Underground hard rock mining refers to various underground mining techniques used to excavate hard minerals, usually those containing metalssuch as ore containing gold, silver, iron, copper, zinc, nickel, tin and lead, but also involves using the same techniques for excavating ores of gems such as diamonds or rubies. Soft rock mining refers to excavation of softer minerals such as salt, coal, or oil sands.
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, usually from an ore body, lode, vein, seam, reef or placer deposit. These deposits form a mineralized package that is of economic interest to the miner.
A mineral is, broadly speaking, a solid chemical compound that occurs naturally in pure form. A rock may consist of a single mineral, or may be an aggregate of two or more different minerals, spacially segregated into distinct phases. Compounds that occur only in living beings are usually excluded, but some minerals are often biogenic and/or are organic compounds in the sense of chemistry. Moreover, living beings often synthesize inorganic minerals that also occur in rocks.
A metal is a material that, when freshly prepared, polished, or fractured, shows a lustrous appearance, and conducts electricity and heat relatively well. Metals are typically malleable or ductile. A metal may be a chemical element such as iron, or an alloy such as stainless steel.
Accessing underground ore can be achieved via a decline (ramp), inclined vertical shaft or adit.
An ore is an occurrence of rock or sediment that contains sufficient minerals with economically important elements, typically metals, that can be economically extracted from the deposit. The ores are extracted from the earth through mining; they are then refined to extract the valuable element, or elements.
Shaft mining or shaft sinking is excavating a vertical or near-vertical tunnel from the top down, where there is initially no access to the bottom.
An adit is an entrance to an underground mine which is horizontal or nearly horizontal, by which the mine can be entered, drained of water, ventilated, and minerals extracted at the lowest convenient level. Adits are also used to explore for mineral veins.
A box cut is a small open cut built to supply a secure and safe entrance as access to a slope to an underground mine. Generally the box cut is sunk until sufficiently unweathered rock is found to permit the development of the decline. The portal is generally made safe with rock bolts, wire mesh, and shotcrete, which prevents accidental rock falls from closing access to the decline.
In mining, overburden is the material that lies above an area that lends itself to economical exploitation, such as the rock, soil, and ecosystem that lies above a coal seam or ore body. Overburden is distinct from tailings, the material that remains after economically valuable components have been extracted from the generally finely milled ore. Overburden is removed during surface mining, but is typically not contaminated with toxic components. Overburden may also be used to restore an exhausted mining site to a semblance of its appearance before mining began.
In geology, bedrock is the lithified rock that lies under a loose softer material called regolith at the surface of the Earth or other terrestrial planets. The broken and weathered regolith includes soil and subsoil. The surface of the bedrock beneath the soil cover is known as rockhead in engineering geology, and its identification by digging, drilling or geophysical methods is an important task in most civil engineering projects. Superficial deposits can be extremely thick, such that the bedrock lies hundreds of meters below the surface.
Declines are often started from the side of the high wall of an open cut mine when the ore body is of a payable grade sufficient to support an underground mining operation, but the strip ratio has become too great to support open cast extraction methods. They are also often built and maintained as an emergency safety access from the underground workings and a means of moving large equipment to the workings.
Levels are excavated horizontally off the decline or shaft to access the ore body. Stopes are then excavated perpendicular (or near perpendicular) to the level into the ore.
There are two principal phases of underground mining: development mining and production mining.
Development mining is composed of excavation almost entirely in (non-valuable) waste rock in order to gain access to the orebody. There are six steps in development mining: remove previously blasted material (muck out round), scaling (removing any unstable slabs of rock hanging from the roof and sidewalls to protect workers and equipment from damage), installing support or/and reinforcement using shotcrete etceteras, drill face rock, load explosives, and blast explosives. To start the mining, the first step is to make the path to go down. The path is defined as 'Decline' as describe above. Before the start of Decline all preplanning of Power facility, drilling arrangement, dewatering, ventilation and, muck withdrawal facilities are required.
Shotcrete, gunite or sprayed concrete is concrete or mortar conveyed through a hose and pneumatically projected at high velocity onto a surface, as a construction technique. It is typically reinforced by conventional steel rods, steel mesh, or fibers.
Production mining is further broken down into two methods, long hole and short hole. Short hole mining is similar to development mining, except that it occurs in ore. There are several different methods of long hole mining. Typically, long hole mining requires two excavations within the ore at different elevations below surface, (15 m – 30 m apart). Holes are drilled between the two excavations and loaded with explosives. The holes are blasted and the ore is removed from the bottom excavation.
