Authors: Flores-Gonzalez, G

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Flores-Gonzalez, G 2019, 'Major hazards associated with cave mining: are they manageable?', in J Wesseloo (ed.), Proceedings of the First International Conference on Mining Geomechanical Risk, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 31-46.

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Abstract:
Cave mining methods have become viable and preferred mass underground mining options where the objectives are low cost and high production rates. However, the cave mining industry has already entered into a less certain period or environment where some of the current cave mining options are already showing not to be fully suitable to achieving the envisaged low cost and high productivity objectives. This environment includes deeper and sometimes blind deposits (up to 1,400 m from surface), lower average grade deposits, harder and heterogeneous rock masses, higher stress and, in some cases, higher temperature environments. This is requiring design of greater caving block heights, demand for increased safety and productivity, and escalating mining costs (capital and operating). In addition, there is increasing shortage of technical skills, capital becoming more difficult to access, and communities desiring higher environmental standards. In this new cave mining environment, several hazards are identified that can have critical impact on safety, productivity and profitability. It is necessary, therefore, that these major hazards be acknowledged,and the likelihood of their occurrence be evaluated and minimised during the deposit investigation, mine design and planning, and operational stages of the caving process. These are not trivial issues and can have the most serious of consequences. They demand serious managerial and technical attention (Brown 2012). This paper focuses on the major hazards associated with the caving process which are rockbursts, air blast, subsidence and inrushes. These hazards are experienced during the cave establishment (development, drawbell opening, undercutting), cave propagation, cave breakthrough to surface, and steady state production stages. Measures to manage these risks aiming to reduce their consequences are also discussed.

Keywords: hydrofracturing, intensive preconditioning, post-undercutting, rockburst, air blast, inrush, subsidence, dynamic ground support

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