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Use of a Crane Mounted Auger for Presink Construction at Fosterville Gold Mine


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Author P Jones and L Krois
ID P201103013


Fosterville Gold Mine is an underground operation located approximately 20 km northeast of Bendigo and 170 km north of Melbourne. Fosterville is the most productive gold mine in Victoria, producing over 100 000 ounces of gold annually. Access to the underground is via two portals cut into previously mined open pits. Fosterville is 100 per cent owned and operated by Northgate Minerals, a gold and copper producer with mining operations, development projects and exploration properties in Canada and Australia. (Northgate Minerals Corporation, 2010).

Underground operations commenced in 2006 with ore production focused on three orebodies – Phoenix, Ellesmere and Falcon. Primary ventilation to the existing operation is provided by wall mounted exhaust fans located underground. This system provides approximately 220 m3/s of primary ventilation to the operations with intake achieved through the portals.

Exploration drilling during recent times has uncovered another lode, the Harrier orebody, located 2.2 km to the south of the existing workings. Due to the location of the new Harrier orebody, vent analysis revealed the requirement for a separate source of primary ventilation to service Harrier. Figure 1 shows a current underground long section and the location of Harrier in relation to the existing workings. A number of options were considered, including a parallel decline from one of the existing two portals, however, a 4 m diameter, 350 m deep surface ventilation shaft was selected as the most suitable and feasible option for the mine.

In December 2009, geotechnical drilling commenced to determine the most suitable location for the shaft. Site locations were constrained by a number of factors including interaction with current and planned surface infrastructure as well as proximity to nearby community members at the southern end of the mining lease. Results from the geotechnical drilling indicated that the majority of the proposed shaft would be suitable for a 4 m raise bored shaft. However, the top 40 m of the proposed shaft were deemed unsuitable for raiseboring due to zones of weakness that would likely influence the stability of a 4 m diameter shaft (Robinson, 2010). Following independent geotechnical advice and input from experienced raiseboring contractors, it was decided to construct a 40 m presink prior to raiseboring activities.

A crane mounted auger was chosen as the preferred method to construct the presink. This method differs substantially from traditional blind sinking methods which are highly labour intensive. The auger, or drill, is designed and built to be attached to a crane base using engineered pivoting cradles. The auger is suspended from the crane jib by pennant ropes attached to hydraulic rams. The auger applies rotation and axial loads to the drilling tools via a telescopic steel bar (Kelly Bar). Drill tools are attached to the bottom of the Kelly Bar and comprise an assortment of drilling buckets and reaming barrels. Drilling buckets cut in situ material and collect the spoil for removal and are used for the excavation of the ‘pilot hole’. Reaming barrels are used to expand the diameter of the excavation by directing cuttings into the pilot hole which are then removed by the drilling bucket.

In June 2010, the
presink was constructed utilising a crane mounted auger with support to the
shaft walls applied via a remote fibrecrete unit. The excavation method involved
cutting a series of smaller diameter holes (2.4 m wide) before reaming out to
the final diameter (4.7 m wide) in 4 – 5 m vertical increments. Fibrecreting
activities were carried out on the backshifts, to ensure the stability of the
excavation and minimise interaction between the two units. The presink was
completed on time and offered many advantages compared to traditional blind
sinking methods, including safety, costs and timing. This paper will examine the
benefits of this method as well as lessons learnt and future applications in the
mining industry.

Jones, P and
Krois, L, 2011. Use of a crane
mounted auger for presink construction at Fosterville gold mine, in Proceedings 11th AusIMM Underground Operators’

pp 107-114 (The Australasian Institute of
Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).