Adaptation of Surface Mining Machines to Underground Mining

Haley, W. A.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 3
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
The use of diesel engines in underground hard-rock mines dates back to the late 1940s. For the first several years, they were used only occasionally, being limited to a few metal mines that experimented with crawler¬mounted front-end loaders, tractor-trailer hauling units, a few tractors for drill-compressor mounts, and utility cleanup machines. By the mid-1950s, track loaders had become commonplace in limestone mines and uranium mines on the Colorado Plateau in the United States, as well as in Canada. Use of crawler-mounted tractors as drill and compressor mounts also increased. By the end of the 1950s, rubber-tired loaders and some haulers began to replace the track-type machines and rail-mounted cars that had been in use. About 1960, the rubber-tired machines brought about a new era of underground mining mobility and flexibility, centered on a method commonly known as "trackless mining." Ultimately, many of the underground rail-type systems for loading and hauling were replaced by the trackless mining technique. ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS The size and nature of mineral deposits, plus ground control techniques, historically had dictated small open¬ings to the surface from many underground mines. The small mine openings led to the development of special rubber-tired loaders and haulers designed specifically for access through the small openings. However, some mines, particularly those in massive mineral deposits, are able to excavate and maintain very large openings, and some use modified room-and-pillar systems. With the large mine openings, the use of larger, more produc¬tive equipment such as that commonly found in surface mining becomes economical. In fact, productivity gen¬erally increases at a more pronounced rate than machine size increases because many of the larger machines were designed for heavy-duty shot-rock applications in surface mines and construction sites where the handling of blasted rock is common. Table 1 can be used as a very Table 1. General Productivity Comparison for Conventional Machines In Underground Use (Shot-Rock Conditions) 2.3 m3 (3 cu yd) 4.6 m3 (6 cu yd) Loader Loader Expected Surface 230 t/h 540 t/h Production (250 stph) (600 stph) Expected Underground 90 t/h 270 t/h Production (100 stph) (300 stph) Expected Total Efficiency: Surface 40%-60% 50%75% Underground 25%.-40% 30%50% Expected Useful Machine 8000 hr 12,000 hr Life Before Replacement general comparison of the production and efficiency between small and large machines. Combining greater productivity often inherent in larger machines, with reduced downtime resulting from using fully developed machines with fast parts and service backup, some mine operators have been able to reduce material handling costs appreciably while reduc¬ing manpower requirements for operators and main¬tenance men. Large mine openings increase the amount of rock that must be handled in the development work, and they sometimes increase the dilution in stopes or rooms, de¬pending upon the dimensions of the ore zone. Providing adequate space for the unrestricted operation of large surface mining machines could, therefore, lead to more waste segregation and handling costs. It could also cause greater ore dilution that would result in a lower grade of ore being delivered to the processing plant. The tradeoffs between opposing cost factors must be reconciled and balanced to achieve the best overall cost of the crude ore, concentrates, or product. EQUIPMENT MODIFICATIONS Loaders and haulers designed for surface mining are seldom used underground in their standard con¬figurations without some modifications. If done, the modifications generally are made by the equipment dealer and/or the user, and the modifications usually include one or more of the following items: 1) The exhaust stack is lowered, and its direction is changed. Usually, it is repositioned horizontally to the rear, or it is fed into the engine fan to diffuse the exhaust gases. 2) The operator's position is lowered by either lowering the seat or changing the seat to a side mount. 3) The operator controls are adjusted to fit the new operator position. 4) Other components, such as the radiator and loader tower, are lowered. 5) Special bumper guards are mounted at the base of the radiator area. 6) An exhaust conditioner is mounted and con¬nected, using either a catalytic or a water-type condi¬tioner, or both. This usually is controlled by the safety and health regulatory authority having jurisdiction. 7) The positions of other components are rearranged
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