Underground mass mining methods such as panel and block caving, have generated increasing interest in recent years, thanks to the high potential production rates and low operating costs involved. Although they have been used in past 70 or so years, improved solutions for designing, planning and simulating of caving operations mean that these techniques can now be applied at greater depths, and within environments with greater geotechnical challenges than ever before.
In addition, a number of large open pit mines across the globe are coming to the end of their life, and many mining companies are examining the feasibility of shifting to low-cost, large-scale underground operations in order to continue exploiting these ore bodies. Several mining companies are also considering expanding their existing operations in order to access areas of the ore bodies previously thought to be uneconomic to profitably exploit.
Caving is the only underground bulk mining method that is able to offer continued production at a comparably high rate and with low operating costs. But this comes with a price, high capital investment up front and high demand on knowledge.
SRK Consulting has been involved in cave mining design, evaluation and operational assistance in past two decades and it is world leading consultancy in this field. Out of current 37 or so cave mining projects, SRK has been involved in one way or another in nearly all of them. Spearheading the effort is the cave mining group out of SRK Vancouver office under leadership of Jarek Jakubec. Jarek together with his colleagues will present the cross-section of the current cave mining industry and will discuss the current state of the art, past successes and future challenges.