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Analysis of Rock Fragmentation and its Effect on Gravity Flow at the Kiruna Sublevel Caving Mine


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Author M Wimmer, A Nordqvist, E Righetti, N Petropoulos and M J Thurley


Fragmentation in sublevel caving (SLC) is vitally important. Both gravity flow and any downstream processes are affected. Reasonably coarse fragmentation may lead to larger draw bodies (isolated extraction zones) and hence potentially higher primary ore recovery and depressed/delayed waste rock inflow from above. Fewer flow disturbances are expected by mitigating oversize. In addition, it requires less boulder handling and reduces wear and possible hang-up problems in orepasses. To assess the present-day functionality of large-scale SLC, a multiyear, comprehensive measurement program was initiated. It covers the main elements for SLC, namely blast function, fragmentation and gravity flow. The present paper focuses on fragmentation measurements. An image acquisition system was used to document the drawpoint and the load-haul-dump (LHD) bucket for each mucking cycle. At the beginning, four buckets (about 70 t total) were sieved to validate the results of both 2D and 3D image analysis techniques. The fundamental and specific problems are discussed herein. At the moment, fragmentation of the SLC rings is evaluated using a quick rating system and a 2D fragment delineation software. The results enable a description of fragmentation and its variation during mucking but also – combined with the gravity flow measurements – conclusions on the fragmentation for different parts of the SLC ring. Possible influences on flow disturbances and ore recovery/dilution are investigated. The recent findings allow a better understanding of breakage and flow and support future process improvements.


Wimmer, M, Nordqvist, A, Righetti, E, Petropoulos, N and Thurley, M J, 2015. Analysis of rock fragmentation and its effect on gravity flow at the Kiruna sublevel caving mine, in Proceedings 11th International Symposium on Rock Fragmentation by Blasting, pp 775–792 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).