Vertical Crater Retreat: an Important New Mining Method

Lang, L. C.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
INTRODUCTION The introduction of 165-mm (61/z-in.) holes to underground mining operations has made possible the application of Canadian Industries Ltd's (CIL) vertical crater retreat (VCR) mining method, illustrated in the accompanying sketches. This unique and revolutionary new application of spherical charge technology (see the Appendix), when applied to primary stopes and pillar recovery, eliminates raise boring, slot cutting, and dilu¬tion of ore by backfill; greatly improves fragmentation; reduces labor and time requirements; eliminates uphole drilling and blasting; and minimizes or completely elimi¬nates damages by blasts to the walls and retreating backs of the stope or pillar. If vertical large diameter holes are drilled on a designed pattern from a cut over a stope or pillar to bottom in the back of the undercut, and spherical charges of explosives are placed within these holes at the calculated optimum distance from the back of the undercut and detonated, a vertical thickness of ore will be blasted downwards into the previously mined area. Repeating this loading and blasting procedure, min¬ing of the stope or pillar retreats in the form of horizontal slices in a vertical upwards direction until the top sill is blasted and the mining of a stope or pillar is completed. The VCR method is also applicable to drop raises and has the potential to replace all other raising methods under most circumstances. PILLAR RECOVERY Levack Mine Inco Metals Co., Ontario Div., provided the first opportunity for the method in pillar recovery. The Levack mine's high grade ore pillar No. 4800 on the 975-m (3200-ft) level was used for the production¬scale experiment (Figs. 1 to 3). The pillar was about 49 m (160 ft) long, 6 m (20 ft) wide, and 20 to 26 m (65 to 85 ft) high. The mined area on both sides of the pillar was backfilled with a 1:30 cement:sand mixture. The pillar was removed in two phases. In phase 1, the standard uphole method was used to blast down the 18-m (60-ft) long section of waste from the bottom of the ore into the undercut. From the pillar's top sill, 165-mm (61/a-in.) holes were drilled downward into the pillar, and by measuring the depth of the holes, the results of the uphole blast were determined and roof line 1 was established. The bottom of each hole was plugged, then filled with sand to place the center of gravity of each spherical charge (loaded from the top sill) at a predetermined optimum distance from the horizontal free surface. The charges were then detonated. After detonation, both draw drifts were full of extremely well-broken material. The depth of each hole was measured again, and the plot of these depths re¬sulted in roof line 2. The same blasting procedure was repeated and the resultant new back elevation was marked by roof line 3. The poor results of the initial uphole blast at one location (notice the peak in area 1) appeared to influ¬ence the subsequent new backs. A third blast success¬fully evened the back, and resulted in roof line 4. An unblasted slab averaging 6.3 m (20.9 ft) thick remained below the pillar's top elevation as the final sill. In all three spherical charge blasts fragmentation of the blasted material was extremely fine. The backfill was fully exposed on both sides of the now-blasted pillar. The backfill remained undamaged and the ore was not diluted by sand. The remnants of all the 165-mm (61/2 -in.) holes remained clean and undamaged, and the holes had well-defined bottoms that could be easily measured and plugged. Each blast took down a 3.9 to 4.2-m (13 to 14-ft) thick horizontal slab of ore. Productivity was three times greater than that of the previously practiced cut-and-fill method. Since this was the first such experiment, blasting the remaining 6-m (20-ft) thick final slab was the sub¬ject of some deliberation. If the described method was repeated, we could have ended up with a 1.8-m (6-ft) thick sill unsafe to work on. It was therefore decided to blast the whole sill using two spherical charges prop¬erly placed in each hole, but with the application of
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