POSSIBLITY OF HARVESTING HEAT FROM BACKFILLED MINE STOPES

World Mining Congress
Underground mines, with their relatively high ground temperature and their extensive backfilled stopes provide a great opportunity for producing geothermal heat. The novel idea of installing a network of heat exchange tubes into stopes prior to backfill placement converts each mine stope into a heat producing battery. In this system, backfill plays the role of the heat exchange medium conducting heat from the surrounding rockwalls to the heat exchange tubes. This geothermal heat can be used for heating: mine facilities and buildings, the intake air, a close-by mineral processing plant, or even nearby communities. This paper investigates the possibility of extracting renewable geothermal energy from backfilled mine stopes by means of closed-loop geothermal cycles. To simulate realistic operational conditions a heat transfer model is developed and solved numerically. To evaluate the numerical results, a small scale physical model is constructed and the experimental results are compared with the simulation results. The study estimates the sustainable rate at which heat can be extracted from a typical underground mine stope, the resulting outlet temperature and performance of the geothermal system. The results show that mine stopes are capable of sustainably producing geothermal heat not only when the mine is active, but also after the depletion of the ore body. Therefore, an underground mine will no longer be perceived as an enduring economic liability, but as a long-lasting source of clean, renewable, and inexpensive low-grade geothermal heat.
Keywords: Heat; Tubes; Geothermal; Temperature; Backfill; Backfills; Backfill; stope; stopes; Waters;
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