One of the most important aspects of underground hard rock mining is ventilation. Ventilation is the primary method of clearing hazardous gases and/or dust which are created from drilling and blasting activity (e.g., silica dust, NOx), diesel equipment (e.g., diesel particulate, carbon monoxide), or to protect against gases that are naturally emanating from the rock (e.g., radon gas). Ventilation is also used to manage underground temperatures for the workers. In deep, hot mines ventilation is used to cool the workplace; however, in very cold locations the air is heated to just above freezing before it enters the mine. Ventilation raises are typically used to transfer ventilation from surface to the workplaces, and can be modified for use as emergency escape routes. The primary sources of heat in underground hard rock mines are virgin rock temperature, machinery, auto compression, and fissure water. Other small contributing factors are human body heat and blasting.
Some means of support is required in order to maintain the stability of the openings that are excavated. This support comes in two forms; local support and area support.
Area ground support is used to prevent major ground failure. Holes are drilled into the back (ceiling) and walls and a long steel rod (or rock bolt) is installed to hold the ground together. There are three categories of rock bolt, differentiated by how they engage the host rock.They are:
Local ground support is used to prevent smaller rocks from falling from the back and ribs. Not all excavations require local ground support.
Using this method, mining is planned to extract rock from the stopes without filling the voids; this allows the wall rocks to cave in to the extracted stope after all the ore has been removed. The stope is then sealed to prevent access.
Where large bulk ore bodies are to be mined at great depth, or where leaving pillars of ore is uneconomical, the open stope is filled with backfill, which can be a cement and rock mixture, a cement and sand mixture or a cement and tailings mixture. This method is popular as the refilled stopes provide support for the adjacent stopes, allowing total extraction of economic resources.
The mining method selected is determined by the size, shape, orientation and type of orebody to be mined. The orebody can be narrow vein such as a gold mine in the Witwatersrand, the orebody can be massive similar to the Olympic Dam mine, South Australia, or Cadia-Ridgeway Mine, New South Wales. The width or size of the orebody is determined by the grade as well as the distribution of the ore. The dip of the orebody also has an influence on the mining method for example a narrow horizontal vein orebody will be mined by room and pillar or a longwall method whereas a vertical narrow vein orebody will be mined by an open stoping or cut and fill method. Further consideration is needed for the strength of the ore as well as the surrounding rock. An orebody hosted in strong self-supporting rock may be mined by an open stoping method and an orebody hosted in poor rock may need to be mined by a cut and fill method where the void is continuously filled as the ore is removed.
Orebodies that do not cave readily are sometimes preconditioned by hydraulic fracturing, blasting, or by a combination of both. Hydraulic fracturing has been applied to preconditioning strong roof rock over coal longwall panels, and to inducing caving in both coal and hard rock mines.
In mines which use rubber tired equipment for coarse ore removal, the ore (or "muck") is removed from the stope (referred to as "mucked out" or "bogged") using center articulated vehicles (referred to as boggers or LHD (Load, Haul, Dump machine)). These pieces of equipment may operate using diesel engines or electric motors, and resemble a low-profile front end loader. LHD operated through electricity utilize trailing cables which are flexible and can be extended or retracted on a reel.
The ore is then dumped into a truck to be hauled to the surface (in shallower mines). In deeper mines, the ore is dumped down an ore pass (a vertical or near vertical excavation) where it falls to a collection level. On the collection level, it may receive primary crushing via jaw or cone crusher, or via a rockbreaker. The ore is then moved by conveyor belts, trucks or occasionally trains to the shaft to be hoisted to the surface in buckets or skips and emptied into bins beneath the surface headframe for transport to the mill.
In some cases the underground primary crusher feeds an inclined conveyor belt which delivers ore via an incline shaft direct to the surface. The ore is fed down ore passes, with mining equipment accessing the ore body via a decline from surface.
Open-pit, open-cast or open cut mining is a surface mining technique of extracting rock or minerals from the earth by their removal from an open pit or borrow.
Rock mechanics is a theoretical and applied science of the mechanical behavior of rock and rock masses; compared to geology, it is that branch of mechanics concerned with the response of rock and rock masses to the force fields of their physical environment.
Drilling and blasting is the controlled use of explosives and other methods such as gas pressure blasting pyrotechnics, to break rock for excavation. It is practiced most often in mining, quarrying and civil engineering such as dam, tunnel or road construction. The result of rock blasting is often known as a rock cut.
