The Business Case for Cave Mining

Areas of Study: Mining

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This course is for those who seek to understand why block caving is becoming the mining method of choice for large, disseminated copper deposits at greater depths. This is partly because we are running out of such deposits nearer the surface; partly because it offers economies of scale unachievable with other methods; and also partly because it presents opportunities to maximize metal recovery.

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  • Audience Level:
  • Professional
  • Enrollment:
  • Required
  • Duration:
  • 8 hours

Course Summary

Introduction

This course is for those who seek to understand why block caving is becoming the mining method of choice for large, disseminated copper deposits at greater depths. This is partly because we are running out of such deposits nearer the surface; partly because it offers economies of scale unachievable with other methods; and also partly because it presents opportunities to maximize metal recovery.

The method has been in use for many years and, though conceptually simple, is perhaps the most technically challenging of all underground methods. The amount of metal recovered is a function of a complex set of inter-relationships between geology, rock properties, stress, cave propagation, fragmentation, layouts, draw strategy, draw compliance and time.

Modern caving operations are scheduled to produce at substantially higher tonnage rates from deeper ore bodies located in more competent ground than has been the case in the past. These are large, capital intensive operations that must be justified by a good understanding of the relationship between the major value drivers: orebody knowledge, design, schedule, and performance. This understanding must in turn be based on quality measurements of orebody data such as geology, grade, rock properties and stress, and key performance data such as cave back propagation, fragmentation size, material movement in the draw column, draw control and drawpoint availability.

This course introduces the student to the concepts and principles of block caving.

Course Content

The course comprises 11 learning sessions of 30-60 minutes each at the text level, plus multiple-choice reviews and numerous illustrations, figures, video content and a glossary of block caving terminology. Estimated course duration is equivalent to approximately 8 hours of viewing content.

Learning Outcomes

  • Discuss the benefits, risks and priorities of the block caving method of mining.
  • Recognize and discuss the inter-relationships between geology, rock properties, stress, cave propagation, fragmentation, layouts, draw strategy, draw compliance and time with respect to maximizing metal recovery.
  • Recognize the importance of measurement of key performance data such as cave back propagation, fragmentation size, material movement in the draw column, draw control, and drawpoint availability to safe and efficient operation.

Recommended Background

  • A basic appreciation of underground mining operations.

Allan Moss

Allan Moss is a general manager at Rio Tinto's Copper Group with responsibilities in cave design and operation. He is approaching 40 years of experience, the majority of which has been focused on underground mining. After graduating from Strathclyde University in Scotland he joined Goldfields of South Africa where he worked in gold and tin mining, moving for a period into consulting in South Africa and Canada prior to joining Rio Tinto in 1999. Over the last 10 years he has been heavily involved in all of Rio Tinto's caving operations, from the implementation of the Palabora block cave in South Africa to technical and project reviews at joint venture operations such as Freeport's DOZ Mine in Indonesia. He has written a number of technical papers on caving and is currently involved in teaching the principles of caving at the University of British Columbia.