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Q: Deep Reef Mine Automation ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Deep Reef Mine Automation
Category: Science > Technology
Asked by: stormforge-ga
List Price: $200.00
Posted: 28 Nov 2006 11:09 PST
Expires: 28 Dec 2006 11:09 PST
Question ID: 786246
I'm looking for a well-organized overview of the variety of work being
done to automate difficult, labor-intensive hard-rock mining --
particularly for deep "reef mines" which cannot reasonably accomodate
conventional mechanisation.  These mines typically have thin seams of
ore which are heavily corrugated.  This means low ceilings and steep
underground slopes.  South African gold mines are an example of this
type of mining.

What special mining machines, systems, and techniques are currently
available?  What research is being done on the subject?  A
well-organized list of appropriate web-sites would be a big help. 
Even better would be a summary (maybe powerpoint?) of what's current
state of the art.

Subject: Re: Deep Reef Mine Automation
Answered By: umiat-ga on 29 Nov 2006 00:48 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hello, stormforge-ga (Bill)!

 I have tried to find as many references to technolgical advances in
deep mining and reef mining as possible. Since some of the most
innovative remote technologies are being tested in other types of deep
mines, I have included those references as well.



Robotic Ore Drilling

"One of the world?s leading stope drilling machinery for reef mining
has been developed in the deep South African gold and platinum mines.
This equipment includes remote operation, automation, and precise
drilling of the gold ore. Survey control is provided by lasers, and
on-board processors. This system greatly reduces the need for
specially skilled underground miners and will increase operator

E-Tags Allows Real Time Operations Control

"A computer based equipment and personnel control (EPC) system will be
implemented. Using similar technology to the "eTag" vehicle ticketing
systems, used in major cities to record vehicle access to toll ways.
The EPC system will monitor all equipment and personnel underground.
The system will also carry vital equipment maintenance data to
interface with purchasing and stock control of critical and other
spares. It will also improve personnel safety and efficiency."

Advanced Communications

"It is planned to make extensive use of remote control video, and
radio communications, to provide visual and audio feedback on critical
production locations underground. Operators will also have access to
the operation control computer network, from robust workstations

High Pressure Water Jetting to Move Ore

"The use of high pressure water jets to move ore, developed in South
Africa, is a new technology in Australia to replace inefficient cable
scrapers. More gold is recovered in a shorter time resulting in
reduced operating costs. These systems also reduce the risk to
operators associated with manual handling, electrical connections,
winch cable failures, and hand and back injuries."

Co-axial Pipe Conveyors to Replace Haulage Trucks

"Underground decline mining normally uses haulage trucks to transport
ore and waste to the surface. The GoldTec Mining System will use a
state-of-art Co-axial Pipe (CAP) conveyor, to haul ore and some minor
waste to the surface. Because conveyors operate continuously they can
be fully automated and controlled. The electric power will also
significantly reduce ventilation requirements with a subsequent
reduction in services capital, operation complexity and cleaner air."

See "The Australian Gold Mine."



"To ensure that the Tshepong operations are profitable, AngloGold
management has created one of the most automated engineering support
systems in the world, using modules from the FactorySuite of
industrial automation software developed by Wonderware Corporation of
Irvine, Calif....These systems permit Tshepong management to not only
monitor and control all engineering services that support mining
operations and ore removal from the deep shafts, but to also make the
best use of the production data that is generated to smooth production
flow. These are complex jobs that are critical to the safety of
AngloGold people as well as important to the company?s continuing its
industry leadership."

Read further: "South African Gold Mine Enhances Competitive Status
Using FactorySuite To Automate Engineering Services

CSIRO Mining Automation Research Projects

A good overview of trends in the future of mining automation can be
found in the following brochure from CSIRO:

"The Future for Automation."

Some particular CSIRO projects that might be applicable to reef gold
mining operations now or in the future:

Vertical Mine Opening Inspection System (VOIS)

"Underground mining utilises vertical or near vertical shafts as well
as declines and inclines for connecting different horizontal levels
within a mine. Many of these shafts are used as orepasses or to
provide ventilation to the mine workings and access by humans is
severely restricted or forbidden due to safety reasons. However the
mine site still needs to be able to monitor the condition of these
vertical openings or shafts to ensure that unexpected failures do not
interrupt mine operations. One of the significant problems with
obtaining images of the shaft is that the shafts are not consistent in
cross section dimensions and any instrument lowered down the shaft
tends to spin uncontrollably. CSIRO is tackling this problem in
conjunction with Western Australia School of Mines Curtin University."


"The availability of information over time on the condition of shafts
will enable the wear rates on orepasses to be monitored so that
erosion of the walls will not lead to unexpected failure of the
orepass or of the control point at the base of the base and allow the
replacement of infrastructure in a timely manner. The ability to
monitor return airways will also help to prevent unexpected failures
in the shafts disrupting mine operation."

