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Block Caving in Underground Hard Rock Mining

Block caving is an underground hard rock mining technique and mass-mining method where an ore body is undercut and allowed to collapse. In this way, it’s similar to open-pit mining.

Block caving involves drilling shafts below the deposit, followed by horizontal haulage tunnels and raises. Blasting is then used to create an artificial cavern, or undercut, beneath the ore body. Next, the raises are blasted to create drawbells directly below the undercut.

Key fact: The cost of block caving is around one-tenth of the cost of conventional mining methods, with production rates reaching 30,000-100,000 tons per day

The deposit itself is then blasted, collapsing from the undercut and entering the drawbells. Shattered ore will continue to fall from above until the roof itself collapses. This brings more material into the drawbells and raises, which is then collected by loaders and transported through the haulage tunnels.

However, block caving has detrimental effects on the environment. For example, sinkholes inevitably form as the ground above the void collapses into it. Water can also enter the underground mine from above, posing serious risks of water contamination.

Benefits

  • Higher production rates

  • Accesses deeper deposits

  • Lower mining costs

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