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4 Mining Method Selection

To select a mining method, certain data describing the orebody is required.
Geological cross sections and a longitudinal section
Level maps
Block model (grade model)
Geomechanical characteristics of the host and surrounding rock.
One approach is to find one or more comparable ore bodies that are being
or were mined successfully and use that mining method(s) to determine the
most likely methods to investigate further.
Another approach is to determine applicable mining methods and develop a
short list for detailed consideration through a process of rationalization.
Following are typical considerations to be weighed in selecting a mining
method (listed roughly in order of importance).
Maximize safety (integrity of the mine workings as a whole or in part).
Minimize cost (bulk mining methods have lower operating costs than
selective extraction).
Minimize the schedule required to achieve full production (optimize stope
Optimize recovery (80% or greater recovery of geological reserves).
Minimize dilution (20% or less dilution of waste rock that may or may not
contain economic minerals).
Minimize stope turn around (cycle) time (drill, load, blast, muck, backfill,
Maximize mechanization (trackless versus track and slusher mining).
Maximize automation (employment of remote controlled LHDs).
Minimize pre-production development (top down versus bottom up
Minimize stope development (selective versus bulk mining methods).
Maximize gravity assist (underhand versus overhand).
Maximize natural support (partial extraction versus complete extraction).
Minimize retention time of broken ore (open stoping versus shrinkage).
Maximize flexibility and adaptability based on size, shape, and distribution
of target mining areas.
Maximize flexibility and adaptability based on distribution and variability
of ore grades.
Maximize flexibility and adaptability to sustain the mining rate for the
mine life.

Maximize flexibility and adaptability based on access requirements.

Maximize flexibility and adaptability based on opening stability, ground
support requirements, hydrology (ground wter and surface runoff), and
surface subsidence.
Following is a list of mining methods most often employed underground
listed roughly in the order of increasing cost (direct mining cost, including
backfill where applicable). The order is generally true, but can be deceiving
because some methods, such as Blasthole can have a wide range of costs.
Bulk Methods
Block Caving/Panel Caving columns of rock are undercut wide enough to
cave under the weight of the column. Caving is initiated by undercutting the
ore zone. Block Caving involves a significant capital investment in preproduction development and may be especially risky. It should only be
implemented in consultation with a block-caving expert.
Blasthole/Sublevel/VCR the ore is drilled in rings or by long hole and
the ore is drawn off (mucked) as it is blasted. A common variation is to
pull only the swell and leave most of the broken ore temporarily remaining
in the stope to support the walls (deferred pull).

Sublevel Caving the ore is drilled in rings and drawn off (pulled) after
blasting in successive lower lifts. Unless the ore dips steeper than 70
degrees, a great deal of ore may be left behind as production losses. One
difficulty with Sublevel Caving concerns grade control. A gradual dilution
occurs toward the end of the draw and it can be difficult to determine
when it is best to stop pulling. Recovery may be improved if the draw
point layout is staggered from one level to the next.
One large sublevel cave operation in North America has reduced dilution
dramatically. It calculates the ore tonnage in the first ring. Then, it then
pulls only 70% and leaves the remainder (deferred pull) to be drawn
along with 70% of the ore tons calculated in the subsequent ring beneath
it, etc.

Room and Pillar/Post Pillar a grid of rooms is developed on a near

horizontal plane, leaving pillars of ore to support the back (roof). The pillars
left in the Post Pillar method are undersized (posts) and designed to fail in a
controlled manner.
Typically, a zone of low-grade mineralization or host rock (barren) must be
mined with pay grade ore to maintain Access and control stress distribution.
On the other hand, Post Pillar (and even Room and Pillar) may be considered
to be selective when the pillars can be arranged in zones of lower grade
material, as opposed to a regular geometric pattern.
Modified Avoca the ore is drilled by long hole and drawn off in retreating
vertical slices, followed closely by placement of rock fill dropped over the
bench or over the fill (via access to the back of the stope from the
footwall drift).
Selective Methods

Shrinkage (narrow vein) the ore is sliced off in successive horizontal lifts
(overhand). Only the swell is drawn off leaving broken ore to support the
walls and provide a working platform for the next lift. Narrow vein shrinkage
stoping is classed as selective because it permits mining to variations in the
horizontal contour of the vein and even removes pockets of ore extending
into the wall rock. It is not selective with respect to the fact that once
initiated, a shrinkage stope has to take it all. Normally, a barren portion of
the vein cannot be left behind.
Resuing (narrow vein) a method that reduces dilution when the vein is
narrower than the heading. Historically, a drift round was taken in two
passes. First, the waste rock was drilled blasted and mucked out, then the
narrow vein was slashed to recover the ore, undiluted. In most cases, waste
rock quantities can be significantly reduced by innovative measures. Single
pass resuing uses appropriate delay blasting to throw the ore and waste
rock into separate piles.
Cut and Fill (Overhand/Underhand) access is provided by first ramping
down from a cross-cut access and then taking down back in successive
slices. After mucking, the stope is filled but enough space is left to mine the
next slice. Mining equipment is captive unless an access ramp is employed.
If underhand (undercut), slices are taken from the top down under cemented
backfill or a concrete matte.
Drift and Fill (Overhand/Underhand) a modification of Cut and Fill in
which drift sized cuts are taken adjacent to one another and, upon
completion, packed with cemented backfill. The process is repeated next to
the backfill once it has consolidated.
Many additional mining methods exist; the foregoing are the most
commonly employed. The selection of a mining method and its application
to a new orebody may be simple in some cases, but it is more often a
challenge requiring not only logical and practical reasoning, but creative
minds working in three dimensions.