Autonomous Underground Vehicles
"LHDs and/or Trucks are the preferred means of transporting ore and
dirt over short distances from pit to crusher or from drawpoint to
orepass. The ore is usually transported over medium to long distances
by conveyor or rail haulage. It is believed that automation of truck
haulage would lead to significant cost improvements."

Objectives: "Develop sensing and control systems using a combination
of dead reckoning sensors, a mine map and laser scanners to keep the
vehicle centred in the drive and to detect landmarks and obstacles.
Integrate these systems into an operational underground autonomous
vehicle. Trial the system on a purpose built test track at our lab and
then at one or more of the sponsoring mines."

Numbat Mine Reconnaissance Vehicle 
(although currently being utilized in deep coal mining operations, it
might have a crossover use in gold mines)

"The Numbat is a remotely controlled vehicle that is used to provide
information following an emergency in an underground coal mine. It
guides rescue operations by surveying underground conditions, and
relaying information immediately to rescue control on the surface. It
provides rescue teams with up-to-date information to allow them to
plan operations for maximum effectiveness with minimum risk, using
information on the physical conditions in mine openings through
atmospheric analysis and visible light or thermal infrared TV images.
Because underground rescue operations will always require human
capabilities, the vehicle has been planned specifically as a tool to
assist rescue teams, rather than as a stand-alone alternative to
current rescue procedures."


See all Mining Research Projects (CSIRO)

More CSIRO Projects here:

    * Shovel Automation
    * Dragline Operational Enhancements
    * Dragline Swing Assist (DSA)
    * Swing Loader Traffic Control
    * Precision Dumping
    * Swing loader traffic control
    * Excavator sensing and guidance
    * Load Haul Dump (LHD) vehicle automation
    * ORICA automated explosives loading project
    * Coal Interface detection
    * Enhanced remote control and monitoring systems for dozers
    * Digital Terrain Mapping (DTM)

BOREHOLE Radar Systems
"The CSIR is developing a borehole radar system specifically suited to
the South African mining industry, following extensive research that
identified this technique to be the most immediately applicable
electromagnetic technique for detecting and delineating disruptions to
the gold reef in South African deep level mines."

"Borehole radar is one of a suite of geophysical techniques currently
under development by the CSIR for providing advance knowledge of
orebody information through the delineation of faults and other
dislocations to the reef. Availability of such information is urgently
required in the mining industry, to improve both productivity, through
enhanced strategic planning, and, more importantly, safety levels.
Mining through a fault not only disrupts production but leads to an
increased risk of rockbursting and rock falls in mines, still a major
cause of fatalities and injuries in the mining industry."

 Also read "Advantages of Borehole Radar Demonstrated."

 You might want see if you can get your hands on a copy of the paper
highlighted in the following  link:


"The Mining Systems programme of CSIR Miningtek has been involved in
studies of various fume-free, non-explosive, rockbreaking methods for
a number of years. This fume-free system has applications mainly in
hard-rock conditions, particularly in platinum and gold-mining.

"All five systems are being subjected to tests at Miningtek?s
Johannesburg facility. Besides the IMS, these technologies include the
activated rock-cutting system, the minidisc system, the water-pulse
gun (WPG) and plasma hole makers (PHM).

"The principle governing activation technology is that an oscillatory
motion is superimposed on mechanical rock-breaking tools such as disc
cutters, saws and drum cutters. This system is currently being tested
and results are anticipated before the end of the month. The main
benefits of using this technology are that cutting forces, as well as
specific energy requirements, are reduced, Güler elaborates. A
platinum-mine is considering using activation technology at the

"Minidisc, a US-developed technology, is also being considered for the
platinum-mining sector. This technology uses discs that are
significantly smaller than the conventional tunnel-boring machine
discs to create more concentrated pressure in a smaller area,
facilitating more-effective rockbreaking. Güler maintains that this
technology has great potential for off-reef applications. He states
that it is most effective where rock is rigid and stiff and is
particularly suited to quartzite mining."

"WPG technology uses water pressure to break rock. "This technology is
advantageous because it suppresses dust, is fume-free, reduces the
amount of fines produced and does not cause fly rock," Güler

"The last system CSIR Miningtek is evaluating is PHM. PHM was
developed to drill long roof-bolt holes in narrow stopes in one
operation. It could potentially be applied to rockbreaking technology
in the near future."

"All of these systems have the potential to be introduced into
mechanised mining applications."

The advantages for the industry are many. Using mechanised technology
in underground applications will benefit the mining sector because it
will be more economical in the long term. As mining activities advance
deeper below the surface, the incorporation of fume-free blasting
technologies in mechanised operations will have to be considered to
assist in reducing the incidence of seismic activity. Moreover, the
combination of fume-free mining with automated technology will
effectively create a safer environment for miners.

The spinoffs of using fume-free systems as a facet of automated
operations will also have a significant impact on efficiency,
productivity and, consequently, the contribution that the mining
industry makes to South Africa?s gross domestic product.

