment is also an important consideration, and the mine has supervision, and e-training with simulators, also with super-
been awarded ISO14001 registration for compliance with vision. The ThoroughTec simulators used are developed by a
environmental standards. This extends to working condi- South African company with backgrounds in defense industry
tions. In both complementary areas, dust control and working electronics.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 175


EXPANDING OPERATIONS AT BLACK ROCK

The lifespan of the Black Rock underground workings are estimated at over 30 years. Production of manganese is set to increase to 6 M t/y by 2018.

Transport to the coast Based on known reserves and expected production levels, the
As with the opencast mines to the south, Black Rock is mainly life of the Black Rock mines is estimated at over 30 years,
dependent on rail transport to the coast to export its products. more than the length of a normal South African mining
Unfortunately, the mines location means that it is at the far license. We havent mined half the reserves yet, Jan Nel
end of the Orex line to the Saldanha Bay terminal, which is comments, and we are mining the biggest manganese (Mn)
dominated by iron ore from further south and which is already ore deposit in the world.
working at full capacity. The bulk ore trains filled at Black
Rock, consisting of 104 rail cars, usually take a dedicated Nel reports that development drives are now complete to a
private rail route to Hotazel, where the cars are transferred to graben area that separates the ore deposits of Nchwanging
the Transnet Hotazel-to-Port Elizabeth railway for exported 2 and Nchwanging 3 mines. A total of 60 million Rand has
ore. Some ore is then transferred to the Cato Ridge plants near been allocated to developing this zone. Although the practice
Durban. It takes approximately 30 hours for the train to reach of mining a 3.64.0 m high section through the orebody will
Port Elizabeth over a distance of 1 100 km. continue for the next 18 months, Nel says that this may be
increased to 4.05.5 m later.
Black Rock also makes substantial use of 40 t highway, side-
dump trucks, sometimes with a trailer to double capacity, and In order to make the reserves last even longer, Assmang is
also traveling to the ports on the south and west coasts of planning to build a sintering plant at Black Rock to increase
South Africa. the value of the ore by driving off all volatiles. An added
advantage is that it will also be able to take the lower grade
(38% Mn) from the Gloria property.
Future prospects
Assmang will continue to develop the rich Black Rock proper- All these developments are aimed at increasing the production
ties despite any concerns about the general prosperity of the of manganese to 6 Mt by 2018.
steel market. With its emphasis on quality products, benefit-
ting from synergies with the Khumani mines under Assmangs
Iron Ore Division, the future is expected to be bright.

176 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


Strategically placed maintenance bays
are used for regular, short-term tasks
such as oiling and filter checks.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 177


No other drill rig beats
the Boomer M2 C
equipped with RCS.
Johan Barnard,
Operator, Mponeng Mine

The headframe of the main hoisting shaft at Mponeng dominates the sky and surrounding countryside around Carletonville, southwest of Johannesburg.

Making the deepest


even deeper
The name for the deepest gold mine in the world, South Africas Mponeng Mine,
translates as Look at me in the Sotho language. And there are plenty of reasons
why it deserves attention as operations approach a depth of 4 000 meters.

The surface structures of the Mponeng gold mine, espe- Located on the northwest rim of the Witwatersrand Basin,
cially two shaft headgear towers, impose themselves on Mponeng is not only one of the worlds richest gold mines
the rolling landscape of the Carletonville area southwest of with grades at over 8 grams per ton, it is also the deepest of
Johannesburg in the Gauteng Province of South Africa. In the all mines a site where mechanized underground equipment
mining environment below, a project to deepen the workings plays a key role in winning gold ore from orebodies known
even more from their existing 3 778 m to reach new, large as reefs. Mponeng is one of three Per their website Ashanti
and rich reserves in what is known as the Carbon Leader properties in the west Wits area, the other neighboring mines
Project (CLP) is well under way. being Savuka and TauTona. Most production currently comes

178 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


MPONENG MINE, SOUTH AFRICA

from the Ventersdoorp Contact Reef (VCR) at depths of


2 800 to 3 400 m below the surface. At the end of 2010,
the proven reserves were 2.05 Mt with an average grade of
9.98 g/t, and below Level 120 there were a further 0.31 Mt
grading at 8.85 g/t Au. The VCR dips at 22 degrees and has
an average width of 0.78 m.

The sinking of the Mponeng shafts began in 1981. The first


main shaft was completed in 1986 and a subshaft completed
in 1993. The deepening of the main shaft commenced in
1996. The current economic gold reserves are held in two
quartz-pebble conglomerate strata, although there are another
five conglomerate reefs.

Twin shaft system


Mponeng is the biggest producer of gold in the AngloGold
Ashanti group and produces gold at the lowest cost per gram.
It has produced more than 140 Mg (over 5 M oz) and in 2010
produced approximately 15 Mg (532 000 oz). The mine has
a workforce of 5 500 working in three shifts. About 42% of
these are South African, plus experienced miners recruited
from mainly neighboring countries.

Although Mponeng is the deepest gold mine, it cannot claim


to have the deepest shaft, the honor of which goes to the
neighboring South Deep mine. Instead, Mponeng has a twin-
shaft system. There are two winding shafts from the surface, Level 116 off the Mponeng sub-level shaft provides main access to the new
one being dedicated to skip hoisting of the gold-bearing rock. excavations for power, cooling and ventilation facilities for the Carbon
Leader Project.
The man-riding shaft reaches down to Level 85 from where
a subshaft with underground hoist carries down to Level 121
at a depth of 3 370 m. This is the access to the main gold
producing area of the VCR, down to Level 126. Reef (CLR), is also a quartz-pebble conglomerate 0.2 m thick.
The probable reserves here are 22.52 Mt at an average gold
Within the reefs, mining is carried out on a selective room- grade of 11.30 g/t. The problems of working at the current
and-pillar grid pattern system using drill-and-blast and LHD depths are well known, namely potentially explosive spalling
excavation methods. This allows negotiation of variations in (rock bursts) of the rock under stress and the need to cool the
grade at these levels ahead of the stope. Ground control at working environment to an acceptable level. The temperature
great depth is vitally important and largely determines the problems at the new CLR levels have been calculated to reach
size of the pillars, with the assistance of thorough support new extremes unless special measures are taken. It has been
measures. decided that normal air refrigeration technology would be
inadequate at the new depths, so crushed ice will be delivered
After milling of the ore, the mines gold extraction process to the area through a series of drop-shaft raises.
employs the relatively new liquid oxygen injection and car-
bon-in-pulp technologies as a more environmentally accept- Mine Overseer Gideon Joubert admits that the whole deepen-
able alternative to the widespread arsenic process, in keeping ing process is a bit experimental for all. Having said that,
with the AngloGold Ashanti environmental policy. Subsequent pushing the boundaries of technology is nothing unusual for
electrowinning and smelting in induction furnaces also takes Mponeng. The dimensions of the necessary excavation are
input from the Savuka and TauTona mines. impressive, especially at this depth. Joubert is proud of the
fact that the substation, measuring 10 m wide x 6 m high x
130 m long, will be the biggest ever underground substation.
Developing the reef This will house equipment to handle all the 550 V electrical
Although Mponeng is the deepest gold mine in the world, power-supply switchgear to the Carbon Leader development.
it still needs to go deeper to reach new reserves. The VCR
workings are already reaching deeper, but the main develop- The Mponeng Mine management called in a wide range of
ment, for which preparation excavations are being created, is experts, both in mining and the special technologies being
to the Carbon Leader Project (CLP), another 190 m lower. The considered for the CLP. These included Atlas Copco sup-
subject of the major development project, the Carbon Leader porting the mine planners and surveyors in developing the

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 179


DEEP MINE DEVELOPMENT

The Boomer 282 operator's view of the initial face for the new large substation excavation on Mponeng Level 121.

drive methods, not only with its team in South Africa but also end of bored raises that connect with levels 109 and 113
international experts on the Atlas Copco team. above. Another 0.5 m diameter raise is to be bored down to
Level 120 to drop the crushed ice lower. The developments
in this area include a major substation, two fan chambers, a
Deep mining equipment reservoir for the crushed ice to melt, and a large pumping sta-
Equipment manufactured by Atlas Copco forms a significant tion. The latter will be used to pump the cold water resulting
and varied part of the Mponeng fleet. For development drill- from the ice storage down to the Carbon Leader development.
ing there are seven Boomer 282 twin-boom rigs and also a
twin-boom M2 C. Traditional compressed-air drills undertake The fans will handle airflow of 350 m3/s, extracting return air
most production drilling at the mine, although there is also an from the Carbon Leader development and pushing it into the
Atlas Copco Simba M4 C. Both the Boomer M2 C and Simba main vertical shaft to Level 81.
M4 C have computer control for high accuracy of drill-
ing patterns and high productivity. For mucking out, All the excavations on Level 121 are being carried out by one
Mponeng employs 16 Atlas Copco Scooptrams and eight of Mponengs Boomer 282 drill rigs, with rock bolting by
MT2010 Minetruck trucks with a 20 tonne capacity. a Boltec 235 H. Two operators were present during training
pending the introduction of a new twin-boom Boomer M2
Ground control is of particular importance both for safety C for the main decline drives to open up the Carbon Leader
and maintaining mining performance. For this reason, Project below Level 120.
and in common with many modern mines in South Africa,
AngloGold Ashanti has invested in mechanized rock bolting According to one operator, Johan Barnard, the Boomer M2 C
to ensure consistency of meeting the designed support require- equipped with Rig Control System (RCS) has performed well,
ments. There are nine Atlas Copco Boltec 235 H and a Boltec achieving 100% availability and consistently drilling 89 holes
MC machine in regular use at Mponeng. at each face in about 1 h 30 min.

Atlas Copco equipment is being employed in Phase 2 of the No other drill rig beats the Atlas Copco rig equipped with
development project on Level 116. This level is at the lower RCS and the new COP 1838HD drill, he says.

180 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


MPONENG MINE, SOUTH AFRICA

The Boomer 282 on Level 121 in the substation with roof and sides heavily supported with rock bolts and welded wire mesh.

Approximately 35 km has been logged on the left-hand boom and possible inflammable gases. In case of the presence of
and 42 km on the right-hand boom. The penetration rate using toxic gases or lack of oxygen, each miner is equipped with an
an 89 mm reamer hole bit is 2.48 m/min. oxygen-generating self-rescue pack.

The Boomer M2 C is joined by a computer-controlled Boltec


MC rig for systematic rock-bolt support of the developments. Production and safety
It is equipped with a bolt-angle indicator to ensure that the Equipped with telescopic boom feeds and direct electro-
correct support fan is installed around the tunnel perimeter. hydraulic control, the Boomer 282 drills 4.2 m long holes
The rock bolts to be installed will be held in place with resin using Secoroc 42 mm diameter semi-convex button bits. A
cartridges. central burn cut of five, 89 mm diameter holes provides a
second free face from which the charged holes are detonated
Among the special features of the Boomer M2 C is total sta- in sequence. The blasting agent used at Mponeng is a water-
tion navigation, which, together with the mine surveyors based gel explosives type.
work, ensures fast and accurate placement of the new major
development drives. For the 5 m x 6 m return ventilation drive, there are a total of
56 holes in eight rows of seven holes. Using a drill stabilizer,
drilling achieves a pull of 3.7 m from the 4.2 m drill hole
Extreme temperatures length. The Boomer 282 rig has a low-emission diesel drive
The ambient rock temperature at Mponengs current deep- and can cover a face section of 45 m2 up to 8.72 m wide and
est point is 55 C, which is obviously too much for most 6.35 m high. It is equipped with the COP 1838HD heavy-
working conditions. Currently intake ventilation air is cooled duty drill to cope with the demanding conditions. It has a new
by a series of nine refrigeration plants to ensure that the air front-end design and additional features that reduce operating
remains cool enough to maintain a target temperature in work- costs. Operation is aided by the anti-jamming function of the
ing areas of 31.5 C. Of course, ventilation has other duties control system. As part of the companys drive for improved
including provision of oxygen for breathing and the dilution safety systems, a proximity sensing system has been intro-
of air contaminants, such as engine exhaust emissions, dust duced for all mobile equipment. The 282, for example, is fitted

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 181


DEEP MINE DEVELOPMENT

The Boomer 282 has an operator platform with room for two, which helps with training and operational checks.

with a Schauenburg proximity detector in the cab that picks linked to training records. Without a correctly qualified card,
up signals from a small transmitter carried by every person. the engine will not start.
If the miner, manager or visitor is within a certain radius, the
instruments in the cab indicate the presence and direction of
the intruder so that the rig operator is aware before under- Ground control
taking any tramming or maneuvering. The system can also Seismic events are noted at the mine every day, usually taking
warn the intruder to keep clear. In addition to the production the form of minor shocks from local ground movement as
drill rigs on site, Mponeng expects delivery of an Atlas Copco stress in the ground is displaced. Most are harmless, but pre-
Boomer M2 C drilling rig, which features the award-winning cautions have to be taken to protect working areas from rock
Rig Control System (RCS) for time-saving automated drill falls and possibly explosive spalling of rock from pillars and
positioning and drilling control. This machine offers bigger the sides of tunnels, which is obviously hazardous.
face coverage, up to 65 m2 sections, up to 10 m wide and up
to 7.5 m high. Multi-element support measures are carried out throughout
the working areas, including systematic rock bolting, bound-
Following blasting under temporary support, on the next shift welded mesh, and, where necessary, reinforced sprayed
the team uses an Atlas Copco Scooptram ST1030 with 10 t concrete. In certain areas, selected by the mines own expert
capacity for mucking out. Safety features include a standard geotechnical engineers, a precautionary method is utilized for
ISO FOPS/ROPS cab with high visibility, the proximity detec- partial excavation of the virgin ground in order to relieve
tion system as described for the Boomer, and an operator rock stress in a controlled fashion. In addition, open ground in
card reader. The latter ensures that only recognized and fully worked out areas is grouted. AngloGold Ashanti says that in
trained drivers can operate the equipment. The personal card, all areas best practice mining methods are adopted through-
inserted into the reader, carries identification of the miner out the mine, primarily for safety considerations as well as for

182 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


MPONENG MINE, SOUTH AFRICA

efficient mining under extreme conditions. Joubert explained


that this means that each mine level has safety targets.
Partially, in order to achieve this, all employees recruited by
Mponeng are experienced miners, in keeping with the mines
leading position and the need for experience in development
work and in the lower levels. In addition to operational duties,
each operator is responsible for keeping the rigs in good work-
ing order on a day-to-day basis.

During a visit to Level 116, the mine overseer emphasized the


important position of support work during the mining cycle.
We pre-supported the drive last night, he explained, so that
blasthole drilling is being carried out now [on the day shift].
Although the mine works on a three-shift basis, tunneling
work is generally on a four-shift cycle. In this case, blasthole
drilling on the day shift has been preceded on the previous
day shift by charging, blasting and checking, with mucking
out, clean-up and temporary support on the afternoon shift,
and the full night shift dedicated to more permanent support.

In order to aid safety and support, the Boomer 282 is equipped


with telescopic booms that can be used for immediate rock
bolting to secure the new excavation. In this duty, shorter drill
steels are used. An Atlas Copco Boltec 235 H, standing by at
the time of our visit, carries out systematic rock bolting on
the next shift for permanent rock support. The Boltec 235
H offers fully mechanized operation for bolt installation in
lengths from 1.5 to 2.4 m, and for roof heights up to 8.5 m.
The hydraulic direct-control system carries out all positioning,
drilling and bolting, including selection of the bolt from a
10-bolt storage carousel on the rig.

Despite the difficult working conditions, Gideon Joubert is


keen to highlight the areas safety record. The whole Carbon
Leader Project has only had eight accidents since it started,
he declared, including only one related to seismic activity.
Mucking out and clean-ups are carried out with an Scooptram
1030 and an old LHD utility vehicle.

Extended life to 2050


With access to new reserves achieved by the Carbon Leader
Project, it is expected that the life of Mponeng will be extend-
ed greatly to the year 2050 as the project proves viable. It
will also make several other smaller development projects
possible. In any case, the extension of the VCR below Level
120 will increase the mines life to 2024.

However, with the seemingly inevitable extra costs of work-


ing such deep and difficult deposits, it is important that mine
development and production are carried out as efficiently as
possible using optimum equipment. Cost reduction through
the use of efficient equipment and methods is a vital part of
future development at one of the South African gold fields
most prominent mines.

Continued development work at Mponeng is expected to extend the mine's


life to 2050.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 183


For ramp operation,
having efficient, reliable
trucking capabilities are
critical.
Dan Gagnon
Senior Vice President,
LSG Operations,
Bell Creek

Modern, maneuverable, fast-on-grade and reliable: the Minetruck MT42, is equipped with the Atlas Copco Rig Control System (RCS).

Profitable choice
for Bell Creek gold miners
For small to medium-scale mines, access to haulage systems that are flexible, fast and
reliable is particularly important for successful operation. The Bell Creek gold mine in
Canada is a good example.

Canadas Lake Shore Gold Corp. (LSG) owns and operates In the fourth quarter of 2013, the company is on track to set
three, mulitmillion-ounce gold complexes in the Timmins a new production record, having produced 34 200 ounces in
Gold Camp in northern Ontario. The company is in produc- the first two months alone. The previous record for quarterly
tion at both the Timmins West and Bell Creek mines, with production was 30 800 ounces, achieved in the second quar-
material being delivered for processing to the Bell Creek Mill. ter of 2013. Average grades improved as the year progressed
In recent times, production here has reached record levels, and and averaged 5.2 grams per tonne in October and November,
the company also has a large portfolio of prospective projects slightly better than the average reserve grade of the com-
and exploration properties to support continued growth well panys two mines. Since an expansion of the companys
into the future. mill was completed in the third quarter, mill throughput has

184 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


BELL CREEK MINE, CANADA

consistently exceeded the target capacity of 3 000 tonnes


per day (3 490 tonnes per day on average in October and
November).

Meeting its targets


Supported by this strong performance for 2013, LSG is on
track to reach its targets, including producing 120 000
135 000 ounces of gold at cash operating costs of between
USD 800 and USD 875 per ounce.

Based on higher throughput and improved grades, the compa-


ny announced plans to increase production in 2014 to between
160 000 and 180 000 ounces of gold at cash operating costs
between USD 675 and USD 775 per ounce sold.

Against this background, the Bell Creek Complex has played


a key role in LSGs progress. Located approximately 20 kilo-
meters northeast of Timmins, close to Goldcorp Inc.s Hoyle
Pond Mine, the complex includes a total land package cover-
ing 32 sq km and includes a number of key geological trends,
including the New Mine Trend just to the north of the Destor
Porcupine Fault Zone.

The complex is anchored by the Bell Creek Mine and mill.


Bell Creek has had a number of owners from 1987 to 1994,
but was acquired by LSG in December 2007. In May 2009,
the company commenced an advanced exploration program
mainly focused on dewatering and rehabilitating the existing
260 m deep Bell Creek shaft and workings and collaring a
surface ramp at Bell Creek to connect to the underground
mine workings. Commercial production began in January
2012.

Current production at the underground mine is limited and


is helping to fund the evaluation of a large new zone discov-
ered by the company at depth. Haulage to surface of ore and
waste rock is currently just over 1 300 t/d. The ramp distances
have increased and backfill to stopes is also increasing, which
means that less material is hauled to surface.

The Minetruck MT42 operators achieve an average haulage rate of 36 t per trip.
Production vs haulage costs
Like many small-scale operations in Canada and elsewhere,
flexible and reliable haulage operations are crucial to perfor- Canada has a great deal of older mines whose infrastructure
mance, both to maximize productivity and to keep the cost per favors the 40 tonne Minetrucks as they are suited to both
tonne ratio as favorable as possible. ramped mines and shaft mines. LSG produces over 500 tonnes
of gold ore per day from Bell Creek and is currently mining
To meet this demand, the Bell Creek Mine needed a 40 tonne below the 650 m level.
truck that is easy to maneuver and fast on the ramp at full
load. The solution was the Minetruck MT42, which was Dan Gagnon, LSGs Senior Vice President, Operations, said,
introduced by Atlas Copco in 2009, and Bell Creek became For a ramp operation, having efficient, reliable trucking capa-
the first Canadian mine to put the truck into production. bilities is critical and the Minetruck MT42 meets our needs
Positioned between the 32 tonne Minetruck MT436B and extremely well.
50 tonne Minetruck MT5020, this 42 tonner is well suited
to many existing operations as well as the increasing We have a long-standing relationship with Atlas Copco and
number of smaller sites now being re-opened to meet world that relationship has served us well in developing and opera-
demand. tiong our Bell Creek Mine.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 185


NEW HAULAGE EFFICIENCY AT BELL CREEK

A shorter turning radius and a comfortable cab and good visibility are just a few of the benefits noted by the MT42 haulage crew.

