CONSIDERATION OF TECHNOLOGY INTRODUCTION UNDER THE EXPLOSIVE-FREE ROCK BREAKAGE CONSORTIUM
While there have been successes in specific explosive-free rock breakage (EFRB) applications in the past, they have not led to general use. EFRB has not been able to adequately advance in the higher range of rock strength and rock abrasivity of the Canadian Shield and the equipment developed does not possess the flexibility of application given the variable nature of the rock, the geometry of mineralization and the accessway layout of an underground metal mine.
In spite of those limitations, possible breakthroughs in this area have garnered serious interest by mining companies. There are strategic drivers within the industry, such as an operational shift from open pit to underground mining, faster accessibility to orebodies and reduction in development costs, which are currently making EFRB an option that is being reconsidered by: Agnico-Eagle, AREVA, Barrick Gold, Vale INCO, IAMGOLD, KGHM, Rio Tinto and Xstrata Nickel Raglan. They, along with Hydro-Quebec, the Societé de Recherche et Développement Minier (SOREDEM) and CANMET Mining and Mineral Sciences Laboratories are participating in a cooperative initiative to develop and test a toolbox of non-explosive rock breaking technologies that would be available for underground development and production. Ultimately, a matrix of technologies versus best applications would also be produced.
Each selected area of research will be evaluated against rigorous successful implementation criteria meant to avoid pitfalls and unsatisfactory project results such as producing incomplete technology or technology of limited operational application.
This presentation will focus on the several implementation aspects: formulating field tests for full operational viability under implementation criteria, consideration of the technology impact within a “systems approach” (i.e. manpower, ground control, materials handling, pre-concentration underground, etc.) and corporate drivers. Historical case studies will be used to outline lessons learned and the technological change path possible given the advantages and limitations of the range of technologies and concepts possible.