This article was originally published in the August 2013 issue of Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal.
The Centre for Excellence in Mining I n n o v a t i o n (CEMI) is one of seven finalists vying for four $10 million research grants from the federal government’s Business-Led Networks of Centres of Excellence program.
The program funds large-scale collaborative research networks that bring a wide range of research expertise to bear on specific challenges identified by industry. CEMI’s proposal is for an Ultra Deep Mining Network that will address challenges impacting resource extraction at depth.
More than 120 applications were whittled down to 54 in the first round of cuts, and then to seven. Matching funds from industry will provide CEMI with $20 million for the proposed four-or five-year research program.
“There are only two places you can go for a new mine,” said CEMI president Doug Morrison. “You can go to a remote location like the Ring of Fire (in northwestern Ontario), or you can go deep. Unfortunately, when you get down to around 2.5 kilometres, the heat and the logistical problems become very significant, so we see a need for changing the way we do things.”
For the last 30 years, deep mines between 3,000 and 8,000 feet have been using economies of scale for their mining methods, explained Morrison.
“They’ve been using bigger and bigger trucks and loaders, but as you go even deeper, the scale begins to work against you. When you get down to 2.5 kilometres, the temperature conditions get very, very difficult. Cooling and ventilating the mine becomes a major problem, so we’re looking at different methods of keeping people cool in these environments.”
The proposed research program will also focus on communication technology, mining attire and equipment design. Some of CEMI’s proposed work will revisit previous research projects that didn’t go anywhere.
“The most cost-effective work we can do is to go back and pick up some of those ideas because industry has already invested tens or hundreds of millions in some of them over the years,” said Morrison.
One example is continuous mucking.
“We tried several times to replace the load-haul-dump (LHD) equipment we have at depth,” he noted. “LHD machines are not a very effective way to move material in an underground environment because we have to create turnarounds for them.
“If you want to drive a tunnel from A to B, you’re adding 15 per cent to the distance just for excavations at 90 degrees to the tunnel so the machine can turn around and dump its load.
“What we really need,” said Morrison, “is a piece of equipment that will move the ore from the front of the machine to the back without moving the machine, because we’re not in the machine moving business – we’re in the ore moving business.”
Joining CEMI in the Ultra Deep Mining Network are mining companies Vale, Xstrata, Agnico Eagle and Iamgold. Academic and research organization partners include Laurentian University, the University of Quebec’s École Technologie Superieure, Ryerson University, the University of Waterloo and the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT).
A final decision on the successful applicants is expected later this year.