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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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efficiency and safety

Raise boring is the process of me-
chanically boring, drilling or ream-
ing a vertical or inclined shaft or
raise between two or more levels.
Some 40 years ago, the world’s first
modern raise boring machine was
introduced by the Robbins Com-
pany. It launched a revolution in
underground mining and construc-
tion, and the technique is now ac-
cepted as the world standard for
mechanical raise excavation. New
products from Atlas Copco, such
as the BorPak, concepts such as
automatic operation and comput-
erization, and techniques such as
horizontal reaming, are creating
exciting new opportunities in the
underground environment. Atlas
Copco Robbins supplies the com-
plete raise boring package for all
situations, together with technical
and spares backup.

Raise boring process.

raiSe BOring


underground mining methods

production. Standard RBMs are capable
of boring at angles between 45 degrees
and 90 degrees from horizontal, and with
minor adjustment can actually bore at
angles between 45 degrees and hori-

A whole host of methods of mechani-
cal raise and shaft excavation have been
developed around the use of the RBM.
These include boxhole boring, blind
shaft boring, rotary drilling, down rea-
ming, pilot up/ream down, pilot down/
ream down, hole opening, and BorPak.

alternative boring

Boxhole boring is used to excavate raises
where there is limited access, or no access
at all, to the upper level. The machine is

set up at the lower level, and a full dia-
meter raise is bored upward. Stabilizers
are periodically added to the drill string
to reduce oscillation and bending stress-
es. Cuttings gravitate down the hole and
are deflected away from the RBM at the
lower level.

Blind shaft boring is used where access
to the lower level is limited, or impos-
sible. A down reaming system is used,
in which weights are attached to the
reamer mandrel. Stabilizers are located
above and below the weight stack to
ensure verticality of the hole. Cuttings
are removed using a vacuum or reverse
circulation system.
Rotary drilling is used for holes up
to 250 mm-diameter, and is similar in
concept to pilot hole drilling in that a bit
is attached to the drill string to excavate
the required hole size.
Down reaming involves drilling a
conventional pilot hole and enlarging it
to the final raise diameter by reaming
from the upper level. Larger diameter
raises are achieved by reaming the pilot
hole conventionally, and then enlarging
it by down reaming. The down reamer
is fitted with a non-rotating gripper and
thrust system, and a torque-multiply-
ing gearbox driven by the drill string.
Upper and lower stabilizers are installed
to ensure correct kerf cutting and to re-
duce oscillation.
Pilot up/ream down was a predeces-
sor of modern raise boring techniques
using standard drilling rigs. Pilot down/
ream down, or hole opening, employs
a small diameter reamer to follow the

pilot hole. Stabilizers in the drill string
prevent bending.
The BorPak is a relatively new ma-
chine for blind hole boring which climbs
up the raise as it bores. It comprises a
guided boring machine, power unit,
launch tube and transporter assembly,
conveyor and operator console. Cuttings
pass through the centre of the machine,
down the raise and launch tube, and onto
the conveyor. The BorPak has the poten-
tial to bore holes from 1.2 m to 2.0 m-
diameter at angles as low as 30 degrees
from horizontal. It eliminates the need
for a drill string and provides the steer-
ing flexibility of a raise climber.

raise boring machine

The raise boring machine (RBM) pro-
vides the thrust and rotational forces ne-
cessary for boring, as well as the equip-
ment and instruments needed to control
and monitor the process. It is composed
of five major assemblies: the derrick;
the hydraulic, lubrication, and electrical
systems; and the control console.
The derrick assembly supplies the ro-
tational and thrust forces necessary to
turn the pilot bit and reamer, as well as
to raise and lower the drill string. Base-
plates, mainframe, columns and head-
frame provide the mounting structure
for the boring assembly. Hydraulic cy-
linders provide the thrust required for
lowering and lifting the drillstring, and
for drilling and reaming. The drive train
assembly, comprising crosshead, main
drive motor, and gearbox, supplies the

Typical raise boring underground site showing overhead clearance.

Boxhole boring.

Clearance for derrick
erection from the
transporter system

for complete

raiSe BOring

underground mining methods


rotational power to the drill string and
cutting components.

Four types of main drive motor
systems are available:

AC, DC, hydraulic and VF. The gearbox
mounts directly to the main drive motors,

employing a planetary reduction for its
compactness. The hydraulic power unit
is skid-mounted, and comprises the ne-
cessary reservoir, motors, pumps, valves,
filters and manifolds.
The lubrication system ensures
proper delivery of lubricating oil to the

high-speed bearings and other selected
components of the drive train assembly
gearbox, and comprises pump, motor,
filter, heat exchanger, flow meter, and
reservoir with level gauge, thermometer
and breather.
The electrical system assembly con-
sists of an enclosed cabinet containing
the power and control distribution hard-
ware and circuitry for the entire raise
boring operation.
The control console provides for both
electrical and hydraulic functions, offe-
ring meter readouts for main operating

Computerization of the raise boring
functions is also offered, using Atlas
Copco’s well-tried PC based RCS


This article has been prepared using
The Raise Boring Handbook, Second
Edition, researched and compiled by
Scott Antonich, as its main reference.

Typical operating installation of the BorPak machine.

Robbins 73RM-VF set up in a workshop.

Robbins Raise Drills
... keep on raising

Committed to your superior productivity.

Atlas Copco Rock Drills AB

Fax: +46 19 670 7393


Ever since the frst Robbins raise drill was built in 1962, it

has been a constant success. By meeting customer needs
through innovation, reliability and an unrivalled product
range, we have gained the lion’s share of the global market
– and we intend to keep it that way!

Robbins Raise Drill Systems produce shafts and raises from
0.6 m to 6.0 m in diameter, and up to 1000 m in length.

MeCHanized BOlTing

underground mining methods


Specializing for safety

There was a time when underground
mining and safety were terms not com-
monly referred to in the same sentence.
However, times have changed, and today
safety is given a place of prominence in
the operational priorities of the mining

Freshly blasted openings leave con-
siderable areas of loose rock, which must
be removed to prevent fall-of-ground
injuries. Improvements in drilling and
blasting techniques have helped to signi-
ficantly reduce the amount of this loose
rock. Scaling, which is the most hazard-
ous part of the work cycle, is used to
remove loose rock.
Subsequent blasting might result in
additional rock falls, especially in frac-
tured ground conditions. Screening or
shotcreting, as a means of retention of
this loose rock, is often used in com-
bination with rockbolting. Screening,
which is a time-consuming operation,
is common practice in Canada and
Australia. Since the 1960s and 1970s,
considerable effort has been spent on

mechanizing underground operational
activities, including the rock excavation
cycle. Within the drill-blast-mucking
cycle repeated for each round, the drill-
ing phase has become fully mechanized,
with the advent of high productivity hy-
draulic drill jumbos.
Similarly, blasting has become an ef-
ficient process, thanks to the develop-
ment of bulk charging trucks and easily
configured detonation systems. After
only a short delay to provide for ade-
quate removal of dust and smoke by high
capacity ventilation systems, the mo-
dern LHD rapidly cleans out the muck

These phases of the work cycle have
been successfully mechanized, and mo-
dern equipment provides a safe operator
By contrast, the most hazardous ope-
rations, such as scaling, bolting and
screening, have only enjