The Shape of Hard Rock Mining in the 21st Century

McMahon DW, ; Schapper MA,
Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 7
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1985
Hard rock underground mining has been wedded to the drill-blast method of breaking rock. Current practice and technology have focused on greater efficiencies in the blasting and handling of ore, on the basis that thelower costs that come with larger scale operations compensate for the waste dilution associated with the bulk methods. However, it is suggested that new technology is available or is on the horizon that could completely change the shape of hard rock mining in the 21st century. Hard-rock continuous-mining machines, possibly assisted by high pressure water jets, coupled with automated sorting and materials handling systems, could re-orient the miner's focus to winning metal rather than mining tonnes of ore. More continuous mining processes could accelerate the penetration by high technology in the hard rock underground mine, with the potential of greater manpower productivities and lower costs per tonne of metal produced. This new technology will be important in maintaining a competitive supply of metals, given the falling headgrades of the orebodies remaining for development and the increasing market threat from manufactured substitutes.
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