Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 0038-223X
Sublevel stoping (SLS) is one of the oldest and most used methods for underground mining. It relies heavily on the use of drilling and blasting techniques to remove the rock, and gravity to transport the broken rock to drawpoints located at the base of the stope, with LHDs to transport material from the drawpoints. Current SLS operations are based on the assumption of stable geometry of the stope. Thus, the stope design includes the definition of the geometry according to the orebody shape and geomechanical constraints to avoid instability, which may cause excessive dilution. Under some circumstances, dilution could enter the stope due to geotechnical instability, especially when large stope geometries are used. A review of current design and planning practices for large SLS operations indicates that no consideration is given to the material flow and the mixing that occurs after blasting. Material flow could have a large impact on the mixing of ore when grades are heterogeneous in the stope. In this paper, we discuss the influence of gravity flow on the design and planning of large sublevel stopes with and without vertical dilution, based on laboratory experiments. The outcomes of this investigation are used to develop guidelines towards the design and planning of large SLS mines, which would complement the currently used geotechnical considerations.
Keywords : sublevel stoping; mine design; gravity flow; ore dilution.