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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


GAUERT, C.D.K. et al. A progress report on ultra-high-pressure waterjet cutting underground: the future of narrow reef gold and PGE mining. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2013, vol.113, n.6. ISSN 2411-9717.

High-pressure waterjet technology is proposed as an alternative tool for selective underground mining of high-grade ore sections in stratiform orebodies showing a preferred 'bottom' or 'top' enrichment such as the Witwatersrand reefs and the Bushveld Complex platiniferous reefs. This technique, utilizing known mining technology together with more advanced machinery and additives as used in industrial and cleaning applications, may lead to an increased life-of-mine (LOM) for mining operations. A series of experiments was successfully carried out in a laboratory on Witwatersrand quartzite material, indicating acceptable cutting performance. Mining volumes by selectively cutting of reef portions are considered to be comparable to traditional drilling and blasting. Economic advantages of waterjet mining include energy savings due to the lower quantity of gangue rock to be hoisted to surface, as well as savings by a decrease in the usage of blasting materials. Capital expenditure of waterjet cutting, if applied on a broad scale, could be lower in the long term than that of conventional drilling and blasting methods. Mining by the application of high-pressure waterjet technology could become a competitive 'green technology' improving the economics and safety of labour-intensive mining operations. This paper suggests that waterjet cutting at an industrial scale can become a routine hard-rock mining technique in the future.

Keywords : waterjet cutting; high pressure; mechanized narrow reef mining; abrasive agents; costs; selective mining.

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