Underground Mine Construction (UMC) – rapid development centre in Sudbury

Dr. Peter K. Kaiser  Dr. Peter K. Kaiser, Vice President Research leads Canada’s Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation’s (CEMI) UMC program. CEMI is based in Sudbury, Canada. In this manner, CEMI aims to establish excellence in underground mine development for new, large mines, focus on ground control issues to facilitate the implementation of new and mechanised technologies, and develop innovative ground control means for mining at depth.This program supports projects for underground construction using both conventional drill and blast as well as mechanical excavation, with focus on four key aspects: 

  • Speed and quality of underground infrastructure construction including shaft sinking and tunneling logistics
  • Development and design of innovative support methods for different excavation systems including prototype development and testing
  • Reliable prediction of rock behaviour to properly select and implement construction technologies including effective, advanced ground characterization procedures
  • Use of smart (observational) approaches when working with the rockmass to minimize risks and uncertainties including feedback processes to facilitate flexibility in matching construction to conditions encountered in complex orebodies.

CEMI continues to actively engage industrial partners through project participation. The setting up of the Rio Tinto Centre for Underground Mine Construction at CEMI demonstrates CEMI’s suitability to assist in the development of innovative support systems as well as minimizing risks for such technologies through its outstanding track record in building successful solution teams. Rio Tinto is investing $10 million up to the end of 2015 to undertake strategic research at the Centre. The Sudbury Centre became the fifth Centre Rio Tinto has initiated to aid in advancing strategic aspects of its business.

 Rio Tinto is placing focus on its Mine of the Future program, conducting research into mechanised excavation, consisting of both shaft boring systems (SBS) and tunnel boring systems (TBS). Rio Tinto selected CEMI as the agent for collaborative research leadership in support of high speed construction associated with the SBS and TBS systems in underground mine construction where the Centre will undertake research with respect to ground and machine performance.

For pre-operational development – new mines – mechanised excavation technologies are under development for both shaft and tunnel advance with target advance rates >10 m/d. Ground control plays a key role in ensuring successful application of these step-function technologies. CEMI is committed to R&D in support of innovative support systems.

With the establishment of the RTC-UMC CEMI has:

  • Expanded its R&D programs along with its global reach
  • Expanded its solution teams for research related to the implementation of mechanised tunnelling and shaft sinking technologies
  • Started managing field trials of innovative technologies with horizontal (2011) and vertical development (2012)
  • Started to undertake complementary studies to facilitate application of findings to Canadian mines.

Related projects:

1. Ground control in mechanised excavations: shafts and tunnels

2. Strength determination for deep orebodies based on borehole information

3. Development of innovative support systems for rapid installation

4. Strain-burst control with rock support and de-stressing

5. Pillar design at depth

The current program sponsoring mining companies are Rio Tinto (lead sponsor), with Ontario Government leveraged funding. Collaborating organisations include Itasca U.S.; Herrenknecht; Aker Wirth; Atlas Copco; ROWA Logistics, Swiss Railway, MIRARCO and Laurentian University, Universities of Toronto and Arizona, UBC, University of Dalian and the Colorado School of Mines.

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