June/July 2010


CEMI hones research initiatives

By S. Katary

The focal points: ventilation, underground construction, geotechnical risk

CEMI team 

The CEMI team (front): Al Akerman, R&D program director; (first row) Natalie Lafleur-Roy, finance and operations; Jane Djivre, business development officer; Sandra Djivre, workshop coordinator; Peter K. Kaiser, president and CEO; (second row) Andrew Wilson, research engineer-in-training; Glenn Lyle, R&D program director; Keith Bullock, R&D program director; (third row) author Shannon Katary, marketing and human resources specialist; Benoit Valley, researcher; Damien Duff, R&D program director

The Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI) in Sudbury has focused its R&D efforts on facilitating the delivery of step-change research initiatives identified as critically important to the mining industry. It strives to establish excellence in strategic areas of research — deep mining, mineral exploration, integrated mine engineering, the environment and sustainability — as highlighted in its 2009 Annual Report.

The three major initiatives this year target energy savings through use of ventilation on demand (VOD); rapid mine excavation through underground mine construction (UMC), with CEMI’s primary focus on associated ground control requirements; and risk identification and management for mining complex and deep ore bodies (GeoRisk).

In 2009, CEMI received $4.25 million of federal funding to install, test and measure the efficiency of novel VOD technologies to decrease energy costs and increase productivity. This funding, in conjunction with funding from Vale Inco, Xstrata Nickel, NRCan and the Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC), has allowed a more vigorous assessment of VOD. The initiative will:

  • Determine whether mobile equipment can transmit exhaust quality-related information in an operating U/G environment to better define ventilation needs.
  • Compare the relative costs of installing VOD at the outset of a mine or retrofitting an existing operation.
  • Develop a better business model that can assess the incremental cost/benefit of various stages of VOD. 
  • Evaluate sensor reliability and density.

Additionally, Peter Kaiser, president and CEO of CEMI, is working with Rio Tinto on a strategic research project in underground mine construction, specifically in the pre-operational construction phase of new mines, with a focus on high-speed mechanical shaft sinking and tunneling. Issues under investigation include innovative support installation systems and new support design methods, particularly when mining at depth or in highly stressed ground. Rio Tinto initially committed one million dollars to address ground control issues related to mechanized excavation at depth.

The GeoRisk project, which includes core contributors Golder Associates, Itasca Canada, the University of Toronto’s Lassonde Institute, Laurentian University, Mira Geoscience, MIRARCO, Queen’s University, Vale Inco and Xstrata Nickel, will help to identify, as well as mitigate and manage, risks associated with complex deep ore bodies in order to create safer workplaces, reduce development timelines and control fault slip ground movement. The project addresses risk issues of concern to both investors and mining company management alike when accessing deep ore bodies in complex geological settings. These issues include geotechnical matters, safety and economic concerns associated with major capital investments, and higher operating costs in deep underground mines, particularly those subject to “above-normal” geotechnical challenges.

The value of the project is clear: if long-term investments are to flow to deep Canadian mines, investor risk must be reduced. R&D program director Damien Duff anticipates innovations to include better site characterization; risk assessment in early mine design, in particular through the use of hazard mapping; advanced energy release controls and optimal mine sequencing techniques.

The project is now being expanded to include a specific focus on the issue of fault slip rock burst controls in underground mines. “It has become apparent from our industry consultation that this issue is of fundamental interest to most mining companies with deep mines,” says Duff. “The scope and impact of this form of rock bursting is large enough that addressing it will involve a coordinated international research effort,” he adds.

Under Duff’s direction, CEMI has been hosting a series of experimental design workshops for its proposed International Fault Slip Control Research Initiative (IFSCRI), a multi-million dollar, multi-year program intended to develop a globally recognized research initiative to improve fault slip control techniques in underground mines. Involving the input of research and industry leaders in seismicity, geophysics, structural and engineering geology, data integration and modelling, as well as mine engineering and other related fields, these multi-disciplinary roundtable sessions have been providing valuable insights into the novel research and technology R&D projects needed to better understand how to control the energy release associated with fault slip in underground high-stress ore bodies.

These collaborations are the foundation for safer, more sustainable mines in the future. CEMI welcomes interested participants to learn more and get involved in this and other exciting initiatives by visiting our website or contacting the author or R&D directors directly.


Shannon Katary is the marketing and human resources specialist for CEMI. She promotes CEMI and its mandate through hosting various activities such as workshops, seminars, lecture series and forums focused on advancing CEMI’s strategic research programs and projects.

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