Sublevel Caving at the Stobie Mine, lnco Metals Co.

Johnston, G. W.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 5
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
INTRODUCTION For many years mining at the Stobie mine of the Inco Metals Co. consisted mainly of fill-type mining for higher grade ores and block caving or blasthole open stope mining for lower grade ores. Open stope mining, although quite favorable in the initial stoping phase, has always presented problems in the pillar recovery phase, especially at depth. In 1966, sublevel caving was introduced. This method is ideally suited for low-grade ore and can be applied very successfully to intermediate or higher grade ores providing proper controls are enforced. Sublevel caving has three distinct advantages: it is highly adaptable to mechanization; it recovers the ore in one operation; and it provides adequate ground sup¬port and safety regardless of mining depth. This method does, however, make extra demands, particularly for new types of supporting services. The constant presence of rock makes quality control of the grade of the ore being extracted essential. Increased de¬velopment, different types of ventilation, roadways, and maintenance are only a few of the many changes re¬quired. The care and maintenance of the fleets of diesel equipment and the modification of equipment is a con¬stant challenge. CHOICE OF SUBLEVEL CAVING The question arises, why mine by sublevel caving? Fig. 1 shows a typical problem encountered by the open stope or blasthole mining method. Near the surface there is little or no ground support problem. As mining progresses to an intermediate depth, however, ground failure starts to occur in the supporting pillars. If open mining is carried beyond this point, the critical depth is soon reached, accompanied by hanging wall caving, ex¬tensive pillar failure, and the danger of losing control of the mining cycle. The rock caved from the hanging wall mixes with and dilutes the ore being extracted from the blasthole stopes. Ore losses occur when pillar failure pre¬vents drilling and development of part of the ore. The interruption to the mining cycle causes serious curtail¬ment in production until ground failure is controlled and the mining method changed to adapt to the new conditions. Having recognized the limitations of open stope min¬ing, alternatives were sought. The first alternative (Fig. 2) was to fill the open stopes with sand fill be¬fore extensive pillar deterioration occurred, recover the pillar ore by fill mining, and then convert to total fill mining below. If the ore grade is high enough it can support the costly fill method. Recovery will be at a much slower rate and will therefore extend over a longer period of time. On the other hand, sublevel caving gives complete primary mining recovery in a short time and is very adaptable to mechanization, which is now a necessity to combat spiralling labor costs and give greater produc¬tivity per man. Sublevel caving is ideally suited as a mining method for low-grade ore bodies which eventually reach a criti¬cal depth for open stope mining. DEVELOPMENT The development phase comes first and of course its main purpose is to gain access to the ore and provide a route for ore removal from the mine. Initially a 20% inclined service ramp is driven in the footwall rock (Figs. 3, 4, and 5). It is preferable to start at the top of a mining block and drive the ramp down¬ grade so gravity can assist in mucking the blasted de¬velopment round, and also access can be gained more quickly to the initial production area. The ramp nor¬mally turns at 3.1 rad (180°) about every 152.4 m (500 ft) to keep it reasonably close to the rock disposal
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