Pillar Optimization – Post-Pillar Cut and Fill Mining in a shallow dipping Ni Sulfide deposit in Northern, Manitoba, Canada.

Angela Paveley, Brigitte Harding,
Abstract Economic viability of base metal mining is complicated by a volatile market that can cause fluctuations in the growth and stability of the mining industry. Nickel is mined primarily for use in manufacturing industrial stainless steel and plating materials. It is essential that nickel production be sufficient to respond to current and future market demand. A Post-Pillar cut and fill mining complex is currently producing nickel sulfide in Northern Manitoba. From 2006 this area has shown a steady increase in the annual production, rising from 11 million pounds to 25 million pounds in 2010, and accounting for 33% of the total production for the Manitoba Operations. It is expected that fine-tuning the mining process can safely enhance ore recovery, improve production consistency, and increase economic viability of the deposit. The Post-Pillar Optimization study was initiated by the local technical and operational departments at the mine and analyzed from July 2010 to December 2010. The purpose of this study was to determine if portions of non-recoverable pillars can be slashed without jeopardizing pillar strength. This ideal case would optimize ore recovery and reduce variability in the ore mining rate. Numerical modeling and geo-mechanical material properties analyses, completed by the rock mechanics group, define the maximum drift width at 30 feet and the minimum pillar width at 20 feet. Thus, it was suggested that up to 6 feet could be slashed from standard 24 foot pillars without damaging ground integrity. The field data collected indicates that additional ore could be recovered without compromising the safety of the workplace and the integrity of the complex. Consequently, technical and operational groups work jointly to achieve pillar optimization. Approximately 500,000 pounds of nickel was extracted from the complex via pillar optimization from July 2010 to March 2011. Economic analyses show the pillar optimization method developed for the mining complex is a proven, value-added opportunity. The mining complex remains a safe workplace and has retained ground integrity.
Keywords: Nickel, Pillar, Recovery, ground, sulfide, pounds, Safety, Mining, Production, Cut and fill
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