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Prepared by Gift. G.


Method Overview
Block cave mining is a mass mining method that allows for the bulk mining of
large, relatively lower grade & highly fractured orebodies.

Block caving is characterized by caving and extraction of a massive
volume of rock which potentially translates into the formation of a
surface depression whose morphology depends on the characteristics
of the mining, the rock mass, and the topography of the ground

Medium (25 30 m) to thick ore-bodies. In thinner ore- bodies caving
becomes slow and ore losses and dilution increase.
Low grade of ore due to considerable losses and dilution.
The ore preferably should not be subjected to self combustion and
Preferably, steep dipping ore bodies (greater than 60 degrees) to
allow smooth flow of ore by gravity. However, the method is also used
to mine flat dipping ore bodies.

Ore strength. Weak to moderate or even fairly strong, preferably soft
or friable, fractured or jointed, not blocky; caves freely under own
weight when cut; free running, not sticky, not readily oxidized.

Rock strength. Weak to moderate, similar to ore in characteristics;

distinct ore rock boundary.

Sufficient depth to allow development of over burden stress which

exceeds rock strength

Access can be through a decline or a spiral ramp
The decline is for transportation of people & equipment into & out of
the mine and ventilation
Ground support is done through rock bolts, cable anchors and short

Decline development
Development of block caving is usually extensive and costly but the
high development costs are offset by low production costs and high

Undercut and extraction level

Undercut, grizzly & production levels

Appex, undercut, production, haulage levels

Sublevel Interval
The haulage level is located under the production level The distance
between them depends to some extent on which system is used:
LHD system the haulage level and the production level should be
separated by a signicant distance to provide adequate storage of
production ore and to be able to reduce the number of raises to
achieve the production target. Raises should be inclined 60-70 to
provide a good ow of rock and to enable the secondary
fragmentation of the larger rock fragments as they drop down the ore

Slusher system the haulage level lies beneath the slusher loading
hole, so the ore can be loaded directly into the haulage cars. Long
transfer raises tend to have been used, since each slusher drift should
have its own connection to the haulage level.

With a grizzly level the distance between it and the undercut
depends on the pillar geometry needed to maintain grizzly level
stability (commonly 5-8 m is used).
Typically the distance between the production level and undercut
level is in the range of 12-18m. This crown pillar oers protection to
the production level

Production Drifts
In LHD systems, the production drifts are driven on even centers
across the ore body. The spacing between drawpoints will dictate the
distance between production drifts. The size of the drifts depends on
the size of the production equipment selected. The length of the unit
is also an issue because the production unit has to manoeuvre into
the drawpoint. These drifts are roof bolted and will probably be
concrete-lined or at least shotcreted.

Grizzly drifts have the following characteristics:
Connecting to the top of the transfer raises;
Serving as main accesses to the drawpoints;
Lined with concrete or timber to support against the stresses that
may be generated during the undercutting and production phases;
Rockbolts may be used to support the pillar above the grizzly drift

Production level and undercut level

The transfer raises are usually lined with timber or concrete to ensure
that their life exceeds the life of the production from above.
Chutes are commonly installed at the bottom of the transfer raises,
although other methods may be used. Grizzly rails are installed at the
top of the transfer raise in order to size the material passing down the

Undercut Layout
The design and sequence will be dependent on which of the three
block caving systems is used and on the conguration of the ore body.
The haulage and the undercut level are fairly standard whereas the
production level will be substantially dierent.
The undercut drifts are usually driven directly above the production

The size of the undercut drifts is a function of the size of the
equipment that will drill and blast the undercut of the block.
Undercut drifts are temporary. There is therefore no need to change
the size of the undercut drifts compared to the production drifts,
although sometimes the equipment to drill the blast holes needs
more space than the LHD. For the same reasoning, these drifts are
not necessarily supported, unless ground conditions require some
temporary support

Support Requirements
Tunnel development is generally carried out in good rock conditions
Resin grouted rock bolts can be used within tunnels
The support at the undercut level is kept to the minimum
commensurate with the safety of workers and equipment
In addition to rock bolts, tunnels are supported with chain link wire
mesh, steel tendon straps and shotcrete

Ground support

The support on the production level is a function of the abutment
stresses produced by the movement of the undercut front (Bartlett,
2000). Because of this, some rules have been established to minimize
the eect of induced stresses on the production level:
If the stress increase exceeds 5% of the uniaxial compressive strength
of the rock then shear movement on existing joints and fractures
tends to occur. If the area has been supported with good inter-bolt
support, such as shotcrete reinforced with mesh and tendon straps,
then this movement is eectively constrained.

