CEMI releases results of $6.7M deep underground mining research
New tools and guidelines could prevent rock walls from collapsing
New research spearheaded in Sudbury could prevent injuries, deaths, and mine shut-downs by helping mining companies predict and prevent rock walls from collapsing kilometres below the earth's surface.
"There was a need by the deep mining industry to better understand how the rock in underground mines behaves in response to the mining process itself," said Damien Duff.
Duff is vice-president of geoscience and geotechnical research and development at the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI) in Sudbury, the group that led the research.
The $6.7 million project, called SUMIT (Smart Underground Monitoring and Integrated Technologies for deep mines), was funded by the provincial government, the mining industry, and several universities including Laurentian University, University of Toronto, and Queen's University.
Much of the research will help mining companies better understand how rocks are affected by mine blasting and extraction.
Moving forward with greater 'confidence'
Researchers used underground lasers to track subtle changes in the rock face and computer software to predict how rock might react to specific mining activities.
"That enables us to see very quickly and very easily over time what changes might be happening to our tunnels as the mine evolves," Duff said.
"We've got the capability of being able to read into our data far better than we have in the past," he continued. "We're moving forward with a greater degree of confidence."
The project also created a database of mining knowledge in northern Ontario and updated guidelines on how best to fortify the underground tunnel walls to prevent falling pieces of rock.
"We insert numerous rock bolts and other ground support elements like screen, straps, and cables throughout the mines," said Duff. "The last time a document outlined how to do that was in 1996, 20 years ago."
Duff told CBC News the project included research conducted by 75 students ranging from undergraduate to postdoctoral fellows.
Nearly 1,000 hours of underground fieldwork took place on three test sites in Sudbury.