Considerations for Sublevel Open Stoping

Lawrence, Brain W.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 11
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
Sublevel stoping generally is a large-scale open stoping method. It sometimes is referred to as long-hole or blasthole stoping. This method usually is applied to strong ore bodies that require minimal support and are surrounded by strong country rock. The ore body should be fairly regular in shape and well-defined. The dip of the footwall normally should be sufficient to allow broken ore to gravitate freely, although the method has been adapted successfully to mine some of the flatter ore bodies. Sublevel stoping is not dependent on the width of the ore body. Widths of less than 6 m (20 ft), however, make the utilization of long-hole drilling techniques more difficult. The main criteria for sublevel open stoping are competent ore and stable host rock, regular ore boundaries, and a footwall dip that exceeds the angle of repose of broken ore. Basically, the method entails providing access to the ore body at various subintervals between the main haul- age levels in order to drill and blast the intervening ore. Stope drilling is carried out from drilling drifts on the sublevels, and the ore is blasted in slices towards an open face, which generally is vertical on the downholes and may be inclined towards the open face for the up holes. The blasted ore gravitates to the bottom of the stope and is collqcted through drawpoints. Fig. 1 illustrates a typical sublevel stoping mine. The method requires extensive ore body development with relatively high capital expenditures. How- ever, much of the development is in ore, and production costs are comparatively low. Productivity rates are in the 13.6 to 27.2 t (15 to 30 st)/manshift range. The drilling, blasting, and loading operations are performed independently, and equipment utilization is high. Large outputs can be obtained with few units and limited personnel. Dilution with waste rock may occur if ore boundaries are irregular or if caving occurs, but 100% of the ore within the stope usually is recovered. Pillar recovery sometimes is a problem. It is at this point that most of the waste dilution occurs. At the time data was gathered for this report (1973), the sublevel open stoping method was used by more than 21% of the metallic ore mines in the US (9 out of 42 mines producing 1088 + t/day (1200 + stpd) and provided more than 12% of the total metallic ore production from these mines. DEVELOPMENT Access to a sublevel open stope mine is gained by a slope or shaft that is normally sunk in the footwall of the ore zone, away from any possible effects from blasting or other production operations in the stoping process. Main level interval is selected and usually varies from 45.7 to 121.9 m (150 to 400 ft), depending on the vertical extent of the ore body, the number of drawpoints required to maintain output, and the eventual stope height. The main haulage drifts are located at the bottom of the stope horizon, either directly in ore or in the footwall, with access crosscuts at intervals. Raises are driven up through the ore to connect to the level above and provide access and ventilation to the sublevel drilling drifts, which are driven horizontally in the ore for the length of the stope. Depending on the drawpoint system to be used, the stope is either undercut by a raise-and-cone system, from a scram or slusher drift, or simply provided with a drilling drift from which access is made at intervals to the main haulage level. A raise driven either at the end or in the middle of the stope (if stope access is from both ends) provides a start for opening up a vertical slot across the stope to establish a free or open face for long-hole drilling and blasting. Sublevel stoping has proved to be a relatively safe and economical system.
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