Fragmentation - The Future

Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 9
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1995
The mining industry is facing tremendous economic challenges. Fluctuating and depressed commodity prices, the ever-increasing pressure from environmental legislation and the competing global opportunities for capital investment are placing enormous strains on every aspect of the mining business. At the same time, mines are generally becoming older and deeper with all the logistical and rock mechanics difficulties that this entails. In the face of these new challenges the industry looks to technological advances to make operations more efficient and profitable. One approach is to develop and implement highly automated and computerised equipment as part of a trend towards major reductions in the underground workforce. This approach requires more capital investment rather than less and requires a more sophisticated and well-educated workforce with skills which are generally in high demand in society as a whole. It is difficult to see how the benefit that can be gained from such technology can justify the expenditures necessary to make it operate reliably underground on a daily basis. Nor is it easy to foresee how the mining industry, based as it is often in very remote areas, will be able to hire and retain sufficient numbers of people to maintain such fleets of equipment. Another approach, and the one which I favour, is the implementation of much greater control over the whole of the mining process. Mining is essentially a very simple process - we break rock and move it. The most cost-effective means of moving and processing the mining product depends entirely on the way it is broken - it depends on primary fragmentation by blasting. I propose that the way forward for the industry in the face of our present difficulties, is not new technology but is to utilise the level of technology which currently exists in ways which have traditionally been regarded as too difficult or too inflexible - improved fragmentation and the use of conveyors. The technical success of this approach depends on the complete re-design of the ore handling system from the face or stope drawpoint to surface. The fundamental issue which determines the success of this approach is designed fragmentation.
Full Article Download:
(801 kb)