Application of Ground Penetrating Radar in Potash Mines for Improved Ground Fall Hazard Recognition

CIM Vancouver 2016
Mr Craig Funk (Director, Earth Sciences - PotashCorp), Mr Randy Brehm (Senior Geophysicist - PotashCorp), Ms Zoe Brewster (Mine Geologist - PotashCorp)
Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) has been in use in Saskatchewan potash mines for nearly 40 years. GPR is an excellent rock imaging tool, and it works particularly well in salt due to the low dielectric properties. The vast and remarkably flat potash deposits in Saskatchewan are occasionally disrupted by geologically anomalies. These anomalies can create instabilities in the salt-back which can be hazardous to both personnel and equipment. Occasionally, the anomalies in the salt-back have no visual indicators within the mining rooms. In these situations, GPR is particularly valuable because the method can readily image the anomalies in the salt-back.

Beginning in 2014, potash operators in the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan area mines began to install GPR instruments on their Continuous Boring Machines (borers). The borer mounted GPR units give the operators real-time images of the salt-back while they mine. The purpose for this is to have an early warning of developing hazards at the mining face before the ground becomes unstable. This paper presents preliminary results from GPR imaging trials at a potash mine. Overall, GPR proves to be very effective for detection of anomalies in the salt-back. However, incorporating GPR technology into borer operating procedures is shown to be challenging.
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