SubLevel Stoping - Introduction to Sublevel Stoping

Mann, C. D.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 2
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
INTRODUCTION The sublevel stoping mining method is usually applied to a relatively steeply dipping, competent ore body, surrounded by competent wall rock. Ore is produced by drilling and blasting longholes, which can range from 50 mm (2 in.) to 200 mm (7% in.) diam, with lengths up to 90 m (300 ft). Longholes can be inclined in any direction, but the ring or pattern usually forms a plane, and the holes are blasted as a unit. Recently developed mobile drilling and loading machinery, as well as new explosives products, blasting techniques, and cemented sand and rock fill have made sublevel stoping a highly efficient and versatile mining method. When designing a sublevel stoping production sys- tem, it should be kept in mind that production rates from conventional sublevel stopes vary widely through- out the life of the stope. Early production is at a low rate, coming only from the drawpoints near the slot, but increases as new drawpoints are reached by the stope face. As the stope nears completion, again, fewer drawpoints are productive. Enough drawpoints must be available at any time to provide required production. Drawpoint availability should be compared to equipment availability; plan for more drawpoints than are needed at any one time. Accurate, realistic scheduling is essential to smooth production rates. Also, initial recovery of ore in a stope/pillar block is normally from 35% to 50% in sublevel stoping. Planning of pillar recovery, representing the majority of ore tonnage in a production block, must be done during early mine planning. Since much of the development already done for primary stoping (access for drilling, drawpoints, and haulageways), can be used for pillar recovery, early production from pillars is highly desirable. The following description of components of the system is an attempt to highlight some of the most important features and requirements of mechanized sublevel stoping methods. Similar comments would apply to the use of older equipment (column-and-arm drill setups, slushers, etc.) in similar methods. As in any good mining system, maximum economic recovery of the resource in the ground is the primary consideration. STOPE DESIGN CHARACTERISTICS Length and Width The following are some of the factors which affect sublevel open stope length and width dimensions: ore body geometry, principal stress directions, competence of stope back, optimum drill pattern, and drilling drift layout. In new mines initial stope layout design may occur before the ore body is actually intersected by mine workings. Stope dimensioning is a critical decision, and assistance from as many knowledgeable people as possible at this stage is essential. Operators with past experience in similar ore bodies, rock mechanics experts, and others with mine design experience should participate at this stage of stope planning. Height The following are some of the factors which must be considered in determining stope height: competence of stope pillar and stope/fill walls; slenderness ratio of adjacent pillars; ore body dip; ore body thickness; hole depth capability of the drilling machine; fragmentation characteristics of the ore; and level intervals in existing mines. In competent ground, drill-hole length and accuracy are the most important determinants of stoping height. Frequently entire drilling sublevels can be eliminated because of the depth capability of sophisticated drilling equipment, resulting in significant development cost savings. Drawpoint Location and Design Some of the most important considerations of a good drawpoint system are optimum spacing of draw- points, within the constraints of stope dimensions, for uniform drawdown and maximum recovery; excavations designed for stability for the life of the ore block to be drawn-primary stope ore as well as subsequent pillar ore; floor or roadway design including type of surface, reinforcing, grade for water runoff; orientation with respect to the main haulageway, for optimum loader maneuverability and ground stability at the inter- section; and length, to allow articulated front-end loaders to work in a straight configuration. Careful drawpoint design and construction are keys to successful production. Extra care in development, such as smooth wall blasting, rockbolts or grouted rebar, wire mesh, and shotcrete usually will ensure long draw- point life. Human exposure during production loading is of longer duration than during development or production drilling, and consequently preparation of draw- points is easily justified, particularly when pillar ore can be drawn through the same drawpoints. Secondary blasting of boulders can weaken drawpoints, also justifying good ground control techniques. A smooth draw- point floor of poured, reinforced concrete, on a grade of +3% or +4% toward the ore pile facilitates water flow out of the drawpoint, and ease of loader bucket penetration into the muck pile. Slot Raising, Slotting A slot or other space for rock expansion is necessary in conventional sublevel stoping where vertical rings or rows of holes are blasted. The slot can be started at a slot raise driven by conventional raising methods, raise boring, drop raising (predrilling and blasting a raise from the top, using small diameter-less than 200-mm (7%-in.)-holes for relief), or crater blasting (similar to drop raising, but without relief holes). The slot usually extends from the extraction level to the back of the stope. It is normally expanded to full stope width by
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