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Engineering    2017, Vol. 3 Issue (4) : 527 -537
Research |
Some Challenges of Deep Mining
Charles Fairhurst1,2()
1. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA
2. Itasca International Inc., Minneapolis, MN 55401, USA

An increased global supply of minerals is essential to meet the needs and expectations of a rapidly rising world population. This implies extraction from greater depths. Autonomous mining systems, developed through sustained R&D by equipment suppliers, reduce miner exposure to hostile work environments and increase safety. This places increased focus on “ground control” and on rock mechanics to define the depth to which minerals may be extracted economically. Although significant efforts have been made since the end of World War II to apply mechanics to mine design, there have been both technological and organizational obstacles. Rock in situ is a more complex engineering material than is typically encountered in most other engineering disciplines. Mining engineering has relied heavily on empirical procedures in design for thousands of years. These are no longer adequate to address the challenges of the 21st century, as mines venture to increasingly greater depths. The development of the synthetic rock mass (SRM) in 2008 provides researchers with the ability to analyze the deformational behavior of rock masses that are anisotropic and discontinuous—attributes that were described as the defining characteristics of in situ rock by Leopold Müller, the president and founder of the International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM), in 1966. Recent developments in the numerical modeling of large-scale mining operations (e.g., caving) using the SRM reveal unanticipated deformational behavior of the rock. The application of massive parallelization and cloud computational techniques offers major opportunities: for example, to assess uncertainties in numerical predictions; to establish the mechanics basis for the empirical rules now used in rock engineering and their validity for the prediction of rock mass behavior beyond current experience; and to use the discrete element method (DEM) in the optimization of deep mine design. For the first time, mining—and rock engineering—will have its own mechanics-based “laboratory.” This promises to be a major tool in future planning for effective mining at depth. The paper concludes with a discussion of an opportunity to demonstrate the application of DEM and SRM procedures as a laboratory, by back-analysis of mining methods used over the 80-year history of the Mount Lyell Copper Mine in Tasmania.

Keywords Deep mining      Rock discontinuities      Synthetic rock mass      Mineral resources      Rock mechanics     
Corresponding Authors: Charles Fairhurst   
Online First Date: 31 August 2017    Issue Date: 13 September 2017
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Charles Fairhurst. Some Challenges of Deep Mining[J]. Engineering, 2017, 3(4): 527 -537 .
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[1]  Supplementary Information Download
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