If you have access to OneMine as part of a member benefit, log in through your member association website for a seamless user experience.
|Introduction Mine sampling determines the practicality of any mining operation. Improper sampling can result in an incorrect appraisal of present production and future potential. Therefore, the mine department in charge of ore-reserve calculations and mine sampling should be overseen by competent and experienced professionals with technical backgrounds qualifying them to produce accurate results. Sampling is a process by which portions of an ore body are collected and analyzed to estimate the average mineral content of the entire ore body. It is incorrect to assume that a large number of samples eliminates any errors in the sampling method. To obtain unbiased samples, proper sample location with respect to rock type and mineralization is just as important. The sampling procedure must yield correct results for the type of mineral deposit, and careful consideration should be given to whether or not the sampling technique has been developed to an extent sufficient to eliminate as much human error and bias as possible. Only after the ore has been mined and milled is the sampling accuracy known. Sampling also provides information about the bulk composition of the ore for mineralogical and metallurgical tests that determine the economic ore-waste boundaries and the geologic trends for exploration. Actual mining plans can be developed from this information to maximize profits. Accurate sampling is critical, and thus must be approached in a scientific manner. Sampling Techniques Sampling practices and techniques are as varied as the mines in which they are used. The method(s) chosen must be tailored to suit the company and mining needs. For instance, tabular uranium deposits, vein gold deposits, and porphyry copper deposits pose special problems in conducting unbiased sampling. The mine geologist or engineer in charge must develop a sampling method, test it in a sample area, and then critically evaluate the results. If the results from the test area are accurate within the economic limits established by the company, they then may be adopted for general use in the mine. Four routine sampling methods are suitable for specific sampling objectives in the daily mine routine: (1) channel sampling, (2) chip sampling, (3) grab sampling, and (4) bulk sampling. The final sampling results depend upon how the four methods are combined to accurately determine the grade of the ore body. When used in conjunction with each other during different stages of mine development, the channel, chip, grab, and bulk sampling methods provide an in-house check or a comparison by which mining methods and sampling procedures can be evaluated. However, the most valid check is based upon the daily mill production. Channel Sampling Channel samples consist of cuttings collected from a groove cut into the rock about 102 mm (4 in.) wide and 19 mm (0.75 in.) deep. Various tools ranging from a 1.8-kg (4-lb) hammer and moil to a pneumatic chisel can be used to cut the sample. Accessibility and rock hardness determine the applicable sampling tools. Before attempting to take a sample, the rock surface must be cleaned thoroughly; the method of cleaning depends upon the amount of mine dust accumulated on the surface or the degree of alteration of the rock surface. Typical cleaning methods 'employ a wire brush, water, or chipping a fresh surface. Next, the sample outline is marked on the prepared surface, taking care to choose appropriate sample loca- tions. After determining the proper sample outline and length, the sample can be chiseled out, catching the rock fragments on a canvas tarpaulin on the floor, in a powder box, in a canvas bag to avoid contamination, or by some other suitable means to capture all of the sample. Vertical veins present a special problem because the drift's back usually is arched, not square. For example, Fig. 1 shows that if sample intervals are measured from A' to D', the length of the sample interval is greater than the true vein width, resulting in an incorrect calculation of the ore reserves. The correct method would collect three samples at A'-B', B'-C', and C'-D', using either actual measurements in the mine represented by A-B, B-C, and C-D or trigonometric calculations to determine the true ore thickness. Then, each sample can be weighted by grade and true thickness for the vein. Channel lengths usually are a maximum of 1.5 m (5 ft), and it is good practice to divide longer samples into smaller intervals according to structures, changes in rock types, or differences in rock hardnesses. The influence of those features on the mineralization then can be determined. Chip Sampling Chip sampling is a variation of channel sampling used when the rock is too hard to channel sample economically or when little variation in the mineral content indicates that this sampling method will yield results similar to those of channel sampling. Rather than cutting a channel in the rock, small chips are flaked off at regular intervals over the entire face or area being the mine. sampled. Care must be taken to assure that the sample is representative of variations in the rock hardness and type. hi^ method is fast and useful in preliminary evaluations, but it should not be used for quantitative ore-reserve calculations. Grab Sampling Grab sampling is a fast method for double checking either channel or chip-sampling procedures, and, in some instances, mine production can be estimated from carefully taken grab samples. Grab sampling takes equal amounts of material at selected intervals over a mine dump, a muck pile, or from an ore car to estimate its Channel Sampling mineral content. Generally, this method is not considered reliable. Many independent variables can affect this type of sampling process. Thus, if the ore occurs in the softer fraction and a proportional amount of the result-|