Underground soft rock mining is a group of underground mining techniques used to extract coal, oil shale, potash and other minerals or geological materials from sedimentary ("soft") rocks. Because deposits in sedimentary rocks are commonly layered and relatively less hard, the mining methods used differ from those used to mine deposits in igneous or metamorphic rocks. Underground mining techniques also differ greatly from those of surface mining.
A raise borer is a machine used in underground mining, to excavate a circular hole between two levels of a mine without the use of explosives.
Mine exploration is a hobby in which people visit abandoned mines, quarries, and sometimes operational mines. Enthusiasts usually engage in such activities for the purpose of exploration and documentation, sometimes through the use of surveying and photography. In this respect, mine exploration might be considered a type of amateur industrial archaeology. In many ways, however, it is closer to caving, with many participants actively interested in exploring both mines and caves. Mine exploration typically requires equipment such as helmets, head lamps, Wellington boots, and climbing gear.
The Challenger mine is a gold mine in the Far North of South Australia, 165 km west of the Stuart Highway and 740 km north-west of Adelaide. It was operated by Dominion, Kingsgate and then WPG Resources. The mine is now on Care and Maintenance. The deposit was named by the geologist who discovered it, after his dog.
In-situ leaching (ISL), also called in-situ recovery (ISR) or solution mining, is a mining process used to recover minerals such as copper and uranium through boreholes drilled into a deposit, in situ. In situ leach works by artificially dissolving minerals occurring naturally in a solid state. For recovery of material occurring naturally in solution, see: Brine mining.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to mining:
Stoping is the process of extracting the desired ore or other mineral from an underground mine, leaving behind an open space known as a stope. Stoping is used when the country rock is sufficiently strong not to collapse into the stope, although in most cases artificial support is also provided.
Cortez Gold Mine is a large gold mining and processing facility in Lander and Eureka County, Nevada, United States, located approximately 75 miles (120 km) southwest of Elko. It is owned and operated by Barrick Gold and comprises the Pipeline and South Pipeline deposits and the Cortez Hills deposit. Pipeline and South Pipeline are open pit mines, while Cortez Hills is an underground and open pit mining operation. Under continuous operation, Cortez has been open longer than any gold mine in the state of Nevada. It is Barrick's and Nevada's largest gold producer.
Boring is drilling a hole, tunnel, or well in the earth.
Mining in the Upper Harz region of central Germany was a major industry for several centuries, especially for the production of silver, lead, copper, and, latterly, zinc as well. Great wealth was accumulated from the mining of silver from the 16th to the 19th centuries, as well as from important technical inventions. The centre of the mining industry was the group of seven Upper Harz mining towns of Clausthal, Zellerfeld, Sankt Andreasberg, Wildemann, Grund, Lautenthal und Altenau.
The Kemi Mine is owned by Outokumpu Chrome Oy, a subsidiary of Outokumpu Oyj. It is located in Elijärvi, in the municipality of Keminmaa, to the north of Kemi. The Kemi Mine is the largest underground mine in Finland, with an annual production capacity of 2.7 million tonnes of ore. It is also part of the integrated ferrochrome and stainless steel manufacturing chain owned by Outokumpu in the Kemi-Tornio region. The Kemi Mine has approximately 400 employees every day, both employees of Outokumpu and contractors.
Mopani Copper Mines PLC ("Mopani") is a Zambian registered company owned by Carlisa Investments Corporation and ZCCM-IH (10%). Minority shareholders are spread throughout the world, in various locations.
The Pogo mine is a gold mine in the state of Alaska. The mine has estimated reserves and resources of 4,873,000 troy ounces of gold. It is located about thirty miles northeast of Delta Junction. Based on currently known reserves as of 2013, the planned mine life is to 2019.The mine just extended its operations for another 10 years.
LHD loaders are similar to conventional front end loaders but developed for the toughest of hard rock mining applications, with overall production economy, safety and reliability in mind. They are extremely rugged, highly maneuverable and exceptionally productive. More than 75% of world's underground metal mines use LHD for handling the muck of their excavations.
The Rajpura Dariba Mine VRM disaster took place in Dariba, Udaipur on 28 August 1994 at a mine operated by Hindustan Zinc Ltd.
Rock Bolting Development Site is a heritage-listed former rock bolt experiment site at Sharp Street, Cooma, Snowy Monaro Regional Council, New South Wales, Australia. It was used by Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority personnel from 1956 to 1962. It was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 23 December 2016.