Upgraded fleet, new progress According to Lake Shore Gold, maintenance of the trucks is
Although Bell Creek could accommodate larger vehicles, they easy and straightforward with minimal planned downtime,
would have been more difficult to maneuver than the agile despite the fact that the trucks are operating at least 18 hours
Minetruck MT42, which has front-axle suspension, a unique per day.
feature for a truck of this size, and an articulated design, which
makes it easier to maneuver safely through constricted spaces. As is recommended for most mines that are looking to
In fact, the MT436 is the ideal size for Bell Creek, but the increase the efficiency of their haulage operations, Bell Creek
Minetruck MT42 is rated for a payload that is l0 tonnes larger. takes into consideration all factors that influence bottom-line
productivity. This includes tire performance, which reportedly
In addition, with its 388 kW/520 hp, fuel-efficient, low-emis- on the MT42 is good thanks to a combination of favorable
sion Cummins engines, it confidently motors up the ramp at ramp conditions and a solid driveline design of the minetruck
8 km/h, more than twice the speed of a MT436. fleet.

Other advantages of the Minetruck MT42 include greater vis-


ibility, shorter turning radius, enclosed cab, a jump seat for a
passenger or trainer and an air-suspended drivers seat that
greatly improves operator comfort.

The dry, temperature-controlled environment in the cabin


and its low noise level also adds to operator productivity and
comfort.

Three Minetruck MT42 trucks are now working at the mine


and averaging approximately 36 tonnes per trip. Working two,
10-hour shifts in a 24-hour period, they have been hauling up to
1 984 tonnes of ore and waste per day, averaging 10 000 hours With its unique front-axle suspension, the Minetruck MT42 climbs ramps at
in total. twice the speed of previous models.

186 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


BELL CREEK MINE, CANADA

The Boome.

Minetruck MT42 in a nutshell


High power-to-weight ratio provides high speed on grade Enclosed cabin features
Proven powertrain components for reliable performance Automatic Climate Control (ACC) (option)
Front-axle suspension for superior comfort and productivity - AC, heater and pressurizer
First-class cab with great visibility, air-suspended seat
and low vibration and noise levels Emergency exit and rescue mission
FOPS/ROPS certified - Front and side (PF) window
Air conditioned
Spring applied hydraulic released brakes (SAHR) for Interactive display gives operator full overview
added safety - Reverse camera, load camera, load weighing data, etc.
Atlas Copco Rig Control System (RCS)
Articulated steering
Oil-free cabin environment
Height: 2 705 mm
Width: 3 050 mm
Turning radius: 45 degrees

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 187


Unicalce's limestone mine Sedrina, near Bergamo in Italy, produces 4 000 tonnes per day of fine and slaked lime for use in various industries.

Powering up
for Sedrina raises
A plan to install a shaft at Italys 0.5 Mt/y Sedrina limestone mine, near Bergamo,
prompted local contractor Edilmac to introduce a new, upgraded raiseborer for the
tough work ahead. A visit to the site reveals progress in raiseboring technology.

Edilmac dei F.LLI Maccabelli Srl is a mining contractor spe- order. These include large workshops and equipment storage
cializing in the excavation of tunnels and shafts. It is based in for working on its fleet of nine raiseboring rigs and other rock
Gorle, situated between the city of Bergamo and the foothills excavation equipment.
of the Italian Alps in the limestone quarrying and mining
district that includes Sedrina mine. Edilmacs headquarters As well as working throughout Italy, Edilmac has also worked
boasts extensive technical facilities that are kept in good, tidy in Portugal, Luxembourg, and the Dominican Republic,

188 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


SEDRINA MINE, ITALY

mainly in mine development and hydropower projects. The


company has long experience using raiseboring technology
for the installation of shafts up to 6 m in diameter.

Among its many projects, Edilmac has excavated shafts for


the ventilation of the Channel Tunnel, the Locarno bypass
gallery and the three ventilation shafts for the longest of the
BolognaFlorence high speed railway tunnels. But the story
stretches as far back as 1978, when exploitation of the lime-
stone resource at Sedrina mine first began.

This was related to a decrease in open quarry work, which


was becoming impractical in the limited space available in
the valley, until production from the quarry fully ceased
in 2000.
A conveyor belt brings the excavated rock to an on-site processing plant.
Our first shaft was excavated in the same year [1978], and
we drove the first tunnel in 1986. Weve bored all sizes from
a pilot bore diameter up to 5.76 m, and all with single-pass
reaming. The 5.76 m bore is still working as a main muck-
ing shaft, explains Dott Ing Adriano Facchinetti, Technical
Manager of Edilmac.

The Sedrina operations are managed by Unicalce, which


produces mainly fine lime and slaked lime (calcium hydrox-
ide) for a wide range of industrial uses at an average rate of
2 000 t per day. The lime is light to dark grey in color with
a calcium carbonate (CaCO3) content of about 98%. Poorer
quality limestone that is excavated is crushed to aggregate
sizes for road construction and other applications.

The total rock excavated is around 4 000 t per day, and full
The advantages of using raiseboring technology include high accuracy of
product processing takes place on site in the former quarry,
diameters and the possibility of continuous mucking from the bottom
where space is at a premium.
of the shaft during operation.

Slot raise for modern mining Proving performance


At Sedrina, the main mining method involves creating large At the end of each room, a rock pass and slot is created by
rooms with intervening support pillars. Each of the main raiseboring. During a visit to the mine, the new Atlas Copco
rooms is planned as 120 m high, 40 m wide and 180 m long, Robbins 73RVF C machine was being set up at the end of
with a 40 m wide supporting pillar in between. The zone is room C8, with the power packs, cooling unit, operators cabin,
prepared by development tunnels at three levels (top, middle and an Atlas Copco XAHS 536 mobile compressor for pilot
and underneath) from which blastholes can be drilled later. hole cuttings removal, all in close proximity.

In order to open the excavation at underground room C8, The Edilmac crew was changing the drive head for one with
a new slot raise connecting the 310 and 410 m levels was a larger thread to suit larger 286 mm (11.25 in) diameter rods
needed to correspond with planned procedures and project rather than the 267 mm (10 in) diameter rods used before.
methodology. Without this raise it would have been impos-
sible to start mining, says Fachinetti. The raiseborer was used to form the first opening at one
end, approximately 116 m deep, using a pilot hole 12 in
For this new development at Sedrina, Edilmac introduced reamed out to 3.06 m diameter. The rooms are also in rows
a rejuvenated raiseborer following a major upgrade of the on two levels, with main rock removal drifts beneath each,
contractors existing Robbins 73R rig with hydraulic drive. thus exploiting the resource to the maximum extent without
The rig was upgraded by Atlas Copco and Edilmacs technical caving or additional support in most cases.
teams with a high power, variable frequency electric drive,
new control system and more. In fact, practically only the The limestone rock here at Sedrina is much harder (around
main structural parts main frame, cross head, columns and 160 MPa UCS) and massive, says Facchinetti, so it will
hydraulic thrust cylinders remained. be a real test for the new rig. But it now has greater power at

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 189


RAISEBORING AT SEDRINA

Above: Dott Ing Adriano Facchinetti, Technical Manager at Edilmac, with crew. Top right: The operator cabin. Bottom right: The cooling unit for the VS system.

450 kVA instead of 350 kVA. We are a lot happier with the In Edilmacs long history of excavating raises at Sedrina, the
new rig. It really is an improvement in performance on the old No.30 shaft was executed from 19782013 using Robbins
73R. The rod handling system is also a little better, but the real raiseborers. The scope of these shafts included ventilation,
improvement is in performance. rock stocking well, slot and cable shafts. Here, Edilmac has
drilled vertical and inclined shafts with a maximum length of
The 99.86 m long, 3.05 diameter raise at Sedrina was com- 145 m and a range of diameters from 2.13 to 5.46 m.
pleted successfully in 18 days. The penetration rate for pilot
hole drilling was logged as 1.66 m per hour, and 0.63 m per
hour for reaming. The virtually new raiseborers first project Robbins retrofit
was at the Chiascio dam hydropower project at Val Fabbrica, Raiseborer rigs can easily last for 20 to 30 years, explains
in the Perugia region. The need was for a ventilation shaft Atlas Copco Product Line Manager for raiseborers, Johnny
linked to a complex of irrigation aqueducts for agricultural Lyly, but even with good maintenance their performance will
use. be much less than what is currently possible. The mechanical
side, mainly gearboxes, can be easily updated, but the installa-
Facchinetti comments that, despite the strata content, it was tion of modern hydraulics and electric control is more difficult
not difficult to bore and carried marly lenses in cemented, which is why we introduced upgrade kits. These can include
quartzitic sandstone. The result was a vertical shaft, 264 m new power packs and drive systems for electric or hydraulic
deep and 2.44 m in diameter. A pilot hole was drilled using motor upgrades as the customer prefers.
a directional drilling tool (RVDS), and then the Robbins
73RVF C came into play. With hydraulic systems, the twin power pack supplies both
rotation and thrust, but with electric drives there is one power
Thanks to the newest technologies available and to the tech- pack with electrical controls for the electric drive motor, etc.,
nical choices made during the upgrade of the machine, this and a hydraulic power pack for the thrust unit. The electrical
is now almost as powerful as an Atlas Copco Robbins 83, controls include the variable frequency drive for excellent
keeping the dimension and weight of a Robbins 73, reports speed and torque control and a resistor unit for controlled
Edilmac. stop in the event of power loss.

190 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


SEDRINA MINE, ITALY

After trials, Edilmac has a preference for AC electric motors,


due to their higher efficiency compared to hydraulic motors The new raiseborer
or DC electrics, which means variable frequency (VF) drive
control, explains Lyly. An AC motor with VF control can has improved our
be adjusted for speed and torque similarly to a DC motor, but
with the higher efficiency. It was decided to go for a complete
performance while
upgrade with modern equipment, not only for the drive but for reducing costs and
control and cooling systems.
energy consumption
The retrofit package for Edilmacs existing Atlas Copco Dott Ing Adriano Facchinetti,
Robbins 73RH consists principally of the water-cooled, Technical Manager, Edilmac
AC electric, rotary-drive motor; a new gearbox; a hydraulic
power pack for thrust; Atlas Copcos universal computerized
Rig Control System (RCS) with compact electronic console;
and a self-contained cooling unit for the hydraulic system and
drivetrain that requires no external water supply.

The new package has been backed by a lot of internal devel-


opment at Atlas Copco. We hadnt built a raiseborer with
a variable frequency at Atlas Copco since 2002, and there
has been a lot of component development in the meantime,
explains Lyly. So we had to test the whole drivetrain first.
Using a new, water-cooled compact motor, we carried out
the tests over two days with the power pack at the premises
of the motor manufacturer Elin in Austria, with our system
connected to a load motor for simulations. These included
stalling, backspin and fluctuating load to simulate all the con-
ditions that might occur with a raiseborer. And the results were
very good, meaning we could go ahead with the retrofit work.

In the meantime, Edilmac had fitted the new gearbox them-


selves, and so we put the two together at their Gorle premises,
carrying out further successful tests for another two days,
reports Lyly. One result was a big increase in torque to
250 kNm. The rig could then be designated as an Atlas Copco
Robbins 73RVF C.

A small but important part of the retrofit is the desktop control


console, with a flat-screen display portraying a simple opera-
tor layout normally showing rotary speed, net thrust force
and torque as analogue dials. The system also gives a lot of
information feedback on performance and faults, which can
help in maintenance. Atlas Copco engineers are also develop-
ing a reporting system that can be integrated with the existing
Tunnel Manager software. As only instrumentation cables go
into the cabin, there is a lot less mechanical noise for the
operator to tolerate.

Future work
After the raise was excavated at Sedrina mine, the 73RVF C
was destined to carry out further rock-pass provisions in slots
at the end of the parallel rooms. This allows the blasted lime-
stone to be transported most efficiently by gravity to crushers
and conveyors at a lower level.

The rock removal tunnels with belt conveyors all reach the Raiseboring has played a key part in the development of Sedrina mine, with
surface at the old quarry face to deposit the crushed material. the first shaft bored in 1978.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 191


RAISEBORING AT SEDRINA

The Robbins 73RVF C is an energy-efficient raiseboring machine equipped with RCS and frequency control drive. It is a medium-sized raise drill capable of drilling 1.5 to 3.5 m
holes in diameter.

From there the rock feeds through one of three, 10 m diameter Discussing some of the finer points of raiseboring, Facchinetti
shafts that were also excavated by Edilmac to feed the main explains, It is not really a matter of speed, but getting through
preparation plant. without problems, so the rigs available torque and thrust are
very important to keep on boring without jamming. This rigs
The rooms are split by three levels of tunnels, which are also new 280 kW VF motor gives a maximum torque of 250 kNm,
the development responsibility of Edilmac, using their two instead of the previous 180 kNm.
Atlas Copco L2C drill rigs. These tunnels are then used by
Unicalce production teams to carry out drilling with fans of Of the compact control system with easily understood
blast holes. Formerly only one tunnel per level per room was instrumentation on a flat-screen desktop console, Facchinetti
driven, through the center of the block, but now two tunnels comments, The new console really is an improvement, too.
are driven at each level on the edge of the demarcation. This The operators like it a lot. If all goes well we are looking to
gives better blasting results. upgrade our other 73R raiseborer next year, also with a vari-
able frequency AC electric drive.

Edilmac reports that it has achieved high proficiency in raise-


boring operations using Robbins machines as they combine
high standard performance with versatility and simple setup.
The contractor also emphasizes the benefit of the equipment in
underground installations where it is important to have power-
ful machines with small dimensions.

Dott Ing Adriano Facchinetti concludes: Upgrading to the


73 RVF C has improved the performances of the machine
because now on diameters up to 3 m and at these lengths, we
can use the 73 model and obtain similar performances of the
83 RM DC, while reducing costs and electric consumption. I
The Robbins raiseborer has a built-in security system for controlled stop at firmly believe the VF system is the best for raiseboring opera-
power loss. tions.

192 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


SEDRINA MINE, ITALY

73RVF C IN SUMMARY
More Atlas Copco Robbins 73R raiseborers have been
sold worldwide than any other raisebore system, and
now, with the upgrade to the 73RVF C, it has also
become the most energy-efficient raiseboring system
in the Atlas Copco range.

Control system: Proven Atlas Copco Rig Control System


(RCS) with desktop, flat-screen console, improving
drilling accuracy, equipment reliability and serviceabil-
ity. Includes interlocks against operating errors, anti-
jamming, and automatic power ramp-up. Limits power
outtake according to preset limits to comply with site
restrictions.

Reaming diameters: 1.5-3.5 m (5-10 ft) depending on


rock conditions.

Drive: Water-cooled, 290 kW, three-phase AC electric


motor with variable frequency drive control.

Derrick: Small footprint with fewer down bolts.


Engineered to prevent transfer of bending moments
to gear box. Replaceable threaded inserts for better
maintenance. Rigid guide columns for efficient torque
reaction. Gearbox: three-stage planetary type with
spring-loaded bearings.

Thrust: Hydraulics with 55/63 kW power at 50/60-Hz


supply. Traverse, feed and auxiliary circuits.

Pipeloader: Sturdy mount on either side with ground


loading and radio remote control.

Cooling: Both power packs linked to external, closed-


loop refrigeration system with water/glycol media, with
fully automated ambient temperature control working
at up to 40 C. Also cools drive motor.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 193


Photo: Fredric Alm

Raising the bar


for automated production drilling at
Swedens Ore Mountain
The renowned iron ore mine LKAB Malmberget intensifies its pioneering contribution
to tomorrows mining practices. A new equipment fleet, centralized control and up-
graded communications systems are among the key components of a major transition.

A passion for discovery makes the Malmberget mine an ulti- state-run company LKAB (Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara
mate reference for miners who are in the pursuit of sustain- Aktiebolag). Following the encounter of magnetite iron ore
able operations. Its appealing attributes are clearly visible in the 18th century it was founded as a mining community.
as operators arrive for another shift of production drilling However, it would take another hundred years before the first
1 000 meters under ground deep in the belly of Swedens ore train left for the port of Lule, in 1888, on the Baltic coast.
Ore Mountain.
Today, Malmberget is a model of modern mining and has
Situated 5 km from the northern town of Gllivare in the earned international recognition for its technology-driven and
countrys mining district, well within the Arctic Circle, constantly evolving practices. Together with the companys
Malmberget is one of two iron ore mines owned by the sister mine in Kiruna, some 125 km further northwest and

194 ATLAS COPCO MINING METHODS


MALMBERGET, SWEDEN

A new fleet of automated drilling rigs has enabled 24-hour operations at Malmberget. The move is expected to boost the iron ore mine's production capacity by 20%.

the largest underground mine in the world, LKAB is also Malmberget consists of approximately 20 orebodies of vari-
generally regarded in the industry as an innovator. For more ous sizes, of which 12 are being mined from four main levels;
than two decades, automation in drilling, loading and haulage located at 600, 815, 1 000 and 1 250 meters. The 1 000 m
has played a key role in its operations. levels has been operational since the 2 000 year 2000 and has
recently become host to a new control central for production
LKAB is a global exporter of high grade iron ore pellets. In drilling.
2012, its production amounted to 26.3 Mt of final products,
and in Europe alone, it supplies the steel market with more At the entrance to the main South Section tunnel, it doesnt
than 90% of its demand for this essential base metal, the most take long to realize that Malmberget is unlike most other
common on Earth, which is used for buildings, trains, office mines in the world. With its asphalt roads and ramps that are
supplies, refrigerators and an infinite number of products in impeccably well kept, sophisticated tracking for personnel
everyday life. and machinery, seismic systems, wireless internet and ultra-
modern workshops it is setting a good example.
Although production is being ramped up to achieve new goals
of 3740 Mt/y and a 35% increase in the delivery perfor- Upon arrival at the control room at 1 000 m, it looks no dif-
mance to clients before 2015, there is no discord between high ferent than any regular office space above ground with the
productivity levels and health and safety, which at LKAB is addition of an array of installed technology, such as monitors
first class. Moreover, the company is currently revolution- on walls and desks, joysticks, keyboards and data servers. It
izing the workplace for a new generation of miners. was recently set up to track and manage the performance of
six new Atlas Copco Simba WL6 C automated drill rigs that
are in continuous operation, 24 hours a day all year round.
Glimpse of the future
For its part in LKABs expansion plan, the Malmberget mine For this job of round-the-clock drilling, three operators
has set a new budget for production that will raise output in working seven day shifts are in charge of two drill rigs each.
2013 from 16 Mt/y of ore to 17.4 Mt/y. Inaugurated in 2010, They drill 115 mm diameter blastholes in drifts 5.5 m wide
production at the 1 250 m main level is being ramped up and x 5 m high at individual orebodies in the mine. The team
will give LKAB access to an estimated ore reserve of 140 Mt. is supervised by Bengt Anttila, Production Manager, South

ATLAS COPCO MINING METHODS 195


AUTOMATED DRILLING FOR SAFETY AND PRODUCTIVITY

Preventive maintenance
is the most important factor
for a high level of automation.
Bengt Anttila
Production Manager
South Section, Malmberget

The Simba WL6 C in full fan drilling mode, drilling 30 m holes at the center of the fan and 17 m holes on the sides.

Section, who has more than 40 years of experience working use today at LKAB and, since 2012, are on its latest fleet of
at Malmberget and has witnessed many of the mines develop- Simba drill rigs.
ment milestones. Among these have been the transition to a
large scale, sublevel caving method for mining in the 1980s,
followed by the introduction of automated production drilling New phase of automation
in the mid-1990s. A zero tolerance approach toward workplace injuries has
been an ambition at Malmberget for many years. Increasingly,
The Kiruna mine has been a forerunner for automated drill- this has led mine planners to reduce the number of personnel
ing, and we have worked closely with each other. When the working in hazardous areas which has proven to be a driving
first projects began, Kiruna already had automated skips and factor for automated drilling.
rail transport. Malmberget followed suit in 1997 when we
took delivery of the first BK drill rigs, he says. Another reason has been the need for absolute precision in
long hole drilling with a deviation of less than 1%. This is
BK is an internally used nickname for the first automated rigs what enabled LKAB, starting in the late 1980s, to increase
that were developed together with Atlas Copco, the Simba the vertical height between the sublevels and the length
W462, which marked the beginning of a long lasting coopera- of each hanging wall from the previous 1215 m to 28 m
tion with the equipment supplier. The W stands for Wassara, which, altogether would boost production by 25%. The
at first known as G-drill before 1988, which is a highly effi- increase of crude ore per blasthole was almost ten-fold, from
cient water powered drilling system developed at LKAB. 1 200 t10 000 t. A mass mining method had been achieved
with a high level of safety thanks to the ability to drill straight
Instead of using compressed air to power the drill hammer, holes as long as 55 meters using the Simba W469 rigs.
Wassara technology uses water, which not only means that
much of the dust is eliminated, a typical health issue for Malmberget, which today has 1 300 employees, is currently
miners, but also gives a significant reduction in energy con- in the midst of another transitional period. Apart from a gen-
sumption and costs. Wassara hammers remain very much in erational shift that is taking place in the workforce in which

196 ATLAS COPCO MINING METHODS


MALMBERGET, SWEDEN

Production Manager Bengt Anttila keeps a close check on the performance targets for automation, set at 350 drill meters per rig, per 24 hours,
or 2 100 meters per week.

young and technology savvy operators are being phased in, drilling into the Alliansen orebody, one of several desig-
the mine decided to conclude a comprehensive upgrade of its nated names of Malmbergets mineralized areas, the mine
production drilling fleet and, as in Kiruna, retire the BK had achieved full fleet capacity and it was expected that the
rigs after long and trusted service. new equipment would result in a 20% boost to production.

