The Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI) in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, announced in September that it had received $783,916 to support its Single Heading Lateral Development project. The project is one element of a multidisciplinary effort that takes aim at improving the industry’s ability to access orebodies efficiently and effectively. The traditional development cycle, according to CEMI, has not kept pace with innovations found in other key steps of the mining process, despite the introduction of powerful and efficient new equipment. Today, advance rates are at historic lows—currently at less than 4 meters per day (m/d) vs. the 12 m/d achievable 25 years ago.

CEMI noted that, in current mining operations, all five steps of the development cycle are separate, executed sequentially and require specific equipment. The process is inherently time-consuming and costly, leaving the face inactive for long periods. The organization’s Rapid Development project consists of three separate research projects to be conducted within live mine sites, having the potential to bring about step-change innovation by integrating the machinery and process steps required to access orebodies, with the goal of dramatically increasing time at the face.

Funding for the Single Heading Lateral Development project, provided through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp, allowed CEMI to enlist equipment builder Mining Technologies International (MTI), now a part of JoyGlobal, to design and construct a prototype canopy capable of withstanding falls of ground, while allowing for parallel activities of support and drill processes at the development face.

The design actually incorporates two overlapping canopies: a face canopy to protect the face machine and operators; and a support canopy to protect the support machine and operators. This allows for the drilling and charging of the face to occur while ground support can be installed behind the face equipment. The design enables the face canopy to contract, partially collapse, and allows for travel inside the support canopy to and from the face.

CEMI said the canopy prototype underwent rigorous testing at MTI’s underground test mine site to determine its functionality and strength. A stress test using 5-metric-ton (mt) concrete blocks was used to determine the load-bearing capacity of the canopy. Preliminary test results show that the canopy is able to successfully withstand 75 mt of static load.

CEMI also engaged Labrecque Technologies Inc. to conduct process simulations to examine several variations on the use of the canopy (including the effect of jumbo-charging, continuous mucking and various face diameters) in an effort to assess the impact of each variation on the development process. The initial results, according to CEMI, are promising and will help in further refinements of the design during future field trials of the canopy.

With initial testing of the first prototype canopy now complete, CEMI said it is now preparing to redesign and build two new prototypes for trials in a drift advance scenario. Meanwhile, the groundwork for the second and third phases of this project is being planned. CEMI said the improvements resulting from the first three phases are expected to reduce overall development cycle time and increase advance rates by 45%.

Three views of an early prototype protective canopy designed as part of a CEMI project to increase underground mine development advance rates and efficiency.
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