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Methods for Underground Mining-Atlas Copco

Methods for Underground Mining-Atlas Copco

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Published by: José Gregorio Freites on May 29, 2011
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in search of

Cia de Ferro Ligas da Bahia (Fer-
basa) is a private capital group,
which produces chromite, silicon
and limestone. One of Brazil’s most
important metallurgical compa-
nies, Ferbasa has surface and un-
derground mining operations in
the state of Bahia in north-eastern
Brazil, where their Pedrinhas open
pit chrome mine, located in Campo
Formoso, has been in operation
since 1961. Pedrinhas currently pro-
duces about 2,400,000 cu m/year
of chromite ore and waste, yielding
54,000 t/year of hard lump chro-
mite and 114,000 t/year of chro-
mite concentrate. At the Medrado
and Ipueira underground mines,
lump chromite is produced using
primarily sublevel caving techni-
ques with raises opened using slot
drilling, where a fleet of Atlas
Copco equipment offers key sup-
port in exploration, development
and production.

Entrance to the Ipueira mine.



underground mining methods

and, in the few cases when the orebody
is horizontal, open stoping is the pre-
ferred method. Both methods are safe,
with currently acceptable dilutions.
However, the management has started
looking for suitable alternative methods
that will reduce the dilution in future.
For longitudinal sublevel caving, produc-
tion drifts are developed in the footwall

of the orebody. The vertical distance
between sublevels varies from 14 m to
30 m. Production drilling is upwards,
using a fan pattern. The broken ore is
loaded using LHDs, and is hauled from
the production levels to the surface
using rigid frame trucks.
In terms of production, the company
drills 180,000 m/year of production

blast holes, which have a diameter of
51 mm and a burden of 2.2 m. At the
same time, they are studying the pos-
sibility of changing to 76 mm-diameter
holes and 2.8 m burden, in order to re-
duce costs.

The fleet of production drill rigs in-
cludes an Atlas Copco Simba H254 and
a Simba 253, both electro-hydraulic

Layout of Ipueira mine.

N 55

N 65

N 75

N 85

N 95

N 105

N 115

N 125

Production loading

Charging – production holes

Production drilling

Mucking out








The locations of drifts and drill patterns are adapted to the ore-waste boundaries.





Blast holes

2.2 m


underground mining methods


rigs equipped with COP 1238ME rock
drills, which drill 6,000 m/month to
achieve a productivity of 22 m/h. The
mine also has a Promec M195 pneu-
matic rig equipped with COP 131EL
rock drill. These machines are also used
to drill orebody definition holes, and
achieve 3,500 m/month.

Slot drilling

One of the main challenges at Ferbasa’s
underground operations is the develop-
ment of inverse drop raises. These open-
ings, which are also called ‘blind raises’
because they don’t communicate with
the upper level, can only be accessed
from the lower level. This limitation is
dictated by the mining methods.
Previously these blind raises were de-
veloped upwards by successive individual

advances of up to 6 m. Nowadays, this
practice has been replaced with a fully
mechanized method, increasing the
speed and safety of drilling the open-
ings. Looking for a solution to improve
operator safety when drilling these pro-
duction raises, technical personnel from
Ferbasa visited LKAB’s Malmberget
iron ore mine in Sweden, where they
studied the development of inverse drop
raises blasted in one single shot. After
the visit, Ferbasa started employing a
slot drilling technique, and Ipueira and
Medrado are now the most experienced
mines in Brazil in its use. Slot drilling
requires a row of 7.5 in -diameter inter-
connected holes to be drilled using a
special guide mounted on a regular ITH
drill hammer. Thus, with an available
free face, drilling accuracy, and con-
trolled blasting techniques, openings

of up to 25 m length are successfully
achieved. The main advantages of the
method are personnel safety and speed
in the drilling. Also, slot drilling is
more precise and, in general, more

A Simba M6 C drill rig equipped with
COP 64 DTH hammer and ABC Regular
system, as well as an on-board booster
compressor, has been acquired for drill-
ing inverse drop raises with holes up to
10 in-diameter. Depending on the length
of the raise, and the quality of the rock
mass, the slot drilling technique is used.
If the length of the raise is short, and
the rock quality poor, the traditional
technique with reamed holes is used.
Until the Simba M6 C arrived, Fer-
basa was carrying out slot drilling with
only one machine. They chose the new
Simba rig because of its advanced tech-
nological and safety features. One of the
main advantages is the setup, which
only has to be carried out once at each

The Simba M6 C machine is also easy
to operate, and the spacious, air-condi-
tioned cabin is an attractive feature.
The mine spent five years looking for
a solution to the opening of inverse drop
raises, and is pleased with its invest-
ment in technology and modernization
represented by the Simba M6 C.