Among the modern features of the Simba WL6 C model,


apart from being more powerful, is a new water pump system Sublevel caving
that increases efficiency and reduces water spillage, a new The orebodies at Malmberget extend across a 2.5 x 5 km area
air venting system that ensures longer pump life and a pump and the majority of these consist of magnetite ore, although
pressure control that boosts hammer efficiency. In addition, some parts of the mine also contain non-magnetic haematite.
and perhaps more importantly, the Simba WL6 C rigs are This is a good precondition for the sublevel caving method,
equipped for teleremote operation and full fan automated where vertical, upward holes are drilled as fans, known as
drilling using WLAN communication and a completely new fan cuts, thanks to gravity as magnetic ore is heavier and
data system and interface taking operators out of hazardous descends faster than waste rock.
mining areas.
It is not unusual for us to open up old production areas,
We knew from the very start that this would probably be Anttila explains. In some drifts, mucking out and haulage
the toughest year so far in the mines history as we were can last for several months as untapped ore may trickle down
not allowed to lose any drill meters during the transition. from levels above as time goes by.
So upgrading the fleet meant replacing old rigs step by step
while trying to maintain production day and night. Its been Over the years, LKAB has refined the sublevel caving method
a challenging process, says Bengt Anttila. to achieve as good fragmentation and high volumes of blasted
ore as possible. The typical length of the drifts is 85, which
During a visit to the central control room and to the 1 022 m allows for around 25 fans. Each fan consists of 810 holes
production level where one of six Simba WL6 C rigs was and is drilled 33.5 meters apart, with a final double fan at

ATLAS COPCO MINING METHODS 197


AUTOMATED DRILLING FOR SAFETY AND PRODUCTIVITY

the entrance of the drift close to the footwall. The double fan
enables Malmberget to extract as much ore as possible using
the same setup, without having to drill through additional
waste rock. The holes are typically 4547 m long and are
drilled with 115 mm diameter bits and 2.3 m long drill rods.

We can drill 55 m holes but we rarely go beyond 50 m. For


blasting, it is crucial to get the holes absolutely straight, which
the Wassara hammer helps us with, but the angle of drilling
also determines the material flow. We drill at 8085 degrees
and 8590 degrees for the final double fans, says Anttila.

At the 1 022 m level, the Simba WL6 C production drill rig is


drilling 3047 m holes at the center of the fan and 17 m holes
on the sides using a 115 mm drill bit and maintaining a rota-
tion speed of 8090 rpm, to enable suitable fragmentation.
The penetration rate is 0.8 m/min.

Once the production holes have been drilled through a burden


of 33.5 m, opening holes need to be drilled to provide free
space for blasted rock to expand into. This is done using a
specially adapted Simba W6 C rig equipped with the Wassara
ITH-W120 hammer and a 165 mm bit for optimized up-hole
slot drilling. This rig also has the ability to drill production
fan cuts with the same setup and same drill string with a
burden of 0.5 m. All drill bits are supplied by Atlas Copco
Secoroc.

Blasting at Malmberget takes place every night between mid-


night and 2 am. Once the production holes have been drilled
to a typical length of 45 m they are charged with emulsion
explosives and detonated in a firing sequence with millisec-
ond delays. Normally, three fans are blasted per round. Each
blasted fan yields approximately 6 600 tonnes of ore.

The next step is to transport the ore from the ore passes at
the main haulage level at 1 000 m using trucks that deliver
the ore to underground crusher stations. The ore is broken up
into 10 cm pieces in the crushers and, from here, is dumped
into production shafts featuring automated skips that bring
the ore onto a 1.7 km long conveyor belt.

From the 815 m level, the ore is transported to the surface via
hoists and is brought into a processing plant for enrichment,
resulting in end products such as sinter fines, olivine pellets
and concentrate for iron powder production.

Teleremote operation and monitoring


Since Malmberget took delivery of the sixth and final Simba
WL6 C rig, the team of operators in the 1 000 m control room
has been refining their skills to meet a strict production target
of 350 drill meters per rig, per 24 hours. This translates to
2 100 m per week and 120 000 m per year per rig.

Considering that weve had the new equipment for less


The operator only goes into the drift when repositioning for a new fan than a year, our projections are looking very good, says
of blastholes. Antilla. The system is like a large computer game applied to

198 ATLAS COPCO MINING METHODS


MALMBERGET, SWEDEN

reality and to a sensitive mining environment where every-


thing needs to function like clockwork.

The high level of automation now at the mines disposal is


based on the computerized Rig Control System (RCS) on
the Simba rigs working in the ABC Total mode. The system
enables full fan automation; in other words, a complete fan
of production blastholes can be drilled without human input.
Not unlike the autopilot function on airplanes, this means
that drilling can be carried out throughout the night when no
personnel are present in the mine.

The teleremote function enables the Simba WL6 C to be


operated from the safety of a control room with the aid of
continuous video supervision and a laser guidance system on
the rigs. This provides the operators with access to the same
information that is shown on the rigs monitors.

According to Andreas Larsson, 22, one of the operators on


the day shift who has two years of experience working with
production drilling at Malmberget, getting acquainted with
the technology is no great challenge and adds a lot of value.
Drill plans are downloaded to each rig using the operator console.
This new system gives the feeling of being in complete con-
trol, he says. We set the night drilling parameters before
we leave and then check all the logs in the morning to see to higher productivity. Rig Remote Access, for example,
if there have been any errors, and if necessary we follow up gives drillers the possibility to not only remotely monitor the
with troubleshooting. progress of machines but also to open up display menus. This
function is called Remote Display.
At Malmberget, the teleremote system is currently used for
rigs located 1 to 6 km from the control room. Communication
is both via LAN and WLAN and the rigs interface, known as Motion sensors and safety
Rig Remote Access (RRA). Developed by Atlas Copco, RRA By increasing the level of automation in the mine, Malm-
enables the seamless transfer of data drill plans, log files berget is strengthening its efforts to minimize the exposure
and messages to and from the Rig Control System (RCS). of personnel to the risk of rock falls and other hazards in pro-
duction areas. Nonetheless, operators need to be on standby
The drill plans used in the mine (see above), are developed and ready for any eventualities such as breakdowns, stop-
with a CAD program called Micro Station and a custom-made pages or incidents at the face.
software called GIRON that provides a 3D visualization of the
mines coordinate system. The drill plans are subsequently This is the tricky aspect of automated drilling, Anttila
transferred to the rigs by the operators, and when each fan explains. As long as drilling carries on smoothly theres not
is completed, production data is stored on an RRA server. much to worry about. But when something happens to the
Messages from the rigs include everything from quality logs rigs, a broken hose or if the drill string gets jammed, it is vital
and alarm notifications to Measure While Drilling (MWD) that the operator has the necessary experience and intuition
files that can be viewed on any computer or device that is to make a 30-second risk analysis before he or she enters the
connected to the network. drift.

The operators are responsible for contacting the mine plan- The Atlas Copco designed system for rod handling is devised
ners and getting drill plans for one week of production. We so that it makes three attempts to resume drilling. If by the
also have two drifts prepared ahead of time with drill plans third attempt it is unable to continue, the rig goes into a
in order to keep the process rolling, and as a backup if some- standby mode and sends out an alarm notification. But these
thing should go wrong with equipment or if extra rock sup- are not far the only situations when drillers need to be inside
port is needed at one of the orebodies, says Anttila. the drift. After each fan has been completed, the operator
needs to reposition the rig manually from the cabin for the
In addition to the accuracy and reliability of the production next fan of blastholes, according to the flow sheet.
drill rigs in unmanned operation, the flexibility of the con-
trol and monitoring system, which allows information to be Similarly, if drilling is in progress and a support function
accessed from anywhere, has also been a contributing factor breaks down, extra precaution is provided by the rigs motion

ATLAS COPCO MINING METHODS 199


AUTOMATED DRILLING FOR SAFETY AND PRODUCTIVITY

Working at a safe distance in the 1 000 m level control room, Malmberget's operators are in charge of two drill rigs each using teleremote technology from Atlas Copco.

sensors, which detect if a person gets within a 2-m radius of understand what youre doing and how the rock behaves,
the production area, a situation whereby the drilling function continues Anttila.
stops automatically.
While the screens and gadgets in the control room central
Despite these systems, technology doesnt solve all problems give an impressive overview and are able to perform many
and according to Anttila one of his biggest responsibilities jobs due to high capacity cameras and the possibility to share
as production manager is to make sure that new operators screens and data, there are other elements of conventional
always have at least one senior driller they can turn to for help drilling that are lost, such as sound. Traditionally, quite often
or advice in the case of stoppages or rock fall. the decisions made by drillers is based on what they hear as
well as see.
Its not a simple case of taking people out of the equation in
drilling. The human factor plays a crucial role in automation, Suppliers such as Atlas Copco have made attempts at placing
too, and we are dependent on personnel communicating with microphones on the rigs and feeding the sound into the con-
each other efficiently and on new recruits reaching out to trol room, but it has proven difficult to relay the subtle noises
colleagues whenever they are in doubt, he says. in the drift that can be crucial indications of an impending
error.
This is one of the first lessons that is taught during the four
week training courses held regularly throughout the year in
close cooperation with Atlas Copco. These courses consist of Zero accidents
both theory and manual on-site drilling where operators learn The ore at Malmberget is hosted in Precambrian volcanic
to handle the controls in the Simba cabin. rock with a varying content of abrasive biotite schist. This
means that while conditions are outstanding in some sections
Showing the operators how the control room central works of the mine, other areas can be very unstable and require
is the last thing we do. Underground drilling is not about extensive rock reinforcement and ground support. This
pushing the F4 key on a computer keyboard. You need to is a large cost factor at LKAB that is never compromised,

200 ATLAS COPCO MINING METHODS


MALMBERGET, SWEDEN

especially since both Malmberget and Kiruna are mining at


greater depths than before.

You always have to keep a watchful eye and stay ahead


of events, Anttila explains. When we approach the last
fan cuts at the end of the drift, it is not unusual for cracks
to appear in the contour that was previously smooth. This
also requires safety checks by the operators. So its not as if
anyone can do this job.

Having said that, Anttila admits that major incidents such


as rock fall that can cause injury and damage equipment,
only occur very seldom, a couple of times a year at most.
But being vigilant at all times is part of the mines vision of
zero accidents in the workplace. Among the team of opera-
tors working with the Simba WL6 C is Fredrik Bck, a
computer engineer who has for the past two years filled in for
colleagues during the upgrading and holiday periods. Being
in the control center you absolutely get a sense of working in
the mine of the future. Its the best job you can have under-
ground, he says.

Preventive maintenance is key


Malmberget has a full service agreement with Atlas Copco
for all of its production drilling rigs. Lead times were expect-
ed to be reduced further in 2013 as the companys service
crew was due to move from premises in central Gllivare into
one of the main workshops down in the mine.

Preventive maintenance is the most important factor


for a high level of automation in mining, says Anttila.
Comprehensive schedules, routines and check lists are a
prerequisite Without them, automation will not work.

Although full fan automation enables drilling to continue


through the night, adding significant value in terms of
production meters, downtime is obviously costlier than con-
ventional mechanized drilling where an operator can imme-
diately attend to an issue. In the case of breakdown during
the day, however, service personnel are usually on site within
30 minutes, but only if they are needed.

The problems we come across with the rigs are often small
things like dirt jamming up the stinger feeders. This is easily
fixed by a driller on site with a few tools in his belt and by
flushing water, but its not as easy if no one is there, Anttila
explains.

Together with Atlas Copco, the mine is working continuously


to find solutions to the issue of nighttime drilling. One of the
problems of the magnetite ore is that it puts great pressure on
the stingers, which can cause frequent stoppages. Alternative
parts are being tested and, according to Antilla, the potential
is there for each rig to be drilling at least 100 m per night shift.

Another important task is to always have a stockpile of Drilling through the night, the Simba WL6 C adds significant drillmeters
machine parts ordered ahead of time and to inspect the to production.

ATLAS COPCO MINING METHODS 201


AUTOMATED DRILLING FOR SAFETY AND PRODUCTIVITY

Figure 1: Malmberget is the world's second largest underground iron ore mine. It consists of more than 20 orebodies of which 12 are mined using the sublevel
caving method.

equipment before service. We have a set schedule whereby priority is to expand WLAN communications in all areas of
inspections of the equipment are carried out on Mondays the mine and further develop the monitoring capabilities for
and spare parts are sourced during the week, with the actual production drilling.
service being performed on the Friday, asserts Anttila.
Our aim is to develop the systems so that operators in the
To increase availability of the rigs, Malmberget also employs control room central can monitor not just only performance of
a system whereby complete components are exchanged and the individual rigs but also get a full overview of production
reconditioned in the workshop. rates and what has been achieved, Abrahamsson says.

We also want to enable instant connection with workshops


The IT challenge so that operators can share production data screens with ser-
Among the biggest challenges for mines seeking to bring vice personnel in order to solve problems as efficiently as
automation into their operations is to set up IT systems possible.
that can be applied to a variety of equipment and different
software. At Malmberget, this task is approached with the Clearly, compared with just a few years ago, mining technol-
same dedication as the day-to-day drilling, blasting and haul- ogy is in the midst of being revolutionized and a discussion
ing. Although Kiruna is a few steps ahead in terms of how about drilling today is as much, if not more focused on sys-
widespread automation has become in the mining process, tems capabilities as it is on the setup of machinery, drill string
Malmberget has a different set of preconditions as it extracts diameters and rock mechanics. Tomorrows operators will
ore from 12 orebodies instead of just one, (see Figure above). undoubtedly be used to a different way of working, facing
challenges of a different kind such as delays on networks and
As soon as equipment becomes mobile in the mining area, how to make troublehooting even more efficient.
it puts much higher demands on the stability and capability
of the WLAN network, says Magnus Abrahamsson, Project Consumer technology plays its part too, as more and more
Manager for automation and who is also involved with a newly systems are now being designed in the same pedagogical lan-
introduced efficiency program at Malmberget called 370. guage, Abrahamsson concludes. I believe that many people
still have preconceived ideas about the mining industry and
Another key aspect is the impact that automated loading has what it means to be an operator. But that is now changing; its
on the mine layout as entire sections of the mine need to be just a matter of time.
closed off to personnel. For the time being, Malmbergets

202 ATLAS COPCO MINING METHODS


MALMBERGET, SWEDEN

ABOUT MALMBERGET
Since mining operations began at LKAB Malmberget
in 1892, more than 350 Mt of high grade iron ore has
been excavated from orebodies that are believed to
have been formed 1.7 billion years ago.

The unique geology of northern Sweden combined


with world class expertise in underground mining has
earned LKAB its position as a global supplier of iron
ore pellets. It is the countrys eighth largest exporter
and, at Malmberget alone, its workable ore reserves
are estimated to be around 140 Mt.

Malmberget is currently in the pre-stages of plan-


ning for a future, deeper mining level at 1 500 m.
Production of crude ore is currently being ramped up
to around 20 Mt/y. Together with Kiruna mine, LKAB
is expected to reach an output of 4550 Mt/y.

ATLAS COPCO MINING METHODS 203


The perfect match
for zinc and lead haulage operations at Aljustrel

Portugals ancient zinc and lead mine, Aljustrel, which closed in 2008 for care and
maintenance, is now back in operation. It is using a new fleet of load-haul-dump vehicles
(LHDs) to ramp up production to 1.8 Mt/y, while also investigating new mining areas.

The Aljustrel copper-zinc mine is located in Portugals por- downturn in zinc prices, production at Aljustrel was sus-
tion of the Iberian pyrite belt, about 150 km south of the capi- pended at the end of 2008, and the mine was placed on care
tal, Lisbon. The Aljustrel area has a rich history of mining, and maintenance. However, favorable copper prices and a rise
with evidence of metal extraction dating back several thou- in demand for the metal, particularly from China, meant that
sand years; deposits of copper, zinc, lead, silver, and gold the development of copper zones became feasible once again,
have all been exploited. and the mine was reopened in 2009.

The Aljustrel mining lease covers about 18 km 2 and is IM Mining consists of two divisions: Almina, which owns
100% owned by IM Mining, a family-owned company that the mine property and associated infrastructure, and EPDM,
purchased the property from Lundin Mining Corp in early a specialist mining contractor that oversees production at
2009. Due to the global economic crisis and the subsequent Aljustrel, as well as equipment procurement and maintenance.

204 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


ALJUSTREL MINE, PORTUGAL

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t
aul
Rap

is F
ta
Fei
101 000

Fault
Feitais
Castelo
Algares
100 000

Cast
ro
na

Verd
seja

e
Mes
95 000

96 000

97 000

98 000

99 000
99 000

Figure 1: Geology of the Aljustrel Mine area showing main orebodies and surface projection of massive sulphides, indicated by red dotted lines.

Moving forward copper at 1.74% grade. Aljustrel exploited 1.2 Mt of copper


The Iberian pyrite belt is a massive geological structure that in 2012 and Almina expected to increase this figure to 1.7 Mt
stretches about 250 km through Portugal and into southern in 2013, with 1.8 Mt scheduled for 2014. In addition to further
Spain. It is one of the largest polymetallic volcanogenic sul- core drilling, some flow sheet changes are being implemented
phide deposits in the world and was formed by submarine at the processing plant to accommodate this increase and pre-
volcanic activity and subsequent hydrothermal mineralization pare for future expansion.
about 350 million years ago in the Palaeozoic era. The two
main orebodies at Aljustrel are called Moinho and Feitais.
These are exploited using underground mining techniques Development and production
and are linked via a 4 km gallery. When the mine first reopened, production was limited to
one eight-hour shift per day while training and equipment
Prior to its closure in 2008, production at Aljustrel was procurement took place. However, the initial workforce of 20
mainly focused on the Moinho deposit, but due to poor people has now grown to over 600, and production now takes
mining practice and inadequate grade control, mining was place 24 hours a day, split over two shifts.
shifted to Feitais upon reopening. However, this is gradually
changing and Portuguese drilling contractor Drillcon Iberia, A longitudinal bench and fill technique is used to exploit both
together with EPDM and Almina, are undertaking core drill- orebodies with rock backfill (both cemented and loose). The
ing underground at both Feitais and Moinho (see Figure 1), orebody at Feitais is divided into two sections; a lower and
with the aim of building a better understanding of the orebod- an upper section are separated by a sealed pillar at the 370 m
ies and to expand their development. A consortium formed of level for structural purposes. Within each section, produc-
Canadian contractor Cabo Drilling and Portuguese company tion levels are spaced at 20 m depth intervals. Galleries are
Geoplano is also undertaking surface core drilling on the driven from the main ramp and enlarged before cross-cuts are
property, with a third orebody, Estao, under investigation. created across the orebody and slot raises are drilled in the
A total of 20 km of core drilling was planned for 2013. stopes. Once a 100 m level is reached, the area is mined out;
primary stopes are taken first and filled with cemented rock-
Total copper reserves for Feitais stand at 11.9 Mt with a grade fill, then the secondary stopes, which are filled with loose
of 1.98%, while total reserves at Moinho include 6.5 Mt of rockfill. The ramp is then extended to the next section and

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 205


BOOSTING EFFICIENCY WITH MATCHED LOADERS AND TRUCKS

Almina has a very close


working relationship with
Atlas Copco. They give us
confidence, particularly in
maintenance and repair
where we have total
service contracts.
Antnio Delgado, Director of Mining,
Almina

The 42 tonne capacity Minetruck MT42 provides fast cycle times and can tackle steep or slippery grades with a full payload.

production continues. Ore is removed from the stopes using are quite erratic, and so a 30 m level placement has been
load-haul-dumpers (LHDs) and loaded onto underground selected instead of 20 m. Moinho also has an underground
trucks, which deliver it to the 600 t/h primary crusher. This primary crusher, and crushed ore is transported in skips up
feeds the ore onto a conveyor, where it is removed by belt to the 100 m level, where it joins the ore from Feitais on the
conveyor via Moinho to the processing plant at the surface. conveyor and is taken to the processing plant.

