Overview - Mining at Depth

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 97, No. 1080, 2004

Many underground mines are achieving extended life and optimizing existing facilities by mining at greater depths. The challenges to do this require a sound engineering approach to mine design and mine services, as well as ingenuity in safety design. The social consequence is full utilization of existing infrastructure. Accessing ores at depths of 2000 m to 3000 m requires exceptional hoisting design. May’s theme issue includes a paper that examines a case study of one such hoisting plant, with emphasis on the hoist rope selection at Agnico-Eagle’s Penna shaft. The paper also describes the process whereby consultation with provincial safety authorities resulted in a revised safety factor suited to the hoist. Another paper examines the challenges of ventilating mechanized mines to 3000 m, including air cooling and dilution of diesel exhaust emissions. Vent system designs are discussed, using sound engineering design, and proven technology that minimizes emissions to achieve cost efficiencies. The paper suggests design based on process and ventilation simulators to obtain realistic economic data at the design stage. Increased ground pressures present unique challenges for production and safety. While this is not confined to deep mining, one paper examines rock pressures and seismic events at the Brunswick mine, for which experience may be applied at depth. It describes seismic monitoring as a predictive tool in a real mine situation, and how it is used to improve overall recoveries and maintain worker safety. Automation is a key component to addressing productivity and improving economic performance. Another paper examines technological progress at different operations. Successful implementation requires operator acceptance as well as organizational redesign. Deep mines may accelerate automation through focussing on minimizing human presence, with the vision of a man-less underground mine in the near future. Mining at depth will be a growing focus in Canada as operations extend further below the surface. Through technological innovations, mines will conquor the challenges of going deeper.
Keywords: Mining at depth