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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 0038-223X


CASTRO, R.L.; VARGAS, R.  and  DE LA HUERTA, F.. Determination of drawpoint spacing in panel caving: a case study at the El Teniente Mine. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2012, vol.112, n.10, pp.871-876. ISSN 2411-9717.

Currently, in several caving operations, the spacing between the drawpoints is determined by consulting Laubscher's design guide (Laubscher 1994, 2000), a methodology based on the gravity flow characteristics of the caved rock. Laubscher's methodology is based upon the height of interaction between adjacent flow zones, but does not allow calculation of primary recovery for a given layout. In this paper the authors present a technical and economic methodology based on the flow that occurs near the drawpoint and the associated development costs to estimate the optimal spacing. The flow model at the drawpoint was validated at the El Teniente mine, which extracts coarse caved rock. To validate the flow model, small-scale simulations using drawpoint clusters were conducted and results compared to extracted grades, marker recovery, and drill holes to determine ore remnants that are part of the production control programme at the mine. The results indicate that primary recovery depends on the height of interaction, which varies with the friction angle of the caved rock and the spacing between adjacent drawpoints. Primary recovery estimations indicate values from 85 per cent to 97 per cent depending on the drawpoint spacing used. Extrapolations were then conducted to estimate the primary recovery for different drawpoint configurations planned to be used in the New Mine Level of the mine. The results indicate that the optimal drawpoint spacing is 32 m x 20 m with a through length of 18 m. The methodology developed may be used to estimate optimal drawpoint spacing for block caving mines under different metal prices and mine cost conditions.

Keywords : drawpoint spacing; flow model; block caving; panel caving; simulation.

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