Assessment Of Radiation Properties Of Hydraulic Backfills For Underground Uranium Mines

Nantel, Jacques H. ; Archibald, James F.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 8
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1981
INTRODUCTION The use of backfill materials in underground mines has been practiced for many years and the trend indicates an increased utilization of backfill materials in the future. The authors believe that underground uranium mines will follow this trend. Classified mill tailings, approximately 65 to 70 percent solids by weight, are the most common fill materials. Cement or other pozzolanic agents can be added to the fill materials to improve their strength characteristics. Dry fill, in the form of development muck, can also be introduced in the stopes to fill the voids left by the action of mining the ore. This paper deals mainly with the assessment of the radiation properties of backfill materials originating from uranium ores processed in the milling facilities of uranium mines. The paper outlines the results of studies conducted in the laboratory and in the field on radon emanating characteristics of backfill materials utilized in uranium mines. ROLE OF BACKFILL IN UNDERGROUND MINES Fill is a structural component of any underground mining system. In general terms, the purpose of filling is to provide ground support, to make recovery of pillars possible to provide a working platform for men and equipment, and to allow for waste disposal. There are other inherent advantages to the use of backfill underground, the most important being to: a) permit mining at greater depth b) allow the adoption of highly mechanized mining techniques c) reduce dilution from wall sloughing d) minimize roof and wall failures e) allow the mining of irregular orebodies, and f) to provide better control of ventilation. The last item is of great importance to uranium mine operators. The introduction of radioactive backfill underground represents an additional source of radioactive contamination; on the other hand the introduction of backfill in the mine reduces the volumes of workings to be ventilated. As a consequence the general mine ventilation is more effective and in most cases, better air quality can be maintained in the mine. There are of course some disadvantages associated with the use of hydraulic fills in underground mines, notably: a) the handling of large additional quantities of water from the underground workings b) delays caused by the cyclical nature of the backfilling operations c) additional costs associated with stope preparation and placement of backfill in stopes, and d) "spills" caused by bursting pipes or fill escaping from fill retaining structures. ASSESSMENT OF NON-RADIOACTIVE PROPERTIES Although the radioactive properties of mine backfills are discussed in this paper many other physical and chemical properties of backfills must also be considered. These properties include: a) percolation rate and permeability parameters b) viscosity versus pulp density relationships c) size analyses d) settling times e) settled bulk density f) solids specific gravity g) void ratio and porosity h) optimal percentage solids by weight i) specific gravity of slurry j) addition of cement:cement retention and loss k) unconfined compressive strength 1) triaxial compressive strength m) shear strength (non-cemented)
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