Economic and environmental comparison: borehole mining versus conventional mining of phosphate
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Jan 1, 1987
The feasibility of mining deep phosphate deposits by a borehole mining system was compared with mining by proven conventional techniques. An economic comparison of the borehole mining system with conventional dragline and bucket wheel excavator mining systems was completed at various mining depths and production rates. Hypothetical phosphate deposits, with various overburden thicknesses and reserve tonnages, were defined. Geologic conditions necessary for the application of the borehole system were identified. Discounted cash flow analyses based on derived capital and operating costs were used to generate rates of return and product prices. Borehole mining was found to be more economical where overburden thickness was 46 m (150 ft) or greater. However, at 15- and 30-m (50- and 100-ft) thicknesses, conventional surface mining was more economical. Overburden thickness has a great effect on the economic feasibility of the conventional mining systems but less effect on the economics of borehole mining. Economies of scale are only realized in conventional mining, since larger equipment is used to achieve greater production, whereas increased production from borehole mining is achieved using additional equipment units. A comparison of the environmental effects of borehole and conventional surface mining systems showed that borehole mining is environmentally more desirable.