At Feitais, work is currently taking place at the 430 m level;


cross-cuts are being formed and the ramp is being extended Matching loaders and trucks
down to the 450 m level. The 430 m level has been developed As part of the ore load and haul fleet at Aljustrel, EPDM has
but not mined yet. Ventilation shafts and electrical supplies chosen three Atlas Copco ST14 Scooptram loaders which are
still need to be installed, along with facilities such as work- paired with two Atlas Copco MT42 underground Minetruck
shops and a canteen, which allows the workers to remain trucks. The MT42 trucks and ST14 Scooptram loaders are
underground during meal times. About 20 m of horizontal specifically designed to be used together.
development is achieved each day. Blasting takes place once
a day at 7 pm between the first and second shift, and there is The loader, which features a standard 14 t capacity bucket,
a ventilation break every evening for three hours. can load the 42 t capacity trucks in three to four passes which
is the optimal number for quick and efficient production
Almina also chose to restart mining at the Moinho deposit cycles. Joo Bleck, Atlas Copcos product specialist who
in the first quarter of 2013 a total of 7 400 m of horizontal works closely with the EPDM team, explains that depending
development was planned for Moinho and Feitais that year on the density of ore at each site, the bucket or box of each
along with 1 600 m of vertical development. loader or truck is selected to ensure that the weight of each
load matches the rated capacity of the machine. For example,
At Moinho, work is currently taking place at the 400 m level the ore at Aljustrel has an average density of about 2.3 t/m3,
and a similar mine plan is being used at Feitais. However, this so a truck box was chosen that features cut-out spaces in
has to take into account historical workings which, in places, front of the rear wheel arches. This increases the volume of

206 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


ALJUSTREL MINE, PORTUGAL

the box slightly, ensuring that the full 42 t of ore is carried


each cycle. For a coal operation, the volume of the box might
be increased further by cutting away other sections or by
adding side panels to increase the height of the box. This
would accommodate the lower density of the ore and allow
the rated capacity to be reached. Conversely, the volume of
the box might be reduced if the operation were mining a very
dense type of ore.

We have a range of standard box and bucket designs, which


we select based on information supplied by the customer
regarding ore characteristics, explains Bleck. It is vital
that the trucks and loaders operate at the design capacity. If
a machine is hauling loads which are heavier than the rated
capacity, it is likely to experience premature wear and pos-
sibly a higher number of breakdowns. If it is hauling less than
the rated capacity, more cycles will need to be completed in
order to hit production targets. Again, this causes more wear
and tear on the machine and higher maintenance and fuel
costs.

Aljustrels Scooptram loaders were delivered and commis-


sioned between February 2012 and March 2013, while the
Minetruck trucks were commissioned in April and October
2012. Atlas Copco offers customers a range of purchase
options, including rental contracts, rent before purchasing,
and finance options. EPDM chose to rent its first Minetruck
for a period of six months in order to assess its suitability
for the operation. However, after just three months, it was so
pleased with the trucks performance that it bought the first
unit and ordered a second.

Antnio Delgado, Director of Mining at Almina, comments


on the relationship between the mining company and its
supplier. Almina has a very close working relationship
with Atlas Copco, he explains. They give us confidence,
particularly in maintenance and repair where we have total
service contracts.

Indeed, the loaders and trucks are not the only Atlas Copco
models in Aljustrels fleet. The mine also operates three
Atlas Copco Boomer drill rigs, which are used in develop-
ment, and two Simba models, which are used for bench
drilling. In addition, Diamec rigs are used for core drilling,
including one unit that was purchased in 1975 and is still
going strong.

Maintenance and training


EPDM also takes care of equipment maintenance at Aljustrel.
The main workshop is located on the surface and is divided
into three areas: one section is for infrastructural items and
components; one for the mines mobile production and devel-
opment fleet; and one for service and utility vehicles. There
are also two underground workshops, one at the 190 m level Trucks and loaders are carefully matched to achieve maximum productivity at
in Feitais, and one in Moinho at the 335 m level, where basic the Aljustrel Mine. The Scooptram ST14 loader and Minetruck MT42 shown
servicing and repairs can take place. The company has a total above have increased efficiency and enhanced the working environment
of 50 maintenance technicians, and within this team there for operators.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 207


BOOSTING EFFICIENCY WITH MATCHED LOADERS AND TRUCKS

Aljustrel has a full service agreement with Atlas Copco run on a per engine hour and per impact hour rate, covering the mine's loaders and trucks as well
as its production rigs, including the Boomer 282.

are seven specialists dedicated to working on Atlas Copco scheduled at every 250 operating hours and will receive a
equipment. Atlas Copco also has its own store on site where major overhaul every 10 000 hours.
it stocks service parts and components such as filters and
seals. If we require a component or part that is not in stock, Nuno Felix, EPDMs Director of Maintenance, comments:
we can have it sent here from Sweden by courier in less than EPDM is very happy to be working with Atlas Copco. There
24 hours, explains Bleck. have been no major problems with the equipment so far.
During commissioning, the boxes on the Minetruck trucks
EPDM has a total service agreement with Atlas Copco for the were modified to suit the ore that we have here at Aljustrel,
Boomer and Simba rock drills, and costs are calculated on a but other than a few minor upgrades instigated by the Atlas
per impact hour basis. There is a similar arrangement for Copco team in Sweden, no changes have been necessary.
the loaders and trucks which are run on a per engine hour
rate. The latter agreements are renewed every 3 000 hours For each machine sold, Atlas Copco sends a demonstrator
and, as most of the trucks are approaching the 2 700 hour and/or product specialist to the site for five days to help train
mark, these contracts will soon be renegotiated. The load- operators and commission the equipment, at no extra cost to
ers have between 5 100 and 1 100 operating hours, so some the customer. The activities during this period can be tailored
contracts have already been renewed. depending on operator experience and numbers, conditions
at the site and whether any problems are encountered. For
On average, each Scooptram loader operates for 300 hours example, when the first trucks and loaders were delivered
per month, and the Minetruck trucks 300350 hours each to Aljustrel, the full five days were dedicated to training.
per month. Both loaders and trucks have service intervals However, when subsequent units were delivered and the

208 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


ALJUSTREL MINE, PORTUGAL

operators were confident, only two days were spent train- A bright future
ing on these models, and Atlas Copcos demonstrators spent It is clear that Almina has big plans for the Aljustrel site. The
the remainder of the time checking progress and helping to discovery of the Estao orebody and its development in the
improve operator skills on the sites Boomer drill rigs. near future will certainly help to boost the local economy and
raise the companys profile on a global scale.
Felix says that this flexible approach to training has been
very helpful. EPDMs operators have developed a personal Based on an original article by Carly Leonida for Mining
rapport with the trainers, and this means that they are more Magazine.
likely to listen to them and take on board suggestions for
improvements, he adds. Indeed, EPDM is so pleased with
the package delivered so far that at the time of writing was
considering purchasing another loader from Atlas Copco to
help meet upcoming production targets.

THE SCOOPTRAM ST14 NEED TO KNOW THE MINETRUCK MT42 VITAL STATISTICS
The Scooptram ST14 underground loader has a rated load Originally launched in 2010, the MT42 Minetruck is a
capacity of 14 tonnes. It boasts a number of features 42 tonne capacity articulated vehicle with front axle sus-
designed to enhance operator comfort and safety, such pension. It is designed to provide maximum productivity,
as a spacious footbox with plenty of leg room; a sound- along with fast cycle times and improved serviceability
attenuated, ROPS/FOPS protected operator cab with in mining applications. The high power-to-weight ratio,
an air suspended seat and air conditioning; plus spring- courtesy of the 388 kW Cummins QSX15 diesel engine
applied hydraulic brakes and excellent visibility. The con- and Dana transmission, means that the MT42 can tackle
trols are designed to be simple and easy to use, and the steep or slippery grades easily, even with a full load.
operator can keep track of the machines progress and
vital parameters on a multifunctional display screen. The MT42 also features Atlas Copcos RCS system for
machine monitoring and diagnostics. This feeds informa-
Antnio Delgado, Director of Mining at Almina, has been tion directly to the operator via the control screen in the
very impressed with the equipment. The ergonomic cab. The control system is very easy to use, comments
design of the operator cab and controls really sets Atlas Mrcio Claudino, one of EDPMs truck operators. I enjoy
Copco machines apart, he says. Our operators actually driving the truck very much. It is comfortable, even over
enjoy spending time in them because they are so comfort- bumpy ground, thanks to the air ride seat, and the air con-
able and intuitive. ditioning and low-level noise make the operator cab a very
pleasant environment.
The ST14 comes equipped with a Cummins QSM11
EPA Tier 3/ EU stage IIIA compliant diesel engine, which The MT42 stands 2.7 m high to the top of the cab, and the
produces 250 kW at 2 100 rpm. It also features Atlas dump box is 3.05 m wide. The compact measurements,
Copcos Rig Control System (RCS), which provides key combined with the use of an articulated chassis, make
service information and diagnostics that can be logged and the truck highly maneuverable and enable it to take the
displayed on the operator control screen. tightest turns.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 209


The Scooptram ST7 is
very fast, especially
on corners.
Dirk Thiele, Operator,
Hermsdorf Mine

Modern fleet
meets ancient white marble
Renowned for its quality and exceptional whiteness, marble from Hermsdorf Mine
in the Saxony region of Germany is in high demand. A modern fleet of drilling and
haulage equipment enables the calcitic stone to be reached and extracted with a
new boost to safety and efficiency.

The marble from the Hermsdorf Mine in eastern Germany, and decorative marble stone. Parallel with the groups annual
near the Czech border, is recognized among customers for its production of crystalline carbonate products, it is working
good quality and pure white characteristics. And the same continuously to secure its long-term deposits, where a third
goes for Lengefeld, the second mine owned and operated by mine, Hammerunterwiesenthal, is under development.
specialist industrial minerals group, Geomin Erzgebirgische
Kalkwerke. The first documented mention of marble production in the
southern Saxony region, some 50 km from Dresden, dates
With its associated marketing and sales company SH Minerals, back to the year 1581. At that time the marble was widely
Geomin is a leading supplier of carbonatic fillers, dried grains, used as a building material and for decorative sculpture. The
terrazzo, which is often used for floor and wall treatments, underground activities started in 1880 in the Fiskalischer

210 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


HERMSDORF MINE, GERMANY

The ball mill at Hermsdorf Mine is used to grind the marble into fillers.

Bruch (Fiscal Quarry), when production was mainly a raw rocks subsequently affected by retrograde greenschist-facies
material for quicklime production, which was used mainly in metamorphism. The deposit comprises six calcitic white
agriculture and in the steel industry. marble horizons (k0, k2k5) and one grey horizon (k1). The
marble is thought to have a marine sedimentary protolith. The
carbonate sedimentation took place under turbulent condi-
Geology and formation tions. One reason for this interpretation is the rough surface
The underground mine at Hermsdorf exploits calcitic marble relief of horizon k0 (the deepest marble occurrence in the
from a deposit located in the eastern Erzgebirge, literally Ore deposit), with high variations in thickness and parallel split-
Mountains, to the southwest of the village of Hermsdorf, ting into several marble layers. These observations suggest a
from which it has adopted its name. rapid change of depositional conditions.

The age of the marble deposit is still debated. Lithostrati- The k1 horizon is characterized by similar, but more distinct,
graphically, the thick sequence of interlayered marble and features. In the former, about 3040 m thick reef limestones
phyllite is ascribed to the Herold Formation as part of the act as cores of tectonically developed horst structures. In
Thum Group. This would correspond to a Cambrian age of contrast, the k1 horizon has partly been downthrown at syn-
approximately 510 million years. The deposit is situated in sedimentary graben-like structures.
the upper Herold Formation.
Such deep sedimentation basins provided the environment
The underlying rocks of the deposit are Precambrian gneisses for the development of four white marble horizons (k2-k5)
of the Prenitz Group and Proterzoic metagranitoids, as with changing facial features and varying thickness. Caused
well as Cambrian lithologic equivalents of the Breitenbrunn by post-metamorphic brittle tectonic deformation, the white
Formation (muscovite schists). Besides these originally late marble horizons were divided into fault-bound separated
Cadomian igneous rocks and their subsequent prograde blocks being tilted and thrusted between the horst structures.
metamorphism, the footwall of the marble unit (quartz-rich
phyllites and hornblende-chlorite schists of the lower Herold The tectonic features of the deposit are of particular impor-
Formation) represents originally submarine basic volcanic tance. The main foliation of the wall rocks forms a girdle

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 211


MODERN FLEET GIVES HIGH PRODUCTIVITY AND SAFETY

fabric with axes striking east to west. Large southwest to


northeast trending fault zones, which are thought to be related
to Upper Carboniferous post-kinematic volcanic activity,
divide the phyllites of Hermsdorf into several blocks with
displacements of up to 40 m. The central part of these blocks
has been downthrown as a graben and covered with rhyolites,
which preserved the upper Herold Formation (including the
marble deposit) from erosion.

Altogether, the white marble from Hermsdorf benefits from


special properties that make for excellent products. These fea-
tures include high hardness and compressive strength, high
frost and weathering resistance, pigment poorness and low
residual porosity.

The marble dominantly consists of calcite with variable but


low contents of quartz and phyllosilicates. The metamorphic
foliation is traced by oriented crystals of quartz, chlorite and
white mica, as well as by grain size variations of the calcites
resulting in a banded marble structure. The marble is free of
bacterial and organic components and does not contain any
graphitic inclusions.

Modified open stoping


To extract the marble from the deposit, the Hermsdorf opera-
tions have adopted a modified version of the open stoping
mining method, using square pillars. The technology is inde-
pendent from conventional mine levels and fits best with the
tectonically disrupted blocks of marble. Underground prepa-
ration, development and mining are adjusted to the compli-
cated geological conditions with respect to the performance
characteristics of the mining equipment. Due to a lack in
stability, drives in the wall rocks are protected by reinforced
shotcrete. The underground production is based on drilling
by electro-hydraulic drilling jumbos and by conventional
blasting. Diesel-powered vehicles transport the blasted raw
material from the underground environment to the processing
plant. A more than 1 km long decline serves as the main mine
entrance and transportation route.

The mining activities comprise mining of residual marble


occurrences in older parts of the mine and the contemporane-
ous exploitation of unexplored parts of the deposit. The cur-
rent underground workings are developed between the existing
mine area and the Fiscal Quarry, as well as in the north and
east of the older workings. Marble is presently mined to a
depth of 190 m. Room widths are at a maximum of 8 m and
room heights at a maximum of 9 m, with the pillar planes a
minimum of 8 m x 8 m. The thickness of the rock between
two levels is 56 m, depending on rock characteristics, and
the thickness of the hanging wall rock 24 m.

Increased mine efficiency


The modern era for the Hermsdorf Mine began in 1989
Surface entrance to the Hermsdorf Mine where underground activities after the fall of communism in the former East Germany
started in 1880. (GDR), when Heitkamp, a large Ruhr-based industrial and

212 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


HERMSDORF MINE, GERMANY

Since being introduced at the mine, the 7-tonne capacity loader Scooptram ST7 has benefited operations in terms of productivity, service intervals and operator comfort.

construction group, bought the operation. Heitkamp set about air cab, which is much more comfortable for the operator,
modernizing the operation, which had used small battery haul- and is designed with service access in mind with easy access
age locomotives and rail cars. points, allowing for a short turnaround.

The drills and loaders were also rail-mounted machines, with The diesel-electric system of the Boomer 281 also allows for
the loader passing the material back into the ore car behind fast relocation from face to face, which can be as much as
it. Czech-made and Flotman drills were used. At that time 1 km. The 281 can drill 3 m holes in only 50 seconds, with a
a shaft was used to take material out, and the five produc- 43 mm diameter. Each face has up to 50 holes, with the hole
tion levels were connected by shafts as well as steep ramps pattern determining the blast result, where the most central
equipped with winches. Following the modernization program hole contains the most charge. The detonator is connected to
beginning in the early 1990s, the mining method was changed the other hole charges via time sets, i.e. millisecond delays.
to LHD (load-haul-dump) vehicles with underground trucks. The more the time sets, the smaller the resulting blasted rock
Whereas formerly, the battery locomotives could only handle will be, up to half-second time sets, which would result in
4% grades, underground trucks and LHDs can cope with large blocks.
grades of up to 22%, making it much easier to access the best
material. Explosives cartridges from EPC are used and placed by hand,
with only one central electric detonator. ANFO is then pumped
The increased mine efficiency is reflected in the workforce into the holes using a Multicar explosives delivery truck.
figures and production rates formerly 130 employees and
a production of 120 tonnes per day to the current rate of The most advanced machine at the mine is a new LHD, the
320330 t/d with only 31 employees. This huge productiv- Atlas Copco Scooptram ST7, which was the first to have been
ity increase is largely the result of the switch to LHD/truck delivered to Germany in June 2011, with a second machine
mining techniques. Heitkamp then sold the mine in 2008 to now also operating at a new fluorspar operation in the same
Schn+Hippelein Group, a large natural stone quarrying group region. The ST7 service intervals are longer than the older
based in Satteldorf that incorporates the production sites of LHD models; on the other hand, it requires fewer spare parts
Geomin. due to better wear rates on parts. The ST7 also has air condi-
tioning in the cab, lower noise levels, improved lighting and
more efficient emergency/alarm systems.
Drilling and haulage fleet
The current Hermsdorf fleet has five loaders and four trucks. The Scooptram ST7 loader also has better traction control
A new diesel-electric Atlas Copco Boomer 281 has been than Hermsdorfs previous equipment, which is easier on the
incorporated into the production drilling fleet and is the most tires, meaning less tire changes. But perhaps the most sig-
productive in terms of advance rates. It also has an enclosed nificant difference in the current climate is in terms of fuel

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 213


MODERN FLEET GIVES HIGH PRODUCTIVITY AND SAFETY

located underground. The maximum haulage distance is some


1.7 km from the deepest point in the mine. This is currently
596 m above sea level, relative to the mine surface at 713 m
above sea level. This is an average of 117 m in depth, but
it varies up to 190 m depending on the surface topography
across the mine property. Geomin has an Atlas Copco Diamec
212 exploration rig that is used for near mine and underground
core drilling for reserve extensions.

Production and quality control


Multiple working faces, as many as 30, are used to allow the
ability to blend marble qualities to achieve the desired final
result. Most of the final product is a ground calcium carbonate
(GCC) for the paint industry, where it forms a filler. The waste
material is a dark phyllite slate.

The mine does not operate at night, but in two daytime eight-
hour shifts 6am to 2pm and 2pm to 10pm, with two blasts
towards the end of the second shift. Each blast produces about
200 t of material, with about 320330 t of marble needed
per day to feed the plant. The modified open-stoping method,
which incorporates aspects of conventional room and pillar,
Fuel consumption of loaders has been halved at Hermsdorf Mine since the involves 8 m by 8 m pillars and 6 m by 4.5 m drifts.
introduction of the Scooptram ST7.
The maximum roof height is about 9 m if the thickness of
the marble seam warrants it. The drifts are not horizontal as
efficiency the ST7 achieves 10 l/h with a water-cooled development undulates and follows the high purity marble
193 hp, 6.7 l Cummins Tier 3 engine. The older LHDs typi- horizons. The blasted marble is driven out via the ramp to
cally only achieve 20 l/h and have air-cooled Deutz engines. the plant and unloaded onto a grizzly and a main primary jaw
crusher. Following drying and subsequent sorting by an auto-
In terms of power efficiency, the ST7 on-board computer mated optical control, the high fineness of the final product is
calculates the optimum power needed at any one time during realized by two one-compartment ball mills.
operations, allowing for these fuel savings and lower emis-
sions as opposed to operating on full throttle most of the time. Windsifter plants and magnetic separators further contribute to
a high-quality product. The material coming from the different
Key safety features include spring-applied, hydraulically faces in the mine is constantly monitored for whiteness and
released (SAHR) brakes, automatic brake testing with diag- brightness via samples taken to an on-site lab. The marble is
nostics and logging and an oil-free cabin environment. Safety manually inspected following the jaw crusher to separate dark
is further enhanced by three emergency machine-stop buttons and light material. Some faces are sufficiently good quality
and a system that applies the brakes, blocks steering, and pre- for the material to be used directly but many require blending.
vents bucket movement when the cabin door is open. The ST7
has a tramming height of 2 160 mm and a width of 2 280 mm. The processing plant produces calcium carbonate fillers with
diverse grain sizes for a variety of uses. The filler trademark
Having become acquainted and proficient with the new equip- is Saxolith. The calcitic fillers of Hermsdorf are characterized
ment, Dirk Thiele, one of the ST7 operators, comments on the by high fineness and a high degree of whiteness. The products
benefits: The new machine is very fast, especially on corners. are sold as paint fillers, construction grouts and plastic fillers.
The noise levels in the cab are much less and the air condition- The ball mills can reduce the product size down to as little as
ing makes it very comfortable. It is also very easy to load in 2 microns, known as the Saxolith 2HE product. Additionally,
more difficult faces using the onboard traction control. The Geomin produces marble and other local rock gravel for exter-
machine is also the only one to have automatic gears, meaning nal sources that are distributed under the Saxorund brand.
you can concentrate only on the main task of loading instead
of driving. As the demand for dimension stone and construction material
of all types continues to grow, Geomin is well on the path to
No major repairs have been required on the Scooptram ST7 meeting future challenges of productivity and efficiency.
since it started operating. The whole mining area covers 24
hectares. As there is no shaft, but a decline instead, all of the Based on an original article by Paul Moore for International
material is trucked out via the ramp, and there is no crusher Mining.

