Cut-and-Fill at Mount Isa Mines Ltd.

Hornsby, B.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 8
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
At the Mount Isa mine, Mount Isa, Qld., Australia, sublevel open-stope mining is used for copper ore while both sublevel open-stope and cut-and-fill methods are used for the silver-lead-zinc ores. Production in 1979¬80 was 4 730 000 t (5,200,000 st) copper ore and 2 590 000 t (2,850,000 st) of lead ore. The deepest mine level currently is 960 m below the surface. GENERAL ORE BODY REQUIREMENTS AND LIMITATIONS Size, Shape, and Dip The mine is located in the valley of the Leichhardt River in Lower Proterozoic sediments of the Mount Isa group. The regional strike of the sediments is north¬south and they have a persistent westerly dip of about 1.1 rad (65°). In the mine area, the Mount Isa group comprises a sequence of alternating bands of dolomitic shales and siltstones some 3.2 km (2 miles) in width. It is bounded on the east by greenstones and quartzose sediments of the Eastern Creek volcanics, and on the west by the Mount Isa fault, west of which occur schists and other metamorphic rocks. The ore bodies as currently known at Mount Isa are restricted to the Urquhart shale, a formation of thinly bedded pyritic, dolomitic, and volcanic shales some 1070 m (3500 ft) thick. Towards the top of the Mount Isa group sediments, copper and silver-lead-zinc ore bod¬ies occur as contiguous but discrete entities and are mined and treated separately (see Figs. I and 2). Argentiferous galena, sphalerite, pyrite, and minor associated sulfides occur in distinct concordant bands throughout the Urquhart shales. Wherever these bands are grouped together in sufficient density they constitute silver-lead-zinc ore bodies with widths varying up to 36.6 m (120 ft). Other mineralized bands are common in intervening beds. Individual ore bodies persist for many hundreds of meters concordant with the strike and dip of the enclosing shales. Intersections of these beds with fold axes provide local zones of enrichment but otherwise the mineral content of the ore bodies varies only slightly throughout the extent of the dip and strike. Chalcopyrite is the only important primary copper mineral. It occurs in association with pyrite and pyrrhotite as disseminated flocks and as vein fillings throughout irregularly shaped zones of folded, brecciated, and re¬crystallized Urquhart shale. These zones, which are lo¬cally termed "silica-dolomite" bodies, are broadly transgressive to the shale bedding and confine all significant copper mineralization to the virtual exclusion of silver¬lead-zinc mineralization. In some areas, the downward percolation of acidic water through faults and shears has caused extensive leaching of the coarse-grained carbon¬ates to depths in excess of 610 m (2000 ft), but most of the silica-dolomite remains unleached and the ground is competent. The majority of lead ore being mined is north of the main shaft pillar (R62, U62) area. The major lead¬producing areas for many years have been the Black Star ore bodies (2 and 5 ore bodies) and the Racecourse ore
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