Changing the Flowsheet: Towards Continuous Underground Mining


Michael MacFarlane (MDM Mining Consulting)

Underground mining last underwent a major transformation in the 1940s and 50s with the introduction of mechanized equipment. New technologies, mining methods and work practices were developed that resulting in new mining flow sheets that drove significant commercial value. Over the last 50 years mines have pushed deeper and mines designs, work practices and flow sheets have had to adapt. This continuous adaptation has introduced significant complexity to the industry but more importantly cost without offsetting increases in revenue. Many underground operations are now in and out of profitability and require a high metal price cycle to generate sufficient returns to encourage reinvestment. There is strong evidence that the underground hard rock mining industry is contracting into a high grade core of mines resulting in a contraction of the underground mining industry. The softrock industry move to a continuous mining operations several years ago and this resulting in new mining flow sheets and step change in profitability. It is now time for the hardrock industry to follow in their footsteps. This paper will proposed a roadmap to transform the underground hardrock mining industry from a drill and blast batch operation to a continuous operation.
Keywords: transformation, continuous, CMIC, adaptation, underground mining, innovation, roadmap