Other technologies being developed in related areas will also
potentially benefit the mechanisation of the mining operation. An
example of this is the Aardwolf, which is able to determine orebody
geometry prior to mining, a process which will assist in the
development of the mechanised mining systems that CSIR Miningtek has

See "Fume-free mining technology being re-evaluated." Mining Weekly.

GPR (Ground penetrating Radar) and ERT (Electrical Resistance technology)

"High resolution geophysical methods can be used for the evaluation of
geotechnical hazards in underground mines."

Read "Geophysics Locate Hazards." Mining Mirror. Volume 19, No. 1. July 2006


Also read "Mining Gold in Montana With GIS and Underground Modeling." ESRI


These articles are not specific to reef mines, but they may apply to the future!

Subterranean Robotics

"Researchers say autonomous robot to make mining safer."

Mine Robots to Make Mines Safer

Reef Detector

"A low cost, hand held instrument which can be used to scan the rock
face to delineate the gold bearing reef in real time is now available
from CSIR Mining Technology (Miningtek). The Reef Detector works on
the principle that major gold bearing reefs frequently contain higher
levels of uranium than the surrounding rock and therefore emit higher
gamma radiation levels which are detected by the instrument. Accurate
delineation of the reef is important to overall productivity of mining
operations to minimise the amount of waste rock surrounding the reef
that is mined.. Traditionally, delineating the reef has required
specialist skills, considerable experience and has proven to be a time
consuming exercise. The new instrument not only provides information
in real time, but can also be used by production personnel with the
minimum of training."


Three new deep mining technologies are described below:

"Currently three new AEL high-tech blasting innovations are combining
to yield an improved underground mining production performance in
efficiency, productivity and safety.

"The first of these technologies is the underground bulk emulsion,
which is used primarily in underground mining applications and offers
three main advantages. The first is that, by transporting the
nonexplosive base emulsion in mobile vehicles, and loading directly
into the actual blast-holes, a workface can be charged by a single
operator in less than 20 minutes. Conventional methods would require
three to four operators for a period of some 90 minutes. The second
advantage is that the complicated logistical and storage processes
required for conventional charging methods are eliminated by use of
mobile emulsion vehicles. Finally, safety is far greater because
pumpable emulsions are officially classified as nonexplosive, and
remain in this state until after their placement in the actual

"Working hand in hand with AEL's pumpable emulsions in innovative
blasting is another new technological breakthrough by the company -
the Smartdet electronic detonator. This initiating system also offers
decided advantages underground as, because it is electronically
programmable, it gives precise timing. This allows a mine to optimise
on both the number and the depth of blast-holes. It also results in
improved blast results in factors like advance, fragmentation and
hangingwall control. In addition safety is improved, as the Smartdet
can only be initiated with specific control equipment - it cannot be
set off unintentionally.

"The third new mining technology is the digital blast-control network,
designed to give mine management a safer and more controlled
rock-breaking function. The last six months has seen a fundamental
shift in narrow-reef mining in South Africa to these networks. It
involves the deployment of a robust digital blast network from the
stopes to the surface.

"There are three main reasons for the rapid adoption of these systems
by narrow-reef mining managements in South Africa: production
benefits, a far safer environment and the management information
provided. From a safety perspective, digital control networks deliver
a reliable centralised blasting system that informs a manager of the
status of all panels, and ensures a digitally-controlled and verified
blast. Secondly, they enable central control because they deliver to
surface a wealth of pre- and postblast data from the underground
workings. In this way managers are informed of potential safety and
production problems before initiation, resulting in increased
management and operating control. Thirdly, these systems create
information transparency by delivering to surface in-stope information
and communications such as when detonators are connected to the system
and so forth."

See "Three new blasting technologies to increase safety and
efficiency." Mining Weekly.


Also read "Digital blast-control network installed in 12 SA mines in
the last 12 months." Mining Weekly.


"Working smarter, not harder," By Kelly Louiseize

"Wireless tech the answer to remote mines? communications woes, says
firm." Mining Weekly

"Breaking through depth barrier could shine gold up," By TIMOTHY WOOD

"Neural Network Assessment of Rockburst Risks for Deep Gold Mines in South Africa."


 If you have any specific angles you would like me to pursue further,
please don't hesitate to ask and I will help if I can!



reef mining technology
gold reef mining safety
gold reef mining remote technology
latest developments in reef mining
deep reef mining automation
deep reef mining technologies
seismic OR rockburst prediction in gold reef mines
robots for deep mines
robotics in deep mining
automation in hard rock OR deep mining industry
remote sensing in deep mines OR reef mines OR hard rock mines
stormforge-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $50.00
Good answer -- thanks for the help!  I may post new related questions soon.

Subject: Re: Deep Reef Mine Automation
From: umiat-ga on 29 Nov 2006 06:59 PST
Thank you very much for your kind rating and extremely generous tip! I
am so sorry to say that GA will not be accepting new questions after
tomorrow, so if you need information, it is best to post a question

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