Prepriming at Vale’s Stobie Mine

Jennifer E Pakula, Joseph E Santi,
Abstract Productivity improvements in underground mining are becoming harder to find. Most mines quickly identify deficiencies in their processes and then struggle to make productivity gains beyond that plateau. One way to increase productivity in this situation is to modify existing methods of operation.

Vale’s Stobie Mine has been in operation since the late 1800’s employing a variety of mining methods. Many mining advances have been incorporated over time. With the advent of mechanized rubber tired equipment, sublevel cave mining was introduced to allow economic extraction of a large low grade area. Additional productivity gains were seen in the sublevel cave area with the introduction of preloading production drill holes. In preloading the holes are loaded with bulk emulsion ahead of the production cycle and then primed for blasting as needed.

The introduction of preloading, although giving Stobie’s sublevel cave process an overall productivity gain, saw an increase in oversize due to the collar priming technique employed. Handling oversize material prohibited the operators from handling additional units of optimally sized material. Prepriming, adding detonators at the toe and mid-column of the production holes during the preloading process, was identified as a change that could reduce the formation of oversize.

This paper describes the introduction of prepriming to the sublevel cave mining method and focuses on the process Stobie’s employees followed to ensure a safe transition to this productivity improvement.
Keywords: Blasting, Preloading, SLC, Stobie, Sublevel Cave, People Processes, Precharging, Vale, Productivity, Prepriming
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