Room-and-Pillar Method of Open- Stope Mining - A Classification of the Room-and- Pillar Mining System.

Bullock, Richard L.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
OPEN STOPING An open stope is an underground cavity from which the initial ore has been mined. Caving of the opening is prevented (at least temporarily) by support from the unmined ore or waste left in the stope, in the form of pillars, and the stope walls (also called ribs or abutments). In addition to this primary support system of open stoping, some secondary support may also be required using rockbolts, reinforcing rods, split pipes, or shotcrete to stabilize the rock surface immediately adjacent to the opening. The secondary reinforcement procedure does not preclude the method classified as open stoping. There are many forms of open-stope mining used to extract the initial material from a mine. Having once established that the mineral and waste rock are competent enough to use an open-stoping method, and assuming that the reserve is not classified as gassy, the Form which the method will take is primarily determined by the dip and thickness of the reserve. How these two factors affect the selection of the open-stope mining is discussed in a later chapter. At this point it will suffice to say that the classification of the open-stopes mining system which follows is based on whether dry' broken materials flows by gravity or whether it must be moved by nongravity methods where energy must be supplied to move the material. Room-and Pillar-Mining Room-and-pillar mining is an open-stoping method where mining progresses in a nearly horizontal or low angle direction by opening multiple stopes or rooms, leaving solid material to act as pillars to support the vertical load. Since the direction of excavation (angle of dip) is below that which would cause the dry material to flow by gravity to a drawpoint or gathering point, the material must be loaded in the room where it was extracted and transported to a point where it will flow, either by gravity or mechanical means, to a central gathering point to be taken out of the mine. This is an important aspect of room-and-pillar mining which differentiates the system from other open-stope mining methods which rely heavily upon gravity to transport ore from where it was broken to a lower elevation, usually through a drawpoint. There are many variations of the method which go by a number of names in local districts: breast stoping, breast-and-bench stoping, board-and-pillar, stall-and-pillar, and panel-and-pillar are all basically open-stope room-and-pillar mining. In some instances detailed stope planning is almost nonexistent; i.e., the operator simply follows the visual pay values, leaves pillars only where necessary, and tries to locate them in the zones of lower value. This method of mining is as old as the beginning of underground mining itself, dating back thousands of years. Early in the history of mining in this country, the term "gophering" was used to describe this method (Peek 1941). The term is appropriate, for it brings to mind the exact results of this type of system-a random and irregular room-and-pillar mine. In other instances where the mineral values are consistent both in physical dimensions and quality, the mine layout can be planned to the last detail, resulting in a uniform room-and-pillar mine. Coal, trona, gilsonite, potash, oil shale, salt, limestone, and sandstone mines can usually follow such a system. Today, most metal mines using a room-and-pillar operation try to mine as regular a pattern as possible but deviation in height, width, thickness, dip, and grade of the ore results in comparable deviation in the mine plan. Variations of the Room-and-pillar System It is necessary to briefly describe some of the many variations of the room-and-pillar system of mining, enabling the reader to fully explore the concepts and become familiar with the terminology used before going on to the details of mine design. Full-Face Slicing: If in the process of opening the rooms the total vertical extent of the mineral values of the particular seam or strata are extracted from the advance of one vertical face, the term used to describe this is full-face slicing. This face is also known as the "breast." There is no mineral of economic value intentionally left either in the floor or the roof (back) to be mined later. To be able to extract the full-face height in one pass, the mining equipment must obviously be designed to reach as high as the back. In an Appalachian coal mine, this may be all of 660.4 mm (26 in.); for a future oil shale property it might be 15.24 m (50 ft). Normally, however, in a majority of mines where the mining face gets over 6.09 to 6.7 m (20 to 22 ft), the tendency is to divide the face into more than one pass. Over this height, it becomes difficult to properly see and remove loose rock from the back with a hand "mining bar." Where the process of taking down loose rock has become mechanized, higher full-face mining can be safely practiced. Most eastern and midwestern coal seams and western uranium, trona, and potash seams in the United States are easily reached in a single face; many limestone, lead, and zinc mines must resort, at least in part, to "multiple-slicing" to remove all the minerals of value. Multiple Slicing (also known as multiple-pass mining): In many cases it is not practical to carry the full vertical height of the mining horizon as a full face. The face is divided into parts known as the breast, bench, and/or brow. Ideally, if the operator knows the vertical extent of the mineralized zone, he will drill and blast the first pass at the top of the zone, thereby
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