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Tunneling Slopes in Underground Mining

Slope mining is an underground mining method used to access coal or ore deposits by tunneling downwards at an incline. By comparison, shaft mines are dug vertically, while drift mines use horizontal tunnels. The coal is also closer to the surface in slope mines.

Underground mining trucks and loaders are used in slope mining to dig, load material, and transport it out of the tunnel. If the tunnel grade is steep, electric hoists are used to transport coal to the surface or lower loads into the mine. Otherwise, conveyor belts or track haulage systems can be used.

The slope of pit walls is determined by rock mass strength, which can be assessed using structural data and hydrogeologic information. This ensures that the walls are stable enough for mining to continue. While increasing the slope angle can reduce stripping costs and improve productivity, if the walls are unstable, it could lead to dangerous slope failures.

Key fact: In 2010, an underground mine collapse at the San José Mine trapped 33 miners 700 metres beneath the surface as a result of unstable conditions

Benefits

  • Ore deposits are easier to access

  • Steeper slopes equal increased ore recovery

  • Less emissions are produced

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