214 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 215
The machines are becoming
more advanced so it is vital
that we have the full support
of our suppliers.
Leszek Szewc, Plant Manager,
Rudna Mine

Deep mining challenge


in Polands copper belt
Extreme heat, humidity and seismicity are a part of everyday life at the deep workings
of Polands copper belt mines. To match the tough conditions at KGHMs Rudna
Mine, a new low-profile and robust drill rig has joined the fleet.

In the heart of the southwest region of Poland known as KGHM is now the ninth largest copper producer and third-
Lower Silesia, the Rudna Mine provides the gateway to one largest silver producer in the world. The company is also one
of Europes most significant copper deposits. It is is owned of the largest Polish exporters and the largest employer in
by KGHM Polska Mied, a mining company first established Lower Silesia, with 18 000 people directly involved in the
in 1961 as a state enterprise under the name of Kombinat mining process and a further 10 000 people working for vari-
Grniczo-Hutniczy Miedzi (Copper Smelting-Mining ous subsidiaries.
Combine). In 1991, the enterprise was transformed into a joint
stock company, and since 1997 its shares have traded on the The companys core operations are centered in southwest
Warsaw Stock Exchange. Poland. Its properties cover an area of around 467 600 km2

216 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


RUDNA MINE, POLAND

and include three mines Lubin, Rudna and Polkowice-


Sieroszowice as well as a concentrator, two copper smelters,
a wire rod plant and various auxiliary units.

Geology and ore reserves


The resource base for KGHMs operations is one of the largest
copper deposits in Europe. It lies between Lubin, Sieroszowice
and Gogw and covers an area of approximately 468 km2.
KGHM extracts more than 30 Mt/y of copper ore, containing
around 2% copper, and 48g/t of silver, as well as some rock salt.

Due to the scale of mining carried out, the region is often


referred to as the Legnica-Gogw copper belt. The orebody
currently being worked lies at a depth of 6001 380 m and,
depending on the location, the thickness of the deposit ranges
from 0.219 m, averaging 4.8 m.
The tailings management division at KGHM Rudna Mine.
Rudna mine is located in the central part of the deposit in
the pre-Sudeten monocline, which comprises stratified
Rotliegendes sandstone, copper-bearing lower Zechstein
shale and dolomites. The ore seam at Rudna is one of the
largest, 510 m on average, although it is much thicker in
some places. The mine produces about 42 000 t/d and 13 Mt/y
of ore, with a copper content of 1.8% and 46 g/t of silver.

Room and pillar


Rudna began operating in 1969. Freezing of the rock mass
began in 1970, and in 197172 the first shafts were sunk in
the Rudna Central region. The mine was commissioned in July
1974, when it reached 25% of its target production capacity.

Mining is carried out in three main areas: Rudna Central,


Rudna West and Rudna North. The main operation covers a
surface area of approximately 187 km2, while the neighbor-
ing Gogw Gboki-Przemysowy (Gogw Deep Industrial)
orebody, which is currently being developed, encompasses
approximately 56 km2.

Rudna operates 11 shafts, ranging from 9501 250 m in depth.


As operations go deeper, the working environment becomes more constrained.
Of these, three are for extraction, four for ventilation, and four
for personnel and materials.

KGHM uses room and pillar mining methods at all three of Mining at Rudna began in the central part of the mine, where
its operations. Two basic variations of the method are applied. work was carried out at a depth of 850900 m. Today, the mine
For thin and medium ore seams, room and pillar mining with operates at depths of 9001 250 m, although there are plans to
roof settlement is used. For thicker seams (>7 m), or in areas extend workings even deeper within the next few years.
that require greater protection, two-layered variations of
room and pillar are applied with the use of hydraulic backfill.
Variations in the strength of the roof and sidewalls mean that High temperatures, narrow drifts
the ore is excavated from top to bottom. At present the temperature of the rock mass and the heat
generated by the machines at the face result in very high
Extraction of the ore at Rudna is carried out in 13 mining ambient temperatures. In Poland, health and safety regula-
sections. Blasting is used to free the ore, which averages a tions state that at temperatures of 2833C the mine must
hardness of 15170 MPa. The rock is then collected using operate reduced shifts of up to six hours, while at tempera-
LHDs and trucks, and taken to a transfer point, where it is tures exceeding 33C, work must be halted. Rudna currently
removed to the concentrator via a conveyor and shaft hoist. operates 24 h/d, which is further broken down into four shifts.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 217


GOING DEEPER AT RUDNA

At the 1 100 m level and beyond, the drifts are typically 22.5 m in height, requiring low-profile equipment.

In order to improve working conditions at the mine and to withstand the heat and pressure of a deep mining environment
continue development of the orebody at greater depths in nar- at 1 000 m and more. Engineers at Atlas Copcos service base
rower drifts, the company required a new type of drill rig. in Polkowice had begun designing a new drill rig in 2005.
Andrzej Szotysik, Parts and Service Manager for Atlas Copco
Previously, the mine had used Atlas Copcos Boomer S1 L Construction and Mining Technique, worked on the plans with
low-profile, hydraulic face-drilling rigs. Its operators and his colleague, Bogusaw Hoda.
engineers were pleased with the machines performance, but
felt there were some improvements that could be made. We began exploring options for a new model that would
meet the requirements for mining deeper, narrower seams,
Atlas Copco is a long-term supplier of mining equipment Szoltysik says.
to KGHM. The firm has a number of service bases in the
region, and has worked closely with KGHM for many years The project was shelved temporarily following the global
to provide sales, service and support for machines at all three financial crisis in 2008, but the plans were revisited. In 2009,
of its operations. the development of the new Boomer M1 L began at Atlas
Copcos facility in Sweden. As part of the project, KGHM sent
Leszek Szewc, Manager of Rudnas Mechanical Division, three engineers to join the design-and-build team. It was a
explains the particular challenges his team were confronted perfect example of team work, says Szotysik. This level of
with involving low-profile drifts: cooperation meant that we understood the mines requirements
exactly and the results were outstanding.
The orebody at Rudna is declining and the older areas are
now mined out, so we are working very low-profile drifts.
At 1 100 m depth, the drifts are around 22.5 m high, and Development and testing
operations at Gogow Deep Industrial will be deeper than After nearly two years of development, the prototype rig was
1 200 m, so it is very important that our equipment is up to delivered to the mine in late 2010. In order to move equipment
the task. underground to the Rudna operations, it must first be delivered
to the PVII (P7) shaft at Polkowice-Sieroszowice Mine. There
Above all, this means equipment that can maneuver safely it is broken down into modules, packed into cages and lowered
in constrained spaces, deliver on productivity goals and down to the operating level. KGHMs engineers, together with

218 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


RUDNA MINE, POLAND

A prototype production drilling rig is tested over six months, drilling more than 32 000 holes and demonstrating 90% availability.

Atlas Copco service personnel, then reassemble the machines prototype meant that KGHM purchased four units initially,
and drive them (sometimes for many kilometers) to the sites with a further 15 units to follow.
where they are required. The Boomer prototype was taken to
Rudna West, which has five sub-sections: G11, G12, G14,
G15 and G17. The mine also has a number of mechanical Safety and productivity
sections or workshops, which are denoted by the letter C. The joint venture between KGHM and Atlas Copco to develop
the new Boomer M1 L drill rig marked a significant step for-
KGHMs Mechanical Division takes care of sourcing equip- ward in the companys efforts to optimize the performance of
ment and maintaining the machines across its operations. its fleet and utilization levels, modernize the working environ-
Rudna Mine alone operates 514 machines in its drill-and-blast ment and increase safety.
and load-and-haul fleets, which require more than 1 500 staff
to keep them running optimally. The prototype was subjected In the case of the Boomer M1 L, there were some improve-
to a six-month test period, which finished on May 15, 2011, ments that we thought were necessary following the trial. We
during which it completed nearly 800 operational hours. The wanted to make the operator controls more ergonomic and
machine drilled more than 32 000 holes, an average of 3.2 m make some minor changes to the location of electrical com-
in length, with about 90% availability, 75% utilization and ponents. We also required updated lighting for the machines,
several planned maintenance stops. and changed some of the rear-view camera angles to improve
operator visibility and safety in the working area, Szewc
Leszek Szewc describes the process of testing. At KGHM, adds.
it is standard that we test all new machines prior to purchas-
ing them. Six months is the shortest possible trial for new Another key feature of the M1 L is the new, enclosed, air-
models so that we can obtain information on how effective the conditioned operator cabin. The S1 L was available with a
equipment is, make any necessary improvements and assess canopy or cabin, although the canopy version was more popu-
whether it is suitable for our operation. lar due to the adjustable roof height. The cabin on the S1 L
protected the operator, but it was much less comfortable than
A comprehensive test report was compiled after the trial, the M1 L cabin due to the smaller workspace. The new M1 L
which included machine-operating statistics and the opinions cabin can withstand falling rocks of up to 60 kJ much greater
of operators and the management team. The success of the than is required by European safety standards.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 219


GOING DEEPER AT RUDNA

The new low-profile Boomer M1 L is launched and delivered to Rudna following a joint development project between KGHM and Atlas Copco.

In addition to improved safety features, Szewc emphasizes the and robustness were two of the main focuses during the rigs
high level of support that is needed for this type of specialized development, and the articulation point on the base has been
equipment, working in a highly demanding mining environ- improved to make the machine stronger and more maneuver-
ment. able in narrow drifts.
During a visit to the C17 mechanical section where the proto-
The machines are becoming more advanced, so it is vital that type was demonstrated, accessing the mine via RIX (R9) shaft,
we have the full support of our suppliers. In order to optimize Section Manager Tomasz Wolaski stated that the M1 L has a
production, it is important that we have the correct number modular design and can utilize some of the same components
and type of machines, keep maintenance costs low, and make as the S1 L model. This makes a big difference when it comes
parts sourcing easier and more cost effective, he says. to sourcing spare parts and means that the engineers can find
their way around the new machine quickly. Around 8090%
One of the main drivers behind our partnership with Atlas of the electrical and hydraulic components on the M1 L are
Copco on the Boomer M1 L project was to adapt our machines the same as on the S1 L, although the newer model has wider
to the evolving conditions at our mines and also to make the axles and a bigger frame, which allows for better placing and
working environment better for our operators. easier servicing access.

Robert Jankowski, Business Line Manager for Underground


Serviceability and robustness Rock Excavation at Atlas Copco, worked closely with the
Since the Boomer M1 L was introduced at Rudna Mine, a team at KGHM on the Boomer M1 L project. He explains:
number of improvements have been evident. Serviceability The articulation point on the rig has been designed more

220 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


RUDNA MINE, POLAND

like that of a loader than a rig. The new Boomer has a BUT
29 boom with a new feed holder, and an optional suspension
system to stabilize the boom during driving, which reduces
the load on the carrier. This helps to enhance the mean time
between service intervals.

The diameter of the boom has also been increased and an


extra 200 mm added to the extension. The machine measures
13.6 m long and 1.8 m high, so it is ideal for drifts of over
2 m. It provides face coverage of 5.8 m high and 8 m wide
without moving the machine.

Jacek Kucharski, Underground Drill Equipment Service


Manager for Atlas Copco, was instrumental in the testing of
the Boomer M1 L, and he continues to support the KGHM
team with their new equipment. He says that due to high levels Conveyor transport combined with LHDs enables a mine output of 42 000 t/d.
of saline water ingress (the result of overlying salt layers
within the strata), corrosion is a big problem on all of the
machines at Rudna. The machines last an average of five
years before they have to be scrapped, regardless of the type
of machine and manufacturer, he explains.

To maximize the lifespan, we chose to offer the rigs with


either the COP 1838 ME-AW- R38/05 or T38/05 drill packag-
es. ME-AW stands for medium-energy aggressive water. It is
also available with the equivalent COP 1638 drill packages.

Fully operational at Rudna


During a visit to the G17 mining section, which produces
around 3 100 t/d of ore, the Boomer M1 L was drilling 41
production holes before each blast. Two rigs are operated per
shift and each can complete three faces during that time. Each
hole is about 3.5 m in length.

The Boomer M1 L has much larger wheels than its predeces-


sor, heavy-duty axles and the seat has air-ride suspension,
making tramming more comfortable for operators. Mariusz
Gawroski, one of the machine operators who demonstrated
the prototype rig, describes it as a revelation.

Compared to the S1 L and other rigs, it is much more com-


fortable. The air-conditioning makes a big difference, and
because the cabin is enclosed, it is much quieter now. I can
concentrate better, he says.

The M1 L is equipped with a 110-liter Deutz TCD 2012L04


engine with 80kW power, which is Tier 3 rated as standard
but is also available with a Tier 4i engine.

The development of the Boomer M1 L, which Atlas Copco


made available for sale worldwide in December 2011, was
such a success that KGHM and Atlas Copco are looking at
other ways of collaborating to improve mining technologies.

Based on an original article by Carly Leonida for Mining


Magazine. Robust, safer, more ergonomic and productive despite tough conditions,
the Boomer M1 L gets full marks at Rudna Mine.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 221


Technology serves the
human team, rather
than taking its place.
Jos Porras, Chief Engineer,
Condestable Mine

Peruvian mines
best laid plans proved less is more
Adopting what is known as The Swedish Method, the Condestable Mine in Peru
uses a combination of mechanized equipment and pneumatic pusher leg rock drills
to extract copper from narrow vein orebodies.

About an hour and a halfs drive south from Lima within completed, meaning that there is great potential for further
the Caete Province of Peru, the mineral rich Raul and development at Condestable.
Condestable copper mines have been operating since 1967.
Since the beginning of 2012, they have been owned and oper- The mine is pursuing the best value it can from both low and
ated solely by the Condestable Mining Company. high grade orebodies while mineral prices are high, rather
than just going for one or the other. Condestable Planning
While the Raul Mine has completed more than 85% of its Engineer John Quispe says that what they pride themselves
expected life, Condestable has just gotten started with 15% on most at Condestable is shrewd, analytical planning.

222 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


CONDESTABLE MINE, PERU

Quispe also adds: We had to ask ourselves what is the main


thing to improve, what one thing will have the most impact
on our productivity. And that was drilling.

Thats not surprising. But the mine didnt buy more or bigger
or higher-tech drilling equipment. It made a deal with Atlas
Copco to start a pusher leg rock drill program. The esti-
mated 7.3 million tonnes of mineral reserves guarantees a
long, stable livelihood that Condestables owners are intent
to manage in the best interest of the mines personnel and the
surrounding region. Many of the companys 1 880 miners,
office staff and contractors live in Mala, a small, nearby city
whose infrastructure and standard of living have risen as a
direct result of the rich resources and civic contributions of
the neighboring mine.

Analysis-based planning
One hundred percent of the Raul and Condestable opera-
tions are underground, where about 60% of production
is based on the conventional room and pillar method of
mining. Shrinkage stoping accounts for 15% of production.
Mechanized operations for long hole drilling in sublevel
stoping make up another 15%. The remaining 10% of under-
ground excavation is dedicated to mine development. Pneumatic "jackleg" drills are used at Condestable to extract ore from steeply
inclined veins with surgical precision.
Condestables management takes great pride in a long history
of steady productivity from its highly modernized operations.
In fact, Condestable is a showcase for some of the most up- to each of the drills from a centralized compressor. Since
to-date, state-of-the art underground mining equipment in fragmented rock produced by a blast will take up about 50%
the world, including the Atlas Copco Simba H1254 and the more space than it occupied while solid, 60% of the ore frag-
Boomer S1 D. ment pile must be mucked away to leave a little space at the top
for the driller and his hand to work from when they start the
Quispe and Condestables Chief Engineer Jos Porras says next blasting cycle. Access to the top of the ore pile is provided
that to determine production goals the planning team factors by a chimney and ladder alongside the vein and its stope.
in a number of variables. Then they consider the strengths of
units such as the Atlas Copco Boomer 282 face drilling rig, The Condestable and Raul mines have 85 Atlas Copco BBC
the Simba H1254 production drill rig, the Boomer 281 and 16 Puma rock drills. Ten of these are kept on standby, while
Boomer S1 D (main rigs), against those of pneumatic pusher the other 75 are being operated by two-man crews working
leg rock drills. The current pneumatic pusher legs are the veins that are generally not more than 2 m wide. Porras said
powerful descendants of one of Atlas Copcos earliest innova- the rock drills, following the precision mine plan, increased
tions, also commonly called jacklegs. Condestables daily production average from a respectable
5 000 tonnes of ore extracted per day to over 7 000 tonnes
per day.
Precision stoping
One of the most significant variables affecting planning is People dont believe this when I tell them we get this much
the geology. The layers of orebodies tilt so dramatically in production from jacklegs, says Quispe. They think jacklegs
numerous, narrow, steeply inclined veins that they are just not are for small operations only. But its true. Here, technology
feasible for mechanized mining techniques, even at current serves the human team rather than taking its place.
mineral prices. So much waste would have to be removed,
Porras says, that mechanized mining cannot be pursued. The stoping teams, together with the mines carrier-mounted
drills, keep seven 4m3 Scooptram loaders busy.
This is where jack drills present themselves as surgically
precise extraction tools, following the veins up within the sur-
rounding competent rock with a shrinkage stoping technique. Unique financing
This technique extracts ore safely, with minimal waste. A An additional value-added feature for Condestable in using
driller and his hand begin by drilling blastholes with a pusher these manual rock drills is that Condestable takes on no
leg-mounted rock drill. Pneumatic hoses carry air power financial risk, since the mine neither purchases nor rents

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 223


PUSHER LEG DRILLS FOR PROFITABLE VEINS

The 40% increase in production came about from precise mine planning that incorporates 85 jackleg teams to extract more than 7 000 t/d. From left,
Manager, Engineering & Planning, Raul Olivares; Chief Engineer Jos Porras; Chief, Long Hole Drilling, Edgar Soto; and Planning Engineer John Quispe.

them. For the past 13 years the rock drills have been provided,
serviced and replaced on schedule by Atlas Copco Peru in Pusher leg pneumatic rock drills
Lima according to a drill-meter rate. More than a hundred years ago, Atlas Copco launched
its first lightweight, handheld pneumatic rock drills, the
In this way, the drills earn their keep, so to speak. Condestable Cyclop and the Rex models. However, it wasnt until 1935
pays a rate determined by the number of meters drilled with that it introduced the pusher leg. The pusher leg mount
them. The unique arrangement is testament to the faith Atlas won worldwide acceptance almost immediately. By the
Copco has in the productivity of its equipment and is a mutu-
1940s the world referred to this technique of drilling as
ally satisfying contract between Condestable and Atlas Copco.
the Swedish Method.
The Atlas Copco rock drilling tools have the same contract
as the jackleg rock drills: cost per drill meter. In light rock The pusher legs action earned these drills the nickname
drills and consumables, the cost per drill meter contract has jacklegs by their operators, while their efficiency in
been in place for more than ten years without interruption. production earned them their other moniker, stopers or
stoper rock drills.
Santiago Arenas, Sales Manager for Atlas Copco Perus
Underground Equipment division, confirms: The arrange- Todays Atlas Copco pusher leg rock drills are lighter,
ment has worked out very well over the years. It has been
stronger and longer lived and come in a range of models
a win-win plan for both companies. For Condestable it has
for a variety of applications. Mid-weight models like the
meant annual extraction of 2.5 million tonnes of ore, yielding
100 000 tonnes per year of copper concentrate with silver and BBC 16W Puma are generally well suited to most drilling
gold credits. applications in just about all medium to hard rock. The long
stroke produces a good penetration rate. Silenced versions
Given Condestable mines long life expectancy and the operate with as little as half the perceived sound, an obvi-
skill of its planning engineers in balancing high-production ous benefit to a shrinkage stoping team in the confines
mechanized techniques with the precision of manually oper- of a narrow vein.
ated drills, jacklegs will continue to have their place here long
into the future.

