Contribution to Discussion

Davis, D. Savile
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 26
Publication Date: Unavailable
D. Savile Davis* (Member): The members of the Chamber of Mines Research Laboratories, headed by Dr Cook, indeed deserve all the plaudits that have been given for the original conception of the rock-cutter, and for the research work that has gone into designing the equipment now being tested. Underground trials with the rock-cutting machines at the Doornfontein Gold Mining Company Limited have been encouraging to the extent that 29 square fathoms of rock have been cut in the past three months with two modified prototype machines. Both the hangingwalI condition of the stope and the control of stoping width have been excellent. So far, however, the rate of production has been too slow and does not compare with conventional stoping methods, due firstly to the time-consuming operation of moving the machine forward and resetting it in its next cutting section and secondly to mechanical defects. Although great strides have been made in improving the tungsten carbide cutting tool, further progress is dependent upon engineering development in the design of a more reliable and versatile machine within economic limits. Commenting briefly on the experiments that have been carried out on the Gold Fields mines, the rock-cutter, when used at the Luipaards Vlei mine, some 600 ft below surface, cut very nearly perfect slots above and below the reef on a stope face but was unable to cut slots in the reef itself. At the Doornfontein mine, however, where the tests are currently being carried out at a depth of 8,000 ft below surface and where there is a much greater pressure acting on the rock face, vertical fracture planes can be clearly seen in the hangingwall running parallel to the face. Owing to the presence of these fracture planes it has been found impossible to cut slots of any depth and the action of the machine is more one of spalling than of cutting, resulting in slabs of combined reef and waste falling from the face as the cutting tool advances. This is accentuated by the existence of a well-defined hangingwall parting plane. Most of the slabbing takes place from the slot cut below the reef to the hangingwalI of the stope. Since waste sorting in narrow conditions and poor lighting is not an efficient operation, the reef together with a proportion of waste rock, has to be removed from the stope. The ripping action of the machine as opposed to slot cutting under these particular conditions may not be a great disadvantage, as the volume of waste which can be packed depends on the ratio of reef width to stope width and with a narrow reef body some waste has to be removed to the surface. In these circumstances mining at depth with this type of machine should not be viewed as selective mining but more correctly mining without explosives. Another type of rock-cutter is being tested by the Gold Fields Group, consisting of a diamond studded rotating disc, which has, to date, cut slots 10 ft in length and averaging 7 1/2 in. in depth. It is, however, too early to comment on the practicability and economics of such a cutter. The great interest that is at present being shown in breaking rock without the use of explosives warrants comment on the Robins raise-borer, recently introduced into South Africa, and used for the first time with great success at the Doornfontein mine.
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