Atlas Copco is grateful to the manage-
ments at both Ipueira and Medrado
mines for their contributions to this

Slot drilling at Ferbasa: The Simba M6 C in action and, (right), the perfectly finished row of holes.

The slot drilling crew with their Simba.


When you choose Secoroc DTH equipment, you decide what balance of technol-
ogy, performance, and investment is right for your drilling conditions. Atlas Copco
Secoroc has the broadest range of hammers, bits, and related equipment of any
supplier in the world. This means more choices for you. It means you can work with
the strongest support network in the industry, regardless of your equipment needs.
It also means that you can look to one reliable and time-tested source for all con-
ceivable applications.

Of course, you'd expect Atlas Copco Secoroc to have the most productive DTH ham-
mers in the world. And we do.

Your situation might call for the utmost in reliability. Or perhaps your application
demands technology that has been tested and proven through years of field use.
Whatever your needs, check out our many choices before settling for less. We are
the only manufacturer to offer both first and second choice solutions in every single

You'll find it all here. At Atlas Copco Secoroc.

The world's widest range
of DTH solutions

underground mining methods


zaCaTeCaS, MexiCO

Mechanization pioneer

The official name of the Proaño mine
comes from Captain Diego Fernandez
de Proaño, who discovered the site and
developed the first mining works on the
hill that bears his name. The operation
is also known as Fresnillo mine because
of its proximity to Fresnillo city. It is
run by the Compania Fresnillo, SA de
CV, which is 100% owned by Peñoles.
With a history that can be traced as far
back as the 1550s in Pre-Hispanic times,
Proaño has gone through a number of
phases, which have left an important
mark on the mine. Its operations have
been stopped due to economical and
technical difficulties (1757 to 1830), as
well as during the Mexican Revolution
(1913 to 1919), and inevitably it has gone
through several ownership as well as
technological changes.
From employing basic manual tools
in the early days, the mine now employs
modern mechanized units, including
some of the most sophisticated mining
machinery available.
Embracing mechanization early on
has been one of the factors that has hel-
ped Proaño cement its position as the
world's largest and most profitable silver
mine. They started mechanizing opera-
tions about 40 years ago, and during the

last 30 years there has been a steady
increase in production. Products are
silver-lead concentrates and silver-zinc
concentrates. In 2005, Proaño produced
nearly 34 million troy ounces, or 1,055 t,
of silver.

Production expansion

During the mine's long history it has
had to adapt to changes in the geology
and work parameters. For instance, the
mining method has had to be funda-
mentally changed several times, and
each time the appropriate technology
and equipment has had to be introduced.
Atlas Copco has worked alongside the
mine management for several years to
adapt and innovate with primary equip-
ment, service, training, inventory man-
agement and parts stock. The mine re-
cently implemented a substantial pro-
duction increase, going from 4,500 t/day
to 7,000 t/day. To support this produc-
tion expansion the company recently

increased its mining fleet with the pur-
chase of three Rocket Boomer 281 de-
velopment drill rigs additional to its
four existing units, another Simba M4 C
production drill rig additional to its ex-
isting three units, five Scooptram ST1020
loaders to complement its existing fleet
of 17 units, and two Minetruck MT2000
trucks to increase its fleet to seven units.
Atlas Copco has also started a service
contract for the Simba rigs, which re-
quires the presence of four technicians
on site, and offers similar assistance for
the loaders.

Currently, the Proaño mining fleet
represents a mix of old and new Atlas
Copco technology. Amongst the old units
are Scooptram ST6C loaders, BBC 16
pneumatic rock drills, BMT 51 pusher
leg rock drills and DIP & DOP pneu-
matic pumps. There are also Diamec U6,
Diamec 262 and Diamec 252 explora-
tion drill rigs, Boltec 235 bolting rigs,
Rocket Boomer 104 drill rigs, Simba
1254 production drill rigs and Robbins

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