224 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


CONDESTABLE MINE, PERU

The Swedish Method, which had its international breakthrough in


the years just after the close of World War II, was based on light,
one-man operated rock drills equipped with pusher leg feeds.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND


ATLAS COPCO
MININGMINING
CASEMETHODS
STUDIES 225
We are determined to
keep our Simba drill rigs
in absolute best condition.
Julian Fernandez, Mine Superintendent,
Cerro Lindo

Situated high in the Peruvian mountains, the Cerro Lindo mine has vast mineral reserves of zinc, copper, silver and lead.

Innovation
takes off at Cerro Lindo
From desalination and water conservation to blasthole drilling and training, the
Cerro Lindo mine high in the mountains of Peru adopts modern techniques for
well-balanced operations, using sublevel open stoping to extract a variety of minerals
from volcanic rock.

Cerro Lindos Spanish name means Pretty Hill, a tribute According to records left by the first developers, the varied
to the beautiful colors of its landscape, which also led to coloration of the landscape warranted further investigation,
the discovery of rich mineral resources there in the 1960s. suggesting polymetallic deposits in that area as had proved
Outcroppings of barite on its surface attracted residents who true in other areas of the Peruvian mountains. Exploration at
extracted it by hand. They sold the heavy mineral to oil com- the site from 1999 to 2001 defined a massive sulphide deposit
panies who used it in their drilling operations. originating from within a subterranean system of volcanic

226 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


CERRO LINDO MINE, PERU

A modern equipment fleet, including Boomer drill rigs, gives Cerro Lindo the confidence to strive for rigorous production goals of 15 000 t/d.

graben. Graben are blocks of depressed geography with customers as a concentrated mix that yields average grades
distinctive faults for their borders. Large blocks of the sites of copper at 35.5%, gold at 4.3 g/kg and silver at 79 g/kg. Yet
100-million-year-old Middle Cretaceous formation dropped another 120 million tonnes of resources is under further explo-
between their associated fault lines. This is encountered ration at an adjacent hill. As General Manager of Operations,
within the mine at abrupt interfaces where hanging walls Edward Medina, said: Our geologists tell us the future looks
have sunk down and foot walls have been pushed up. Within bright for Cerro Lindo.
those blocks are three main mineralization zones that the
mine is working orebodies 1, 2, and 5. Cerro Lindo has set rigorously progressive goals, attaining
huge gains in productivity each year, even while promot-
ing the utmost care of its personnel and the environment in
Bright future its sublevel stoping operations in this volcanic, sulfide-rich
The Milpo Mining Company, which has operated the Cerro formation. When the mine opened, it produced an average
Lindo unit since 2007, is working a 20-year life-of-mine plan. 4 585 tonnes of mineral per day. In 2011, it extracted over
The operation consists primarily of mechanized sublevel open 10 000 tonnes per day and set a 2012 goal at 15 000 t/d
stoping to harvest 4 million tonnes per year of the 82 million with plans to increase its stockpile by 40 000 tonnes. The
tonnes of proven mineral reserves of zinc, copper, silver and 2012 drillmeter goal to sustain this level of production was
lead. The ore is concentrated through four crushing processes 440 602 m.
to reduce fragments to less than 6 mm. The mines flotation
process boasts a mineral recovery rate of over 90%. Tailings To achieve these aims the mine uses state-of-the-art mi-
are being carefully stored for that day when technology might ning equipment and techniques in every aspect of its pro-
allow cost-efficient recovery of the remaining 10%. Minerals duction and development operations. The mine has its
are not separated out from the ore here but are shipped to own desalination facility to meet its water needs, an ore

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 227


HIGH PRODUCTIVITY IN PERUVIAN MOUNTAINS

Simba drill rigs equipped with RCS (Rig Control System) are used in the mine for blastholes and slot holes, providing an availability rate of 90%.

concentration plant capable of processing 10 000 t/d, an their way to the desalination facilities. Once desalinated, the
automated ANFO loader, and intense training and safety water is pumped from the facility through 60 km of 203 mm
programs. The long hole drilling fleet being used to set the (8 in) steel pipe alongside the road up to the mine. A little is
ambitious pace in 2012 for all of the other equipment features spent along the way on a roadside sprinkler system to keep
three Atlas Copco Simba 1254 tophammer drill rigs and a dust to a minimum from the steady traffic. In addition, water
Simba M4 C-ITH rig with an in-the-hole hammer. For face from the workings is recycled which mitigates concern about
drilling the mine also has two Atlas Copco Boomer 281 and environmental risk.
two Boomer 282 rigs.
That the mine recovers fully 60% of the water from the ore
after flotation for reuse, not only reduces the potential for
Remote, arid location environmental risks but also reduces the amount of fresh
The first obstacle to overcome was the lack of water. In this water required and the amount of chemical reagents needed
arid region, water is a precious commodity reserved for agri- for successive operations, since the recovered water retains
cultural and residential use, but without it, mining would not some of the additives from earlier flotation.
have been possible. Milpo won the support of Cerro Lindos
neighbors and the government by assuring them it would find
a way to function in this desert climate without taking any Highly valued drill rigs
water from the nearby Topara River. No less vital to the mines operation than its state-of-the-
art desalination facility and innovative water conservation
Cerro Lindo operates solely on the water it hauls from the techniques is its production drilling equipment. In this mine
Pacific Ocean. Its tankers continuously march up the steep its the Simba long hole rigs that are most highly valued. The
grade from the coast in low gear, laden with seawater on Simba 1254 is a tophammer for 5189 mm diameter holes

228 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


CERRO LINDO MINE, PERU

(23.5 in) armed with the COP 1838 rock drill. The Simba
M4 C-ITH features an in-the-hole hammer for larger holes in
the 95178 mm (3.757 in) diameter range. The Rig Control
System-based Simba M4 comes standard with Simba ABC
Basic automation but can be upgraded to Simba ABC Total.

Mine Superintendent Julian Fernandez said the mine is deter-


mined to keep its Simba drill rigs in the absolute best condi-
tion. For this reason, all 21 of their technicians are trained
on the Simba models. The technicians work two shifts a day,
following a 14-days-on, seven-days-off schedule. At any
given time, any of the 14 technicians on site can be available
to provide certified rig service and maintenance. Minimal
downtime for maintenance means the Simba rigs have been
scoring better than a 90% availability rate for the mine.

The mine also makes sure to put its top drillers on the rigs,
especially for the Simba M4 due to its sophistication and DTH
drilling technique. We chose our three best operators, and
we are now training more, said Fernandez. The operator
training was initiated with on-site consultation from Andus
Anderson from Atlas Copcos headquarters in Sweden. He
set up the guidelines for the training program, which is
conducted by the mines own staff. Anderson will return to
upgrade the training program when operators have worked in
manual mode long enough to become totally familiar with the
rigs. Fernandez explained that it is typical to train drillers to
superior competency in manual operation first, and then tran-
sition them to automated operations. This gives drillers the
expertise necessary to detect any variance during automated
processes and make appropriate corrections.

Dedicated to production drilling


Until the spring of 2012, the Simba rigs had been used to drill
the blast pattern relief slots. A relief slot, or slot hole, is a hole
cut from the upper to the lower drift that absorbs the blast
energy and waste rock generated by the blastholes around it.
Pressure from the blast prefers to rush through the ore toward
the hole, much in the way that air in a balloon rushes toward
its opening when let go since its easier than pushing against
the balloons walls. Without a relief slot, the energy might
just as well travel into the surrounding rock, at the very least
resulting in a wasteful blast. The dramatic scenery near Milpo Mining Company's flagship mine,
Cerro Lindo ("Pretty Hill").

Raising production
The Simba rigs are so prized for their production capability, having learned of it through Atlas Copcos involvement in the
though, that the mine now intends to use them for blasthole successful technique in Mexico at the Fresnillo silver mine.
drilling only, saving Simba for what Simba does best, said
Jorge Tovar, the Atlas Copco Peru representative who serves The desalination facility with its 60 km pipeline and a spec-
the Cerro Lindo mine. To do this, the mine has ordered a tacular 1 600 m long conveyor, transporting ore from pri-
Robbins RH34 raiseboring machine. This model of raisebor- mary to secondary and tertiary crushing, are both tributes
ing machine was specially designed for the short 1.2 m diam- to Peruvian ingenuity and engineering. Progressive results
eter holes used for ventilation and slothole boring. This model at Cerro Lindo arent just proud moments for Milpo as a
has an integrated crawler carrier and drilling platform, so it Peruvian company, but a reminder why, in many ways, Peru
does not need a concrete pad. Tovar had introduced the idea has been setting the pace for the mining industry in South
of using a raiseboring machine for drilling the relief slots, America and even the world.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 229


Charging time has
been reduced by
approximately 50%.

A charging challenge
in the Atacama desert
Almost 40 years have passed since the Chilean mining company Sociedad Punta del
Cobre SA (Pucobre) began to mechanize its drilling and hauling operations. Today,
mechanized charging is also on the companys list of merits.

Charging blastholes at the Punta del Cobre copper mine were drilled with light, handheld Puma rock drills from Atlas
in Chiles Atacama region started in 1974 with horizontal Copco, and the holes were charged with ANFO (ammonium
development of a new access ramp, the Socavn Rampa. nitrate/fuel oil explosive) using a manual, venturi-type tool
Hoisting ore up the vertical main shaft had come to an called the pistol. Powered by compressed air, this tool
end and the company was rapidly becoming one of the extracted the ANFO from the sack by generating a siphon,
world's largest sublevel stoping mines in operation. At transporting it via a venturi system towards the blasthole. This
that time, the blastholes for this sublevel stoping operation technique was performed by a crew of two men per unit, one

230 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


PUNTA DEL COBRE, CHILE

assistant who managed the suction line inside the sack and a
master charger who carried out the actual charging of the hole.
The charging of the faces during the development work was
executed manually from a wooden platform mounted on the
bucket of the front loader. As charging techniques evolved
and improved over time, these tasks were eventually car-
ried out using specially designed charging equipment called
ANOL (from Dyno Nobel, at that time represented by Atlas
Copco Chilena).

ANOL equipment was operated by injecting compressed air


into an accumulator known as a pot filled with ANFO. A
safety cover maintained the interior pressure, and there were
also safety valves and shutoff valves for feeding the explosive
by means of a hose to the drilling area. For charging at higher
levels, a wooden or metal ladder was used.

In 1988, with the need for greater efficiency in order to


increase production, an ANFO self-propulsion loading equip-
ment unit was introduced for face development and produc-
tion blasting. This equipment, called PT-61 (also from Dyno
Nobel) enabled the mine to replace all manual charging with
a system of electrically operated hydraulic pumps mounted
on a carrier with a diesel engine for tramming. This allowed
charging operators to do their work in a safer and more effi-
cient way.

Charging production long holes


The charging of long production blastholes, typically posi-
tioned high at the face, was carried out with Jet-ANOL from a
platform consisting of wooden boards on top of drums. Later,
Horizontal charging: Blastholes are charged using the highly flexible
in an effort to improve the working environment for charging Atlas Copco Chargetec UV2 platform.
operators, a front loader was used. In this case, the master
charger would position himself inside the bucket and fill the
holes from there. The arrival of the ANFO PT-61 improved
safety and efficiency in the charging of blastholes at heights.

Since those days, according to Segundo Espinoza, an engi-


neer in charge of the charging operations at the mine, all
charging equipment used at Pucobre has been manufactured
by Atlas Copco GIA, formerly GIA Industri AB, which
was acquired by Atlas Copco in 2012. For example, Atlas
Copco Boomer 282 rigs, equipped with 4.5 m drill rods, are
used to drill 45 mm horizontal production holes which are
then charged using Atlas Copco GIAs Chargetec UV1 and
Chargetec UV2 charging trucks. Two cut holes are drilled
102 mm in diameter.

In addition, it is now possible to use ANOL CC with this


equipment, making it ideal for charging horizontal holes
as well as long holes. With seven to eight Boomer 282 and
Boomer M2 C drill rigs in operation every day, under normal
conditions, each rig achieves approximately 18 000 drill
meters per month. There are also three to four Atlas Copco
Simba 254 and M4 C drill rigs in operation every day for long
hole drilling, reaching a production level of approximately Boomer in action: 45 mm diameter production holes are drilled using
7 000 m per month. Atlas Copco Boomer 282 drill rigs.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 231


PROGRESS IN CHARGING TECHNOLOGY

All previous charging equipment has been electro-hydraulic


LC
0.75 0.75 with diesel engines used only for tramming. Now, however,
0.75 the mines charging operations have taken another big step
5 0.25
0.7 0.60 forward with its latest acquisition, the Chargetec UV2.
0.95 0.90 0.90 0.95

0.70
5
0.7

0.70 0.90 0.90 0.90 0.90 0.70 0.60


Optimum blasting
This new multi-directional, ANFO charging truck is the first

0.80
diesel-hydraulic unit that is capable of working anywhere in

4.50
the mine, including in areas without electrical installations.

0.80
It also has a stronger boom and improved reliability overall,
10 compared with its predecessors. But more importantly, it has

0.80
LG a combined compressor and JET-Anol system that enables the
operator to precisely adjust the density of the charge to ensure
optimum blasting results. This, in turn, is supported by the
1.00

0.80
combined ejector/compressed air blending vessel which
0.70 0.90 0.90 0.90 0.90 0.70 ensures the correct flow of ANFO at an even and precise
5.00 density.
Figure 1: Blastholes spaced 0.9 m apart in the 5.0 m wide and 4.5 m high drift.
Furthermore, the truck is equipped with one or two vessels
for optimized charging of a full drill pattern with fixed car-
As shown in Figure 1, the horizontal holes in the drift are rier positioning. The ANOL CC charging vessels are available
spaced 0.9 m apart with two rows of holes spaced 0.7 m in volumes of 300, 500, 750 or 1 000 liters.
apart on either far side of the face. In the production cycle at
Pucobre (see Figure 2) blasting takes place twice per day, at The heavy-duty carrier has articulated frame steering and
1.15 pm and 7.30 pm, and the process lasts for an hour each four-wheel drive, giving it high flexibility and maneuverabil-
time. This is followed by a two hour ventilation period. Most ity through the small turning radius of narrow drifts. It may
of the development work (face drilling) is done in waste rock. be equipped with diesel or electric hydraulics and is consid-
A typical production scenario at the mine is an ore volume erably faster to move from one area to the next, which is an
of 5.0 m x 4.5 m x 3.7 m, where 3.7 m is the advance length. important consideration due to the long distances between
Ore density is 1.9 t/m3. some faces.

Drilling

Bolting Charging

Blasting
Mine survey * 1.15 pm: 1 h
and mark up * 7.30 pm: 1 h

Scaling Ventilation

Mucking

Figure 2: The drift development cycle at Chile's Punta del Cobre copper mine.

232 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


PUNTA DEL COBRE, CHILE

Pucobre

Santiago

The Chargetec UV2 has a high speed charging capacity and is able to
work anywhere in the mine, even in areas with no access to electricity.

It is also considerably more comfortable and safer for opera-


tors thanks to an operator platform equipped with a protective
roof, extremely precise and smooth arm movement, two seats
complete with safety belts, and a camera mounted on the rear
for easy and safe reversing.

Time savers
The use of these semi-mechanized charging trucks for hori-
zontal and production charging trucks has led to significant
ABOUT PUCOBRE
reductions in operation times as well as improved efficiency
and safety. Together with general improvements in charging Sociedad Punta del Cobre SA (Pucobre) is engaged
technology, the time previously required to perform charging in the development and mining of copper in Chiles
tasks at the mine has been reduced by approximately 50%. northern Atacama region. Its properties in the region
Similarly, with the ANFO PT-61, it has been possible to include the San Jos copper concentrator plant, the
reduce the number of operators from four to two, making Punta del Cobre and Venado Sur copper mines, and
better use of resources. the Biocobre copper cathodes plant, all located close
to Tierra Amarilla, 15 km south of Copiapo.

Pucobre also has a number of exploration projects


both in Atacama and in other regions of northern
Chile. Pucobre was founded in 1989 and has been dis-
tinguished for its excellent safety standards and high
level of operational productivity.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 233


As a result of
these trials,
my impression
is that the
automation
system provided
by the Scooptram
ST14 is excellent.
Marcelo Prado, Project Manager,
Andina Mine.

Semi-autonomous LHDs
prove their worth in the Andes
The need to excavate ore in dangerous areas without putting personnel at risk is
greater than ever. Codelco of Chile, the worlds largest copper producer, has proved
that a semi-autonomous system is not only a safe solution for extreme mining
environments, but also a valid approach to meet high productivity demands in normal
production areas.

Remote controlled mining equipment such as drill rigs, load- ground, is a prime candidate for autonomous technology,
ers and trucks is nothing new to the mining industry, and a allowing mine personnel to control and monitor the proce-
number of different systems have been introduced over the dure from the safety of a control room located away from the
past decade. Autonomous operations are still far from com- hazards of the work site. Codelco of Chile was one of the first
monplace, but todays mining companies are showing increas- companies to validate this technology by conducting tests at
ing interest in this technology. its underground mine in the Cordillera mountains, a block
caving operation about 50 km northwest of Santiago. Here,
The driving force behind this trend is twofold. Continuously the companys Andina Division (DAND) decided to conduct
increasing safety regulations coupled with the need to exca- two consecutive pilot tests using semi-autonomous LHDs.
vate ore from deeper workings, have spurred new technologi- Like many leading mining companies, Codelco, which has
cal developments making autonomous operations more viable a workforce of some 16 000, is strongly committed to health
than ever. Repetitive mucking in hazardous drifts, deep under and safety and is justly proud of its low accident rate, reported

234 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


ANDINA MINE, CHILE

Codelco's trials of semi-autonomous LHDs at Andina Mine were directed from the safety of a specially installed control room located some 80 km from the mine site.
Communication was via the mine's wireless local area network and an overland fiber optic link. This enabled a full load-haul-dump cycle to be carried out, with
operator intervention for the load part of the cycle using the Atlas Copco teleremote control system.

in 2014 as 1.4 lost-time injuries per million worked hours. operator assistance only for the load part of the cycle. To
The decision to put semi-autonomous mining to the test also perform this function, the operator was able to use a tele-
confirms the companys conviction that health and safety are remote system installed in a control room at a distance of
directly linked to productivity and growth. some 80 km from the mining area, with communication
between control room and vehicle facilitated by the mines
Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) and an overland fiber
High-tech trials at Andina Mine optic link based on protocol IEEE 802.11b.
The main access tunnel to Andina Mine is located more than
3 000 m above sea level with the main haulage level, Level
16, situated at 3 232 m, roughly in the center of the orebody. Unique milestones
The section currently being mined is called Panel III, and the In taking the initiative to put semi-autonomous loading to
mines LHD fleet operates on both Level 16 and Level 17, the test, Codelcos Andina Division also set three unique
carrying copper ore from drawbells and drawpoints to the precedents:
intermediate ore passes. At the secondary reduction level, Never before had a 14-tonne semi-autonomous loader
oversized boulders are broken up by hydraulic hammers, and been used in drifts where only 10 t manual loaders normally
the ore then passes to the main transport level for haulage to operate.
the concentrator. It was the first time that LHD equipment would be con-
trolled using tele-remote technology from a control station
This LHD circuit connects to a network of drifts 4 m wide located many kilometers from the mine site.
and 3.5 m high, and there is also a transport tunnel on Level The operators engaged to take part in the trial had no previ-
16 equipped with a conveyor belt that delivers ore to the con- ous experience and were only 1822 years old, the
centration plant. The mine operates a fleet of eight loaders youngest operators ever to operate heavy equipment within
and nine trucks supplied by various manufacturers, but just the Codelco organization.
a few vehicles were selected to participate in the semi-auton-
omous trials, among them Atlas Copcos 14-tonne Scooptram
ST14, fitted with an automation kit. This high technology Three-phase project
system, incorporating various sensors, control algorithms The production area at Drift 71 was selected to be the desig-
and wireless communication, enabled a full load-haul- nated trial site and the project was divided into three phases.
dump cycle to be carried out semi-autonomously, requiring The first phase focused on the installation of the tele-remote

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 235


AUTOMATED LOADING AND HAULAGE AT CODELCO

A team of six young operators were engaged for the semi-autonomous trials, and despite their ages they were all between 18 and 22 and lack of experience,
they successfully learned to control the underground vehicles after a short training period. Pictured above are Karen Jemenez, Filipe Quezada and Valentina Reinoso.

control and communication systems in the control station, as analyze the key variables such as performance, cycle time,
well as the necessary automation infrastructure required in tonnage, actual hours and so on, with a view to establish
the mine. The control station was located some 80 km away better methodology.
in the town of Los Andes, which enabled the operators to
remain in their hometown and work at a safe distance from The level of responsibility for the various stages in the load-
the harsh environment of the mine. ing cycle was allocated to each operator depending on their
proficiency. It was estimated that one operator could be con-
Operator training was carried out with the assistance of Atlas sidered proficient after 500 loading cycles and be allowed to
Copco, and reconstruction work was also performed in the work unsupervised for an entire shift. Two experienced and
fairly narrow drift to enable the large Scooptram ST14 to per- older operators were later added to the team and achieved the
form to the best of its ability in terms of speed and mobility. same level of proficiency as the original group after a very
short training period. Throughout the trials, an experienced
The second phase consisted of production startup and opera- operator from Atlas Copcos Customer Center in Finland
tor training. Production began with 5 x 2 shifts (five days made numerous visits to the mine to train the operators.
on, two days off), ramping up to 4 x 4 shifts, and, as the
operators skills developed, to 4 x 4 shifts of 12 hours per
shift, making the operation continuous. This phase concluded Overall objective
with a change of trial site from Drift 71 to Drift 79 mainly Andina Mines main objective with the trials was to validate
due to depletion resulting in a reduction of extraction points. semi-autonomous technology. A new level at El Teniente will
also see the introduction of autonomous trucks. More specifi-
The third phase concentrated on testing the performance of cally, the aim of the mine management was to:
the semi-autonomous loading system in the production envi- Evaluate the operational performance of the Scooptram
ronment, using the same KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) ST14 and determine the technical parameters for designing
as those typically applied to the mines manually operated a model for full-scale industrial application.
machines. In addition, Codelcos Management of Technology Identify weaknesses in order to develop and propose
and Innovation in Mining, known as GTIM, headed up by improvements to LHD technology for semi-autonomous
Miquel Fishwick at Central Office, was given the task to use.

