We are approaching a time where mining thousands of metres down into the earth will be the only option to obtain new mineral resources. Our understanding of rock behaviour and mining operations at this depth must keep pace to ensure we can mine safely and sustainably.
Around the world, resources are becoming harder to find and new finds are often at much greater depths and lower economic grades than before. For example, copper deposits were previously only mined at a minimum ‘grade’ of 1.0% copper, whereas now mining 0.8% or even less, is becoming more common. The majority of high grade copper deposits have already been mined and so deep, underground mining is becoming more important. Deep mining poses many challenges, including those around mine construction, safety, energy and water use.
IMER is helping to address these challenges through:
- geomechanical research to help understand how different rock types within ore will fracture and predict the impact on mine stability and mineral extraction techniques;
- geotechnical research which helps to model the safety and stability of underground or open pit mines;
- modelling the point of rock burst, which will help to predict the stability of different rock types once pressure is released deep underground;
- developing new, cost-effective materials to coat mine shafts and increase mine stability and new backfill materials to improve safety and dispose of mine tailings;
- mine planning and optimisation for deep ore bodies under cover.
Our interdisciplinary teams
Rocks shattering in an explosive manner threatens deep mining operations, with rocks at depth under high pressure and temperature. IMER is currently conducting research in this area.
Backfilling is another key component of deep mining operations and helps stabilise areas already mined. Additives in backfill materials can improve stability and reduce costs.