Thermal rock fragmentation - Applications in narrow-vein extraction

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 96, No. 1071, 2003

S. Poirier, J.-M. Fecteau, M. Laflamme and D. Brisebois

This paper focusses on new developments regarding thermal rock fragmentation applications. The technology consists of a strong burner powered by diesel fuel and air. The thermal reaction that is created allows for the enlargement of 125 mm to 450 mm holes by breaking the rock in a spalling effect. It has been used for over 30 years in Russian open pit mining. Following an agreement between Dynamitage T.C.G. Inc. and the owner of the technology, major improvements have been brought to this technology, allowing for the fabrication of a prototype suitable for the Canadian industry. In Russia and the Ukraine, thermal rock fragmentation is actually used to drill large diameter holes in surface mining. Upon having acquired a better knowledge of this technology, it seems that it presents a great potential for selective mining in narrow-vein operations, for either surface or underground mining. Rocmec International Inc., a subsidiary of Dynamitage T.C.G. Inc., and Natural Resources Canada are technical partners in the evaluation of the operational parameters and environmental aspects such as gas, heat, dust and fog emissions. Furthermore, Canada Economic Development is a financial partner in this project. This paper presents the technology and its history. It also reports on the changes brought to the equipment to adapt it to North American environments. A summary of the tests carried out since 1995 is provided, along with the main conclusions obtained. The anticipated applications for the use of this technology in both surface and underground environments are described such as open pit mining, bulk sampling and narrow-vein ore extraction. An estimate showing a comparison between the thermal fragmentation mining concept and the long-hole mining method is presented and, finally, the future developments planned are listed.
Keywords: Thermal rock fragmentation, Rock breaking, Open pit mining, Drilling, Bulk sampling, Narrow-vein extraction.