236 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


ANDINA MINE, CHILE

Future loading technology: Top left, the key components required for a tele-remote control system; bottom left, the semi-autonomous loader in the drift as seen in real
time on a training simulator screen; bottom right, the Scooptram ST14 being prepared for the trials; top right, a sample of Codelco's Grade A copper cathode ore.

Assess the impact of corrective measures implemented Positive findings


during the development of the pilot trials. The trial, which lasted approximately one year, showed con-
Identify critical aspects that would need to be improved for clusively that semi-autonomous loading operations can be
the later stages of development by working closely with implemented successfully at Andina Mine. Not only that, it
suppliers of semi-autonomous equipment. proved that the technology could be as equally productive as
Evaluate the performance of operators who had no experi- manually operated LHDs because a semi-automated system
ence with mining procedures. can work longer hours.
Fully test the capabilities of the semi-autonomous tech-
nology of the Atlas Copco Scooptram ST14. The average ore production increased from 44 850 tonnes per
month at the start of the test to 80 000 t/m at the end, i.e. from
Codelco also compiled a comprehensive list of specific cri- 340 tonnes per hour to 415 t/h. The highest recorded monthly
teria. This included, for example, that the operators had to production reached 133 000 tonnes, exceeding the perfor-
be able to transition from standby mode to tele-remote mode mance normally achieved using manually operated LHDs.
while the LHD was in motion; that the autonomous part of
the work cycle should have a minimum of variability (5%); The mine concluded that Atlas Copcos automation tech-
that at least two LHDs could be managed from the same nology is consistent with the safety standards as applied to
work station console; and that the operator had observe the underground mining by Codelco and confirmed that opera-
status of several LHDs at all times and be able to determine tors with no previous experience in the industry are capable
their location, condition, performance, etc. of performing such semi-autonomous work provided they are
given expert training.
Furthermore, the control system had to be capable of record-
ing complete operational sequences, clearly indentifying As a result of these trials my impression is that the applica-
key elements of the procedure such as entry point, loading tion of the automation system provided by the Scooptram
point, loading, departure point, transport, unloading, etc. ST14 is excellent, comments Marcelo Prado, Project Ma-
On top of that, the system had to be able to save, store and nager for Codelco. I think it is a very logical system, which
report statistics on production and performance per hour/ makes its operation very simple and safe. We see it as a very
shift/day. promising development with a lot of growth potential. Prado

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 237


AUTOMATED LOADING AND HAULAGE AT CODELCO

The Scooptram ST14 is equipped for automation with front and rear lasers that scan the mine environment. It also features angle sensors, advanced communi-
cations and cameras that provide operators with a live video feed.

says he was equally pleased with the performance of the


LHD operators who took part, adding, These trials prove that it
Loading point is possible to train young operators to work with automated
systems, even if they have no previous mining experience,
and that was an important milestone. Throughout the trials,
LE
Ore pass maintenance of the Scooptram ST14 was carried out by Atlas
VE
L
16 Copco technicians, and any flaws in the technology were
PR
O
DU detected and corrected as the test proceeded. Availability of
CT
IO
N the equipment was recorded at an average of 89%, although
following a system upgrade, it proved possible to achieve an
availability rate of 98%. Based on these findings, Andina
Mine points out that long-term alliances with its suppliers are
required under a business model that allows Codelco to guide
Rock breaker
the necessary development of future projects.
LE
at grizzly
VE
L
16

RE
DU
Ongoing development
CT
IO Although the project has undoubtedly contributed to a greater
N
understanding of the technical issues involved in autonomous
loading, there are a few challenges that remain unresolved.
HA
U
For this reason, Codelco and Atlas Copco intend to continue
LA
G
E
LE
developing and improving the system with a view to fully
Haulage truck 55-60 t
VE
L validating the technology. Prado concludes: We must work
today on tomorrows processes not only to develop the tech-
nologies we need, but also the people that will be needed
to apply them. I have no doubt that further development in
this area will contribute to a significant change in mining
activities.
17
V.
N.
S.
Panel III at the Andina Mines Ro Blanco ore deposit con-
sists of 272 million tonnes of ore with an average ore grade
Inside the Andina Mine: From top, the production level (Level 16) where of 1.05%. Ore is extracted at the rate of 34 200 t/day with an
semi-autonomous loading where the Scooptram ST14 was put to the test; extraction cost of 6 USD/t (2012). Panel III includes three
the reduction level (Level 16 ) where a Boomer 281 rig is used for drifting; main geological units; secondary ore, primary and mixed,
the transportation level (Level 17) where Minetruck MT6020 trucks are which are exploited by the block caving method using manu-
loaded with ore via chutes for transportation to the crusher station. ally operated LHDs and low profile trucks.

238 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


CHILES COPPER GIANT ANDINA MINE
Codelco is the worlds largest copper producer and The Andina Division (DAND) is located in the moun-
controls 28% of the worlds copper reserves. tains of the Cordillera mountain range, 80 km from the
city of Los Andes and 140 km northwest of Santiago.
The companys annual production is equivalent to 11%
of global mining production and 34% of mining produc- The divisions mining operations are performed
tion in Chile. between 3 500 and 4 200 m above sea level. Its
exported products are shipped regularly through
It is organized into six copper and by-product divisions: Ventanas Port, near Valparaso.
Chuquicamata, Radomiro Tomic Gabriela Mistral,
Ministro Hales, Salvador, Andina and El Teniente. Andinas resources are mainly derived from the Ro
Blanco deposit, a porphyry type copper orebody. These
Its key commercial product is Grade A copper cath- resources amount to more than 4 400 million tonnes of
odes. It is estimated that with current levels of pro- ore, and have an average copper grade of 0.83 % CuTo
duction mined from todays deposits, Codelcos mines and 0.022 % of molybdenum, equivalent to almost 40
have more than 65 years of useful life. million tonnes of fine copper.

Headquartered in Santiago, the company is a state- The mine has a daily treatment capacity of 94 000
owned corporation with annual sales of approximately tonnes per day of which 36 000 comes from its under-
USD 17.5 million. ground operations.
Installing our shafts
using raiseboring
was more efficient,
faster and cheaper,
but above all, safer.
Francisco Queiroz de Macedo,
Mine Planning Manager, Fresnillo PLC

Fresnillo polishes up
its silver medal
Mexicos Fresnillo PLC is reinforcing its position as the worlds largest primary silver
producer with a comprehensive plan to reach new production targets.

The city of Fresnillo and the Fresnillo Mine are synonymous is mainly due to a continuous upgrading of technology and
with Mexicos mining origins. The mine dates back to the modern equipment.
countrys earliest years of Spanish colonization and has been
operational since 1554, just eight years after Spanish explor- At the same time, the mining operations here have evolved
ers discovered silver near Zacatecas. and expanded in tandem with the evolution of technology.
Now, with new equipment and more advanced excavation
In fact, it is the silver mined from this region that is largely techniques, the mine has its sights set on increasing pro-
believed to have financed the expansion of the Spanish duction from 8 000 tonnes per day in 2012 to 9 200 t/d in
empire across the globe from the 16th to the 19th centuries. 2013 and 10 000 t/d in 2014. Nowadays, the mine is widely
During that period, the methods used to extract the silver left recognizedfor its high productivity and profitability, and for
a lot to be desired. Fortunately, times have changed and the reporting high yields of high quality silver and gold over the
Fresnillo of today is a model of efficiency and safety. This past two decades.

240 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


FRESNILLO MINE, MEXICO

The Atlas Copco Minetruck combines safety and comfort for operators at Fresnillo PLC during the mucking out process.

Three methods Remote controlled LHDs


Fresnillo advances on multiple faces at 3.4 km per month In places, the width of the silver vein in the San Carlos section
using three mining methods: cut and fill, bench and fill and is 58 m. In other areas, the veins are as narrow as 1 m. Using
sublevel stoping. The largest proportion of this will come the cut and fill, long hole stoping method, the ore is mined in
from the new operations in the San Carlos section where the blocks of 200 x 25 m, backfilling as they go.
current projection is to produce 30 million tonnes of ore at
the rate of 5 000 t per day. Where the rock is unstable, the mining method requires
remote controlled Scooptram ST14 loaders to muck the ore.
To achieve this target, the mine operates a large and highly This technology is also favored by Gonzales because, like the
advanced fleet of mechanized equipment, mostly provided by Scaletec, it helps to protect the operators from the possibility
its long-time supplier Atlas Copco, which has been support- of falling rock.
ing Fresnillo for some 60 years.

As Mine Superintendent in the San Carlos section, Antonio Central role for raiseborers
Gonzalez, says: We are a 100 percent Atlas Copco mine. In Fresnillos multiple raiseboring rigs make a particularly
addition to the equipment operating today, we have 30 new strong contribution to the mines efficiency and are used
pieces of equipment scheduled for arrival over the next four to open slot raises, as well as improve the mines ability to
years. install short utility raises for ventilation, water and electricity.

At the time of writing, this fleet consisted of Boomer face One of the most recent raiseborers to be commissioned is
drilling rigs, Simba long hole drill rigs, Scooptram LHDs, the Atlas Copco Robbins 34RH C QRS. This machine has
Atlas Copco Robbins raiseboring machine and Minetruck been used, for example, to drill a shaft from the surface for
trucks. In addition, the mine has the worlds largest fleet of ventilation. The raise was drilled at an angle of 86 and the
Scaletec scaling rigs, as well as an RB700 XD stationary rock initial 279 mm pilot hole (11 in) took about 15 days, with an
breaker for use in a new underground crusher station. additional 20 days for reaming up to 2.4 m in diameter.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 241


RAISING PRODUCTIVITY AND EFFICIENCY AT FRESNILLO

The Simba M4 C-ITH equipped with remote control is used for production drilling. It keeps deviation at a minimum despite tough ground conditions.

The quality of the mineralization varies here, but in the San During drilling the Simba rig averages a penetration rate of
Jaime level of the San Carlos section the mine produces 5 m per minute. The formation in the San Jamie requires
400500 g/t of silver and 0.05 g/t of gold. about 21 bar of air to flush the hole at that drill rate, as dis-
played on the drillers computer screen.
For production drilling, the mine uses the Simba M4 C-ITH
drill rig with 114 mm (4 in) ITH hammers to maintain
straight holes, although this will reduce to 76 mm (3 in) holes Added safety with Scaletec
if the ground is poor due to unconsolidated rock. Safety is also improved by implementing new rigs such as the
Scaletec to check for loose rock in new stopes, but it is also
The blocks are mined in 25 m depths from stopes 4.5 x 4.5 m used to break rock in tight corners. As Gonzalez explains,
in diameter and 200 m in length. The holes are 30 m deep to Occasionally its necessary to expand the diameter of a stope
allow for the stope heights and drilled at 65-degree angles in for whatever reason, and the Scaletec allows us to do that
the San Jamie drift, in a 2.4 m x 2.6 m pattern. without blasting.

Both the Simba1254 top hammer model and Simba The computerization and user-friendly controls on both the
M4 C-ITH style production drill rig are used, but Gonzalez new Robbins and Scaletec equipment speed up the work and
says he prefers the in-the-hole hammer in the San Carlos increase, safety for the operators. This applies particularly to
section. scaling which, prior to the arrival of the Scaletec, was done
manually.
The ITH hammer works better here. Its faster and more
accurate. Its important we dont have deviation when produc- The long boom on the Scaletec scaling rig enables the work
tion drilling. The ITH hammer ensures we continue on the area to be kept well in front of the operator, out of harms
correct angle through the entire hole, he says. way, while the boom arms flexibility enables it to be pulled

242 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


FRESNILLO MINE, MEXICO

The recently installed pedestal boom system RB700 XD breaks oversized rocks to manageable sizes at the crusher station.

up close to the rig, providing good mobility when tramming reduces costs. To bring ore to the surface by truck costs
through the mine. 32 dollars per tonne, he says. With the new shafts, our per
tonne rate drops to $1. The San Carlos shafts came online
in May 2012.
Efficient rock breaking
The mine employs a stationary pedestal boom system (PBS) Developed and implemented over the last four years, the twin
to ensure a constant flow of suitably sized rock fragments on shaft is 2 x 3.6 m in diameter and 565 m deep. It was con-
the grizzly at the primary crusher station. This equipment ceived by the planning and engineering department as a better
consists of the extremely heavy duty Atlas Copco RB700 XD, way to move ore. The shafts are now in use and working well,
equipped with the Atlas Copco hydraulic breaker MB 750, and the savings are reported to be considerable.
and its task at the grizzly is to keep the silver ore fragments
to a maximum size of 1 000 mm3. We took the idea into long-term planning discussions,
and it all made sense, says Francisco Queiroz de Macedo,
The system is operational 12 hours per day on a four shift/ Mine Planning Manager. Having large shafts that could be
day basis, and a second PBS unit is planned to be installed in excavated with a raiseborer would be more efficient, faster,
order to increase production. cheaper and, above all, safer.

By safer, Queiroz means that they would not have to put


Reducing trucking people in the shaft during construction. There was not the
Another safety measure is that the mine aims to reduce constant exposure to falling rock or lifting men and equip-
its truck fleet usage. Due to the installation of a new twin ment from the shaft. Also, no blasting meant no unwanted
shaft, it expects to reduce truck traffic underground by 50%. rock fragmentation. Basically, there was less exposure to
Furthermore, as Gonzalez points out, the new twin shaft risk, he explains.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 243


RAISING PRODUCTIVITY AND EFFICIENCY AT FRESNILLO

Fresnillo's fleet of raiseborers plays a key role under ground, producing slot raises for blasting and short utility raises for ventilation, water and electricity.

The only time men were exposed to potential risk was during of slight deviation caused by a fault at the lower end of the
the shotcrete phase and if bolting was necessary. As there was raise. The other 11 raises were completed within the required
little rock disturbance, faults or fragmentation, there was no 50 cm limit.
systematic bolting.
Queiroz elaborates: We have been doing raisebores for a
Im guessing it would have cost twice as much to sink tra- long time, more than the 15 years that Ive been here, so the
ditional shafts, Queiroz adds. This wouldnt be the same practice is not new to us. But this was much more interesting
situation with a greenfield project where no previous infra- than your average raise. The Atlas Copco Robbins drills are
structure exists. very good machines.

The lowest point of the shaft is at the 57 m level. Above that The future of the new shafts is to take them deeper. There are
are five traditional existing points that break up the lifts to plans for another crushing and lift station at 690 m and a third
manageable levels. The longest raises, which are surface at 1 050 m. These would be constructed over the next three
raises, are 240 m long. The system is designed as a cable years, opening in approximately 2013 and 2015. Currently
system so accuracy was essential. Queiroz states: We needed exploration knowledge is limited. The orebody isnt estab-
a tolerance of less than 0.5 percent, or 50 cm, for each raise. lished below that depth, so expansion is unknown beyond
The first raise of 240 m was off less than 5 cm. that point.

Based on its projected 35 million tonnes, the mine is forecast


Twelve raises to have a 20-year life. The projected resource base is as great
The first step was for the Atlas Copco Robbins 73RH raise- as 60 million tonnes. But as Queiroz put it, with a shrug of
borer to drill a 298 mm pilot hole (11 in). Six lifts were the shoulders, The mine has been open for 450 years and
made for each shaft for a total of 12 raises. Of these, only one exploration continues.
exceeded the tolerance level at 0.7%, and that was because

244 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


FRESNILLO MINE, MEXICO

ABOUT FRESNILLO
Fresnillo PLC holds the largest precious metals
reserves in Mexico and currently operates seven mines
two advanced development projects, five exploration
projects and an extensive portfolio of prospects.

With a continuous and growing investment in explora-


tion and development in recent years, the company is
advancing its strategic objectives to produce annually
1 850 M grams (65 M ounces) of silver and 1 418 K
grams (500 K ounces) of gold by 2018. Headquartered
in Mexico City, Fresnillo PLC is listed on the Mexico
and London stock exchanges.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 245


Taking it to
new levels at Tara
Europes largest zinc mine, Boliden Tara Mines of Ireland, has consistently improved
productivity as well as safety by investing in innovative mining equipment.

Boliden Tara Mines, near the town of Navan in Ireland, is the in early 2004. Today, Tara has a workforce of around 700
largest zinc mine in Europe and the ninth largest in the world, employees and a large numberof contractors engaged in the
producing approximately 2.5 Mt of zinc and lead concentrate operations.
annually.
The zinc-lead ore at Tara occurs in lower carboniferous lime-
The majority of the ore produced by these underground stone. As there are a number of stacked, faulted strata-bound
operations are shipped via Dublin to Bolidens zinc smelters ore lenses, the ore thickness varies from just a few meters up
at Odda in Norway and Kokkola in Finland, while some goes to tens of meters across the orebody. The lenses mostly dip
to other smelters around the world. Mining has been under southwest at 15 degrees, more steeply in some sections, so
way here since 1977, but a new era began when the mine was the orebody ranges from 50 m to 1 000 m below the surface
acquired by Boliden, the Sweden-based mining company, and extends under an area of 6.5 x 1.5 km. As a result, the

246 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


TARA MINES, IRELAND

Tara Mines in Ireland produces 2.5 Mt/y of zinc and lead concentrate. It aims to lower operation costs through investments designed to boost productivity and safety.

operation is development-intensive, with approximately drifts are scaled, bolted and lined with shotcrete. The produc-
4 500 m of development carried out annually for access, tion stopes are prepared with long hole rigs, drilling rings or
services and exploration and about 6 500 m per year of stope fans of 64 mm or 70 mm upholes. These holes are spaced 2.4
development. Ore grades are mainly in the range of 710% m apart at the toe and are inclined 70 forward.
zinc and about 2% lead, and at currently planned production
rates, mining will continue until 2018. The fans are drilled at 2.22.5 m intervals. Tara uses emul-
sion explosives and typically blasts two to four fans simulta-
neously, yielding up to 5 000 t of ore per blast. Ore is loaded
Open stoping with backfill by LHDs and transported to the appropriate crushing station
Three sections of the mine are currently being mined the using purpose-designed Atlas MT6020 mine trucks with
central section, most of which has now been mined out, the capacities up to 60 t. The pillars are backfilled with uncon-
Nevinstown area, and the South West extension, known as solidated sand. The broken ore is transported to underground
Swex. The central area of the mine contains much of the main crushers, which produce a 150 mm product that is conveyed
infrastructure, such as a crusher, ore hoisting shaft, fan sta- to the 3 600 t coarse ore storage bin at the hoisting shaft.
tions and pump stations.
Slime and fine particles are removed by hydrocyclones and
Mining is by blasthole open stoping with ore drawpoints in then pumped to the tailings pond 5 km away from the mine.
the footwall and hydraulic backfilling of both primary and After the sediment has settled, the water is reused at the mine
secondary stopes. The stopes range from 1525 m in width and approximately 1 Mtpa of the coarser sand is mixed with
and their variable, long axis is aligned with the strike of the cement to use as backfill.
orebody so that access development in waste rock is mini-
mized. Approximately 80 separate stope and pillar units are
produced each year, and production per stope ranges from Focus on haulage and scaling
5 000 to more than 100 000 tonnes. The development drilling Since acquiring Tara Mines, Boliden has consistently focused
is organized on a normal cyclic system, with two-boom face on lowering operating costs through investments designed to
rigs drilling rounds of 50 or more 45 mm diameter holes. The boost productivity and safety. For example, in order to meet

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 247


MODERNIZING OPERATIONS AT TARA

With its articulated design and 60 tonne payload capacity, the MT6020 minetruck is speeding up haulage along the steep, 15% gradient ramps at
Boliden Tara Mines.

its productivity targets, the mine invested in a new heavy- extended. Today, the same Minetruck MT6020 is still operat-
duty underground mining truck, the 60 tonne Minetruck ing at the site and has now been joined by two more.
MT6020 from Atlas Copco.
Mr. Tallon concludes: We have run modified road trucks and
Roy Tallon, Development Mine Captain for Boliden Tara mine trucks from different suppliers at Tara. The road trucks
Mines, says he first saw the Minetruck MT 6020 while visit- are fine on long, flat haulage systems, but in my opinion, for
ing the Atlas Copco factory in Sweden in 2010. He was able mines that have steep ramp systems and in this cost-conscious
to try it out and was impressed at how easy it was to handle. climate, the MT6020 is in a league of its own.

As a result, the mine agreed to a two-week trial. Operator


and mechanical training was quickly completed, and the More tonnage, lower costs
truck was put to work in the deep Swex section of the mine When it was introduced in 2008, the Minetruck MT6020 gave
in July 2010. mines an opportunity to increase tonnage kilometers per hour
(tkm/h) and also lower costs through reducing the size of their
Mr Tallon recalls: Straight away the truck was a success. existing fleets.
Before the arrival of the MT6020, we would have run two
trucks from most of the production units in operation, but For this reason, the Minetruck MT6020 is seen as an impor-
the MT6020 could handle this run on its own. We did try and tant step in the development of articulated, underground
team it up with other trucks, but quite often the other trucks trucks, and is enjoying considerable success in the industry
would slow up the advance of the MT6020 on the ramp. worldwide.

Interestingly, the MT6020 was also run on development Reliability and performance have quickly positioned the truck
muck and handled this with ease and proved flexible enough as a leader in the 60 t class. Hauling at 11 km/h on a ramp
to work in all areas, irrespective of the often tight spaces. with a 15% gradient a typical scenario for a large under-
Downtime was minimal and the weekly service took about ground mine the MT6020 does not require larger excavation
four hours. When the trial ended, it was immediately dimensions despite its 60 t dimensions.

248 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


TARA MINES, IRELAND

Investments in scaling and haulage have given a significant boost to safety and productivity.

Haulage is one of the most crucial aspects of any efficient Mechanized scaling
mining operation, and the MT6020 truck is powerful enough Another example is the mines investment in mechanized
to carry heavy loads over long periods of time and long- scaling, which has had a dramatic effect on safety. The
distance inclines, at the same time as it is maneuverable manual scaling of walls, roofs and faces after blasting is one
and f lexible enough to perform on busy roadways. The of the most dangerous operations in mining, often carried
MT6020 hauls material from a depth of 790 m in the Swex out with a hand-held scaling bar working from a drill rig
section, which accounts for at least 60% of the mines total platform in order to reach the areas to be scaled. It is a physi-
production. cally demanding task involving considerable risk. In many
parts of the world, miners use steel bars or even simpler tools
Gerry McDonagh, Mine Captain, comments that the trucks to remove loose rock, which is even more demanding and
60 t payload capacity has made a significant contribution to dangerous.
the increased production at the mine.
To improve productivity and also reduce the risks associated
The operators have also described the truck as very easy with manual scaling, Tara Mines introduced mechanized
and comfortable, giving a good power-to-weight ratio and scaling as early as 2007 in the form of a built-for-purpose
a good turning circle, and have special praise for the cabs Scaletec scaling rig, also from Atlas Copco. The reason for
all-round visibility. In addition, pre-start checks can be done choosing this unit was its high performance, but also the
at ground level before the operator climbs into the drivers potential improvement it could bring in terms of personal
seat. Maintenance is carried out weekly by both Atlas Copco safety for the mines 10-man scaling crew.
and Tara personnel.
Today, Tara Mines has four Scaletec units in operation and
With haulage costs representing one of the most crucial items John Grennan, Safety Superintendent, says the effect has
on the mines balance sheet, the Minetruck MT6020s are been dramatic. In the four years since the Scaletec has been
meeting Taras production goals in fewer trips per day. This in operation, the number of incidents and injuries related to
equates to reduced fuel and manpower costs and less wear manual scaling have declined to zero. Comments Grennan,
on equipment. Mechanical scaling has been a huge advancement for us

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 249


MODERNIZING OPERATIONS AT TARA

at Boliden Tara Mines. In the past, there have


been serious injuries as a result of scaling off
the muck pile, but these are now gone. We dont
Mechanical scaling have the exact statistics yet, but in my view this
is a no-brainer. has been one of the better advances I have seen
in my 37 years in the mining industry. And he
John Grennan, adds that risk assessments which have been car-
Safety Superintendent, Tara Mines ried out indicate that mechanical scaling is a
no-brainer.

In the normal working cycle, the Scaletec is rou-


tinely used after every development blast and
also at other times when required. Service and
maintenance are performed on site by the Tara
Mines engineers. Prior to the arrival of the first
Scaletec, scaling was mostly done by working
either from the bucket of a scoop, the platform
of a utility vehicle, or by standing on the slippery
muckpile.

The Atlas Copco Scaletec scaling rig was devel-


oped in 2005 to enable miners and tunnelers to
tackle the hazardous task of scaling roofs and
walls after blasting with maximum protection.
Not only does the Scaletec improve safety for
the scaling crew, it also improves the quality of
the scaling result, which benefits overall pro-
ductivity.

The rig consists of well proven components,


notably the carrier, the hydraulic breaker and
the comfortable, well protected operators cabin.
The breaker is designed specifically for scaling.
It is constructed from a solid, one piece-body
that does not require side bolts, making it a much
stronger unit. To optimize it for scaling opera-
tions, the breakers strike frequency has been
increased at the same time as the impact energy
has been decreased.

The boom covers an area of 9 m high and 11 m


wide, enabling it to effectively follow the con-
tour of the face, the roof and walls in most drifts
and tunnels. In addition, the cab comes with a
375 mm vertical lift and a 15 tilt to provide the
operator with optimum visibility. Positioning
and control with RCS (Rig Control System) is
fast and easy, and an integrated water channel
provides the hammer with water flushing for
dust suppression.

Besides the Minetruck MT6020 and Scaletec,


Boliden Tara Mines also has an Atlas Copco
Cabletec cable bolter as well as a fleet of Atlas
Copco drill rigs, including Boomer M2 C twin-
For the hazardous task of scaling after blasting, the Scaletec provides maximized safety boom face drilling rigs and Simba long hole
for operators. production rigs.

250 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 251
C H I N A
Xingshan Mine

r
ve
Ri
t ze
ng
Ya

The management at Xingshan Mine together with drill rig operators gather to witness the startup of the Simba M4 C during a 12-day training course.

Long hole drilling meets


high demands in China
The Shougang Mining Company, one of the largest iron ore producers in China, is
meeting efficiency targets at its new Xingshan underground operation

The open pit Xingshan iron ore mine in central China went The need for efficiency
underground in July 2012 and is today meeting high stan- The Xingshan mine, located some 30 km north of the Yangtze
dards for production drilling efficiency. The mine is owned River, is subjected to an extreme climate with temperatures
by Shougang Mining Company, which, with an annual output reaching +38 C in summer and 24 C in winter. The average
of more than 30 Mt, is one of the largest iron ore producers in annual rainfall is 750 mm.
the country. For its new venture, the company set ambitious
goals with drilling efficiency at the top of the priority list. The main ores here are poor magnetites and secondary iron
pyrites. They have a grainy structure and are banded or
Clearly, the new Xingshan underground operation, which gneissic. The rock is mainly biotite leptynite, leucoleptite,
now has an annual output of approximately 3.2 Mt per year, plagioclase amphibolite, and migmatite. Sublevel caving is the
did not disappoint, and much of its success is attributed to method of choice, and this involves an initial sublevel height
investments made in modern long hole drilling technology. of 15 m with an approach spacing of 20 m, subsequently rising

252 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


XINGSHAN MINE, CHINA

to 20 m and an approach spacing of 22 m. The main ramp is


4.6 m wide and 5 m high and has a maximum incline of 15%.
Three different grades of ore are mined here from an orebody
that has a short strike length and a steep dip. To be able to
extract and separate the grades effectively, the mine knew
that it needed to increase efficiency by improving the mecha-
nization and automation of its equipment.

New technology
The mine has a substantial equipment fleet featuring Simba
and Boomer drill rigs, as well as a Boltec rock bolter, all
supplied by Atlas Copco. But it was the introduction of a
newly developed Simba M4 C, six months after mining start-
up, that has pushed drilling efficiency to its highest level.
This advanced, long hole drill rig went into production at
the end of January 2013 and by mid-July had exceeded all
expectations. After 1 095 hours of operation, it had completed
41 500 m, of which 97% met the mines quality target for both
medium-length and deep holes. The average penetration rate
was 1521 m/h, which is faster compared to other drill rigs
used in the same area, and this produced an additional 500 m
per month. Moreover, the maximum penetration achieved in
a single day was 465 m at a rate of 54 m/h.

Simba M4 C is a long hole drill rig for medium-sized drifts in


the 5189 mm hole range. The rig is capable of ring drilling The Simba M4 C boosts efficiency and productivity levels at Xingshan, partly
due to automatic functions that reduce the need for manual labor.
parallel holes with 1.5 m spacing in the side walls and up to
3 m spacing upward and downward. It is equipped with a
high-performance, tophammer rock drill and the Atlas Copco
Rig Control System (RCS), providing a sustainable, high- drill, which was still in very good condition after running for
precision solution for long hole drilling. The rig features the 1 100 hours.
COP 1838ME 18 kW rock drill for high availability and high
productivity or the COP 2550UX 25 kW for a larger hole He explains that the Simba has brought several key advantag-
range and tougher rock conditions. It also has a carousel for es to the Xingshan operation. First of all, it provides ease of
17+1 rods for mechanized drilling up to 32 m or 27+1 rods for operation. After setting some parameters, a row of medium-
mechanized drilling up to 51 m. depth and deep holes can be completed automatically, and
this reduces the burden on operators. Secondly, the automated
functions, such as the automatic rod handling system, helps
Automation via RCS to avoid human error and improves safety.
RCS enables all functions to be controlled by individual com-
puter modules, which continually adjust the rigs configura- The automatic setup gives us higher drilling accuracy. The
tion according to the drilling conditions. This means that the precision of the angle of the medium and deep holes is 0.01
operator only has to start up the machine and use a control degrees, and in hole positioning it is within 0.1 m. It will also
lever to position the rig and collar the hole, while everything be possible to achieve remote wireless operation at a later
else is automatic. stage. This will enable one man to operate several rigs, and
self-diagnosis of any electrical faults can be achieved and
A display screen enables the operator to monitor all functions these faults can be directly located.
of the process, from drilling efficiency and drilling angles
to air pressure, direction, speed and drilling depth. If any To enable the mine to take quick advantage of these capabili-
interruption or interference occurs, an integrated detection ties, Atlas Copco put together a training team of 12 techni-
and fault-finding system displays the location of the fault cians to give the mine operators a 12-day technology training
on the screen. Discussing the benefits of this equipment, course, something which Xudong sees as a major advantage.
Song Xudong, Shougangs Associate Mine Manager for the
Xingshan mine, comments: The Simba M4 C is equipped The introduction of new equipment and technology gives us a
with an automatic penetration function which significantly rich experience of using modern machinery, he points out. It
reduces manual labor time and improves the drilling effi- accelerates our speed in developing not only a world class mine
ciency. The rig is also equipped with a COP1838HF rock for China but also a mine that is a leader internationally.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 253


Located in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, the Khumani Iron Ore Mine has an output of 10 Mt/y and is set to expand its three main operational areas.

Breaking ground
at Khumani
Breaking up boulders that are too big for the crushing process is standard procedure
at many underground mines and open pits. For one iron producer in South Africa, it
proved to be an unusually difficult challenge.

The high-grade Khumani Iron Ore Mine, situated in the output, future expansions will enable it to supply the domes-
Northern Cape Province of South Africa, is designed to tic South African steel market with high-grade ore. After
produce about 10 Mt of export quality ore per year. That blasting, the broken ore is loaded onto mine trucks with
alone presents a major challenge, but dealing with the huge a 190 tonne payload capacity and brought to the primary
amount of rock that is excavated every day is an especially gyratory crusher, where it is crushed into a manageable size
difficult and time-consuming task. for downstream processing.

Khumani, an open pit operation, is the main iron ore pro- As the crusher feeds some 2 400 tonnes of ore per hour to
ducer for Assmang Limited. In addition to its exported the plant, there is no margin for stoppages. However, after

254 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


KHUMANI MINE, SOUTH AFRICA

the primary crusher was put into service, the mine noticed
that every so often an oversized boulder would block the
cavity of the crusher. Crushing then had to be stopped while
the boulder was broken by an undersized fixed hammer.
The process proved to be ineffective and time-consuming,
resulting in production losses.

Avoiding oversize rock


To avoid this problem of oversize rock heading for the crusher
station, the hydraulic shovel operator was tasked with sorting
through the blasted rock piles in order to separate the over-
sized fragments. These were placed to one side for subse-
quent secondary breaking by explosives or by using a carrier-
mounted hydraulic hammer.

This method of secondary rock breaking is an expensive pro-


cess and, again, involves an element of risk. In addition, it
was impossible for the hydraulic shovel operator to separate
every oversized fragment; some would still find their way to
the crushing station and regularly jam up the crusher mouth.
The mine decided that it needed a boom-mounted hydraulic
hammer to carry out the breaking, and an initial proposal was
to have two such units set up on either side of the crusher
mouth. However, this was rejected after it became clear
that structures on one side of the cavity would prevent the
hammer from gaining sufficient access to the rock and that
two machines would involve increased maintenance costs. The robust and flexible RB850 Pedestal Boom System was modified to fit
inside the crusher station.
Finding one breaker, or Pedestal Boom System (PBS), proved
extremely difficult as it would not only have to fit inside the
crusher station where the headroom above the cavity was only Regional Product Manager for Atlas Copco's Underground
4 m, it would have to have a horizontal and vertical reach of Rock Excavation Division in South Africa.
12 m and 4.5 m respectively in order to cover the 168 m2 of
the crusher cavity. The advantage of being able to break oversize rocks at the
crusher is that it eliminates the considerable expense and
Potential PBS suppliers faced the problem that it was not pos- potential danger involved in rehandling broken rock in sec-
sible to build a pedestal boom with this particular combination ondary blasting.
of reach and low height, which would also be able to carry a
heavy enough hammer to break extremely hard iron ore. The Called RB850 XD, the system, weighing 25 tonnes without its
answer was a PBS system specially designed for this applica- hydraulic hammer, was transported 680 km to the mine on two
tion by Atlas Copco. Instead of having a boom bolted to a low-bed trucks. Khumani requires that the boom is available
static concrete-and-steel base, it was mounted on a massively 96% of the time.
heavy-duty, hydraulically operated, moveable base. This base,
or undercarriage, was able to move horizontally to a position
above the crusher mouth, where the hammer it carries can Avoiding the blows
break rocks regardless of where in the mouth they may be With many PBS applications, the massive hammer blows
lodged. delivered to the rock are transmitted back through the unit
and often cause mounting foundations and steel fastenings to
The system is also simple and extremely robust as the under- fail. To counter this, the Atlas Copco designers incorporated
carriage bearing the pedestal boom has to carry a 25 tonne heavy-duty rubber damping pads on the top end of the pedestal
load and operate in a rigorous, 24/7 work cycle. section. As is the case in all modern machine design, the engi-
neers used the latest in finite element analysis (FEA) software
to ensure the boom delivers a low total cost of ownership.
Original solution
What is particularly notable about this 30-tonne moveable At the same time, Atlas Copco needed to design and manu-
pedestal boom undercarriage is that this is a completely origi- facture the largest pedestal boom hammer that the company
nal solution to a thorny issue, says Gert Jansen van Rensburg, had ever produced the HB 5800, weighing 5.3 tonnes.

ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES 255


BREAKING OVERSIZED ROCK

The flexible design of the RB850 enables easy maintenance of both the crusher and the pedestal boom.

Throughout this design process, the Atlas Copco engineers Copco branch in Kuruman, which is 30 km from the mine, is
worked closely with Khumanis project house, DRA. Pedestal on standby for any major repairs.
Boom Systems (PBS) are comparatively recent additions
to the Atlas Copco product range. The original company, As this branch will carry an extensive and appropriate inven-
which was based in Alrode, Johannesburg, was purchased tory of spare parts, additional support and spares are only a
in December 2005 by Atlas Copco, and as the concepts and phone call away, van Rensburg concludes.
designs emanated from South Africa, it was decided that pro-
duction would remain at Alrode. Atlas Copcos unique series of pedestal boom systems range
from the RB300 XD model to the RB1250 XD and are
designed for secondary rock breaking. The largest systems
Pioneering work are mainly used on gyratory crushers in open pits, while the
Klaus Michels, now retired, and Thomas Mller, the one-time smaller two-boom systems are mainly used on grizzlies under-
head of the Alrode manufacturing facility, along with Atlas ground and in open cast mining.
Copco designer Jerome Moosa, were all intimately involved
in the development of the RB850 XD pedestal boom rock At the various locations of Khumanis ore deposits, known as
breaker. the Bruce, King and Mokaning mining areas, space limitations
have been a long-standing challenge when it comes to break-
Our pioneering work in the fairly recent development of the ing oversized rock. As pointed out by Conrad Barkhuizen,
pedestal boom has seen more than 100 of these units being Mining Engineer at Khumani, the rock has a typical hard-
used by mines and quarries throughout Africa and the world, ness of 250400 MPa a particularly tough challenge at the
explains van Rensburg. In Africa alone, Atlas Copco pedestal primary crusher.
booms are extensively used.
We needed a rock breaker design that would be flexible so
In terms of regular maintenance, two full-time technicians are that we could move it out of the way when doing maintenance
stationed at Khumani Mine to service the PBS, and the Atlas on the crusher. As the RB850 pedestal boom moves forward

256 ATLAS COPCO UNDERGROUND MINING CASE STUDIES


KHUMANI MINE, SOUTH AFRICA

and backwards horizontally over the crusher cavity like a scis-


sor movement, that solved the problem, says Barkhuizen.

Reduced downtime
The made-to-measure solution provided by Atlas Copco meant
that a mobile crusher previously used and parked some dis-
tance away in the loadingpit, would not have to be transported
back and forth. This, in turn, has meant less downtime and
improved bottom-line productivity.
Mthuthuzeli Daniels (right) Mining Engineer, with Eben Frisley , Production
Supervisor, Metallurgical Plant.
Gerrit Loedolff, Manager of Mining Operations at Khumani,
could easily recognize the benefits to the daily operation.

If you move a mobile rock breaker out of a pit, two and a half
hours at 2 400 tonnes per hour, work out the consequences of
it. So your machine, your crusher, is down for two and a half
hours, and you lose those tonnes, he says.

With the RB850 installed we can rely on the fact that we are
not going to have that downtime again when we get big rocks
in the crusher station, Loedolff adds.

The crusher cavity is designed to handle rock sizes of


1x1 m, but larger sizes are also dealt with mostly without
any problems. If a boulder is particularly hard to crush, the
on-site team uses a crane to turn it around and to find its
weak points, where it can be chipped away and gradually
A made-to-measure solution has enabled Khumani Mine to effectively
reduced in size.
deal with oversized rock, using the RB850 pedestal boom system.

Maintenance and training


Weekly and monthly maintenance intervals ensure that the
crusher station is continuously fed with material. The RB850
is given a regular checkup once per week and a more com-
prehensive service once every month.

After a two-year operational period, the mine reports that only


a few electrical components have been changed. The design
of the moil, the machines working tool, has also generated
satisfaction among the team as this component is normally
sensitive in terms of wear and tear.

The RB850 is also equipped with rubber damping pads aimed


at stopping metal fatigue and to soften the blow that is trans-
mitted through the machine.
Gerrit Loedolff Manager, Mining Operations, Khumani Mine.
Khumanis purchase of the RB850 came with a service agree-
ment, making sure that Atlas Copco service personnel are
available at short notice. In addition, a small team of