Mechanization In Stoping Narrow Tabular Orebodies

Kendall, R. J.
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 10
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
As we enter the new millennium, the South African mining industry has to ensure that it becomes more competitive if it is to survive in the ever more demanding global environment. Traditionally, mechanization in narrow stopes has been limited to the use of scraper winches, and numerous mechanization attempts have been restricted to pilot projects operated on an extremely limited scale (with varying degrees of success). The benefits of hydropower are well documented, and Northam Platinum has shown these benefits to be achievable on a mine-wide basis. However, the equipment originally developed for hydropower systems has followed the traditional labour-intensive approach commonly used in deep level narrow stoping operations. The problems experienced with the hydropower system are discussed and the rationale for developing alternate technologies is explored. The hydropower system has shown to be a versatile powering medium which can be harnessed for a diversity of uses. It (hydropower) enables the mining engineer to change traditional paradigms and to design an entirely new approach for optimizing the mining operation based on explosive techniques. The system developed for Northam consists of the following: ?Purpose-built stope drill rig operated off the hydropower system with special features to ensure accurate drilling patterns throughout the length of the blast hole ?Purpose-built high rate cleaning system for rapid transfer of fractured ore to the stope orepass ?Redesigned stope layout to facilitate in-stope water control and to recover fines from the run-off water ?Purpose-built drill rig for rapid establishment of reef raises and advanced strike gullies ?Purpose-built drill rig for flat end development. On both types of development end rig, emphasis is placed on ensuring accurate drilling patterns throughout the length of the hole to maximize linear advance per blast. The paper discusses the implementation of the Northam system on a large scale as well as current initiatives to further improve on the efficiencies of mining operations. It concludes by emphasizing that mechanized hydropowered stope technologies are in their infancy and thus offer unlimited scope in progressing beyond today?s paradigms to present as yet unthought of solutions for optimizing deep level ore extraction.
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