Development of Mechanized Ground Support Installation Equipment for Improved Safety in Narrow Vein Mine Conditions

Kendall, William
Organization: International Conference on Ground Control in Mining
Pages: 4
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2014
INTRODUCTION Stillwater Mining Company, with its two underground, hard rock mines in South Central Montana, is the largest primary producer of palladium and platinum in the Western Hemisphere. Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) are mined from a specific zone within the Stillwater Complex, a layered mafic/ultramafic igneous intrusion, named as the J-M Reef. Over much of the J-M Reef, the economically minable, mineralized horizon is contained at typical horizontal widths of 6.5 ft to 8 ft wide. This feature of narrow mining widths has made it challenging to safely and effectively mine these areas of the J-M Reef using mechanized cut and fill and sublevel sill development mining methods. Mechanization of most or all of the steps of the mining process is important to Stillwater in the continuous pursuit of high standards in safety and health. Mechanized bolting within the J-M Reef ore production headings is an important piece of reaching these objectives. In general, metal/non-metal mining requires varied mining techniques, as compared to more traditional bedded mineral/resource deposits. Narrow vein mining is a selective mining technique that generates a minimal amount of waste material while obtaining the more valuable ore deposits. Drilling and bolting in narrow vein mining has traditionally been performed with air-powered, hand-held ?jackleg? equipment because mechanized equipment is, typically, too large for the selective narrow vein techniques. In addition, traditional hand-held pneumatic equipment provides significant flexibility for small-opening, narrow-vein developments, reducing waste rock handling and improving ore recovery management. The hand-held equipment is also relatively inexpensive to purchase. Due to its simplicity, it is also relatively easy to train operators to use hand-held equipment. Hand-held equipment has been routinely used to safely install ground support and to develop production faces in hard rock mines for many years. Although it is effective, the hand-held equipment requires operator exposure to certain inherent hazardous conditions in the active face/development mine areas. These include falling rock, tripping hazards, bending/twisting/lifting hazards, high noise levels, and chemical fumes from the hammer exhaust. Based on health and safety statistics from the Stillwater mines, operation of the rotary-percussive hand-held equipment adversely affects the long-term health of the operator?continual jackleg operation frequently results in long term damage to hearing, shoulders, arm and wrist joints, and back injuries. This reduces the quality of life for the operator and also results in higher personnel turnover rates for the mining company.
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