If the stress change exceeds 20 % of the uniaxial compressive strength
of the rock this is usually enough to cause the propagation of the
fracture zone around the tunnel by failure in shear of the rock. The
result is tunnel convergence in rigid concrete or concrete linings,
leading to limited failure of the lining. Overall, rock bolts and
reinforced lining provides sucient constraint to keep displacements
within stable limits of less than 50 millimetres.

If the stress change exceeds 50 % of the uniaxial compressive strength
of the rock then this is usually enough to induce extensive failure in
shear of the rock around the excavation. Large tunnel convergence in
excess of 200 mm may occur which sets up the destruction of the
rigid concrete, leaving the rock between the rock bolts without
constraint . Finally the tunnel crushes

The Laubscher chart gives estimates of the undercut dimensions
required to induce continuous caving using the shape parameter
known as hydraulic radius. The hydraulic radius compares the area of
the cave undercut to its perimeter.

Development (Undercutting) Sequence
Blasting the draw bell immediately precedes blasting of the undercut.
In this way the minimum amount of ground ahead of the front cave is
opened and more support is oered to the weight that precedes the
cave. Longhole blasting is done by two to three fans at a time. Using
this method it is reasonably easy to check for unblasted pillars. The
front cave should be advanced at a certain angle to the major
workings to minimize the amount of stress transferred to the
production level

In any cave mining system the block to be caved must be undercut to
induce caving. Access must also be provided for extraction units to
load ore from the base of the cave and transport it to the passes or
crushers. The excavations associated with block caving can be
developed in at least 3 dierent sequences. The sequence
determines the extraction ratio on the production level prior to the
level being subjected to induced undercut abutment stresses. The
mining sequences are termed post undercutting, advance
undercutting and pre undercutting.

Post undercutting
In this sequence all of the development on both the extraction and
the production levels is completed before undercutting starts. The
major advantage is that the undercut level does not have to be
developed and equipped like the production level does. Blasted and
caved ore is removed quickly to avoid compaction
Unfortunately this sequence exposes the production level to high
values of abutment stress from the advancing undercut front,
inducing potential damage in the production level crown pillars

Undercut level


Stoping works begin by formation of undercut which enables the ore
to start caving.
During caving the ore is partially discharged and scraped or hauled
along the drifts to the ore passes
The ore caves intensively until a stable natural self supporting arc is
formed. Therefore, the base of this arc should be periodically
loosened through blasting by undercutting the block.

Mucking from the draw points is done by LHDs/slushers
LHDs dump the ore onto an underground crusher
The crusher transfers the ore onto a conveyor belt which in turn
transfers the ore into a skip and is hoisted via the vertical shaft to the

Automated loaders-trains-crushers-skip

Draw Points / Draw Bells
Draw points are drifts driven horizontally from the production drifts.
Usually they are driven at an angle to the production drift to facilitate
the entry of LHDs to the draw point. The distance from the brow of
the draw point to the opposite rib of the production drift must be
sucient for LHD to have entry to the muck pile with near zero

Draw points are lined with concrete to maintain the size and avoid
major deformations. Steel arches (3-6) as well as rock bolts (5-10) are
used in the brow to ensure the life of the draw points.
Two adjacent draw points are connected by a crosscut called a draw
bell/cone. The draw bell is used to create the draw zones feeding
broken material to two draw points.


Automated loading

The layout of a block cave mine lends itself well to partial or full
automation. One of the systems that has proved most effective for
automation is LHD. Operations that use this system have seen significantly
higher productivities at a lower unit operation cost due to lower manning
costs, increased tramming speeds and minimal damage. Another benefit is
a higher effective utilization due to the elimination of operator constraints.
Although, automation does have its setbacks with extra precautions
needed for safety often completely removing people from the working
area. Also, roadways must be well maintained in order to gain the full
benefits of high tramming speeds. People will always be required during an
operation to perform inspections and maintenance but automation can
reduce the exposure time of workers in the production environment.


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