Undercut-and-Fill Mining as Practiced at Magma Copper Co., Superior, AZ

Florez, Frank
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 5
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
INTRODUCTION The Magma mine, located at Superior, AZ, some 100 km (60 miles) east of Phoenix, was discovered in 1875, and was originally mined for silver. The property was acquired by W. B. Thompson who formed the Magma Copper Co. in 1910. Prior to 1965, square-set mining and cut-and-fill methods were used to mine steeply dipping veins at Magma. Ore was moved to the chute by gravity in the square-set stopes and by slusher in the cut-and-fill stopes. The stopes were gobbed with waste from the surface and development headings in the mine. The original square-set method of mining was modi¬fied in order to extract replacement ore bodies in limestones that dipped at 0.52 rad (30°) and varied in thick¬ness from 4.6 to 38 m (15 to 125 ft). Mining of these ore bodies was done by starting at the upper lateral ex¬tremities and retreating to the access openings. The timber square sets and cribbing were used as temporary support, the ground being allowed to cave as the mining retreated. It was found, however, that mining in such a manner was very inefficient; safety hazards increased be¬cause of the blocky and fractured characteristics of the ore and the weakness of the hanging wall. GENERAL DESCRIPTION The undercut-and-fill method of mining is now the primary stoping method used at Magma, and no pillars are left for later extraction. Four ore bodies are pres¬ently being mined. These ore bodies (see Fig. 1) dip conformably at 0.52 rad (30°) to the east with the host limestone and shale sediments, their average strike length is about 122 m (400 ft), and their thickness varies from 9 to 38 m (30 to 125 ft). The ore bodies are separated by varying thicknesses of barren rock. Three of them come together at various elevations primarily in the area of the main feeder fault, but there is an apparent horizontal displacement of about 23 m (75 ft) on the main feeder fault which complicates stope layout. The method as originally applied has been modified in order to mine more efficiently ore bodies that are 9 m (30 ft) or more in thickness. The modification was made to mine all the ore at a given elevation before dropping down for the cut below. The advantage of this is that mining is done on a horizontal plane and there¬fore muck removal can be mechanized. Also multiple faces are made available, thereby improving overall min¬ing efficiency. Another major change made was to carry a 6.7-m (22-ft) face when mining the top sill and a 6.4-m (21-ft) face when mining under fill rather than the former standard 3.35-m (11-ft) high face. This change lengthens the mining cycle and cuts mat prepa¬ration costs in half. Stopes are laid out (see Fig. 2) so that maximum mining panels are available and yet one stope crew will not tie up too much of the ore reserve. One stope might consist of as many as 20 panels, and these panels are divided evenly on opposite sides of the extraction cross¬cut. The stope layout is planned so that the maximum tramming distance to the orepass will not exceed 30.5 m (100 ft) on the crosscut and 38 m (125 ft) in the panel. Stope panel distances are sometimes exceeded when min¬ing to the extremity of the ore body. Tramming distance limits are determined by the efficiency of the com
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