Preparation and Placement of Hydraulic Cemented Tailings Fill

Wayment, William R. ; Cusitar, Wayne S.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 21
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
INTRODUCTION The process of mining removes valuable and eco¬nomically recoverable minerals from the earth. In the case of hard-rock mining, this process involves breaking and removing ore, while leaving the waste rock or host rock as intact as possible. Prior to mining, ground stresses exist in the ore and the host rock as a result of weight and tectonic forces; for the purposes of this chapter, the ore is considered to support the host rock on both the hanging and footwall sides. Two basic phenomena accompany mining. First, the hanging walls and footwalls tend to move together as the ore is removed. Second, high stress gradients de¬velop in the rock periphery of the opening; the magni¬tudes of the stress gradients vary widely, depending upon the local geometry and conditions. At various times, mining methods have used square¬set timbers, waste-rock backfill, alluvial sand fill, and tailings backfill materials, with or without cement, to replace the loss of support caused by the removal of the ore. Cut-and-fill mining has evolved to use hydraulically placed tailings for the backfill. In the stope, this fill provides massive support to the walls, thereby reducing stresses in the back. It also provides a floor from which men and machines can work to drill and blast, to haul ore, and to scale and bolt the back. In many cases, the addition of cement provides a competent free-standing wall when the fill is exposed during mining of adjacent stopes or during pillar recovery operations. In most cases, the use of fill does not eliminate standard tem¬porary or local roof control measures such as roof bolts and wire mesh. Fill Characteristics It is important that backfill used for ground support be of maximum stiffness in relation to wall closure. The stiffness of the fill is related to its placement bulk density or void ratio. In the case of cemented tailings, this is enhanced by the cement bonds. During stope closure, individual fill particles experience rotation and crushing at point contacts, but they are subject to little relative translation. The stiffness approaches infinity as the void ratio approaches zero, until the ground forces reach equilibrium, and closure stops. The gradation of particle sizes and minimal segregation resulting from good hy¬draulic placement both contribute to a high degree of early stiffness in the closure history of classified tailings backfill. This also implies that the fill should be resistant to creeping under high static loads. All mines experience shock loading situations such as blasting, and many mines experience rock bursts that can apply sudden and very high loads to the fill. Certain conditions of void ratio, particle size, and moisture con¬tent can result in mass fluidization of unconsolidated fill during such shock loading. Two key factors in avoid¬ing fluid behavior are the provision of a well-drained fill through desliming or classification and the achievement of a small degree of consolidation through the addition of cement in ratios as lean as 40 to 1 (2.4% cement). The acceptance of classified mill tailings as backfill material has been enhanced by its relative economy, including its source, preparation, delivery, and stope distribution. Transportation from the backfill prepara¬tion plant on the surface into the stope usually can be accomplished with low power consumption, with low labor costs, with few capital costs, and at high tonnage rates. An additional benefit is a reduction of the storage volume required for surface disposal of the tailings stream, with a resultant improvement in the environ¬ment. The costs of placing cemented tailings backfill generally range from $1.65 to $6.61/t ($1.50 to $6.00 per st) of fill depending upon the cement ratio used. Scope This chapter examines a major backfill program at a mine and mill complex where the backfill facilities are included as a part of the original planning. The backfill preparation plant is intended to make maximum use of remote controls and automation. The logistics asso¬ciated with material storage, handling, and metering in the plant are outlined. Important considerations in specifying equipment for typical service conditions are discussed. The fill delivery system is described, includ¬ing the boreholes, level lines, and stope distribution lines. Stope preparations for fill confinement and drain¬age are described, as are the techniques of placement and distribution. Methods of controlling and directing the flow of drainage water and slimes are presented, along with the facilities and equipment for clarification, pumping, and sludge removal. As shown in Fig. 1, the fill program encompasses most aspects of the mining and refining facilities, so the discussion is brief in each area. The preparation of backfill of a uniform and con¬trollable quality is presented here as a material handling problem. The balance of the presentation concentrates on the logic of the system, the costs where meaningful (in 1977 US $ unless otherwise specified), and some operating "tricks" that have contributed to system per¬formance and reliability. SURFACE PREPARATION PLANT A backfill preparation plant is required on the surface. This plant generates suitable fill material from the stream of mill tailings. Among the functions of the plant are: 1) Slimes are removed to improve the percolation characteristics of the fill; typically, particles finer than 325 mesh are removed from the tailings. 2) Tailings and sand storages are provided so that the steady stream of tailings produced by the mill can be accepted. Provision is made to accommodate the cyclic high-volume demand from the mine. 3) The plant stores the cement and contains meter¬ing and mixing facilities to provide fill of a controllable and uniform quality. 4) The hydraulic backfill delivery system is a part
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