Design and development of an underground hard-rock mine with the assistance of rock mechanics software

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Courtesy of Rocscience Inc.


The McArthur River Mine is located in the southeastern portion of the Athabaca Basin in Saskatchewan. It is the highest-grade uranium deposit currently being minedin the world. Due to the high-grade nature of the orebody at McArthur River, it was decided that the preliminary ore milling circuit would be conducted underground. Such a decision created many challenges. they included the evaluation of the stability and finding the ideal locations ofr the many permanent excavations required to house the millings circuit equipment.

The design of the underground development was furhter complicated by the selection of uncoventional mining methods to mine this deposit. The first production phase at the McArthus River Mine is being done using raise boring as the primary mining method. This method requires the raise-bore chambers to be developed directly above and below the ore zone, and the head of the raise borer be pulled from the bottom chamber up-wards. The raise-bore mining method also require that the raise-bore chambers be closely spaced to each other. The close spacing of the raise-bore chambers combined with the poor ground conditions creates another challenge for the mining engineer at McArthur River.

Due to the variety of ground conditions and uniqueness of many excavations, several software packages were used to assist with the design of the underground excavations at the mine. Most of the rock mechanics software packages were off-the-shelf and were designed specifically to handle the mining-related problems. Howeverm in many cases the staff at McArthur River simply had to improvise and adopt nomining software to find the solution to the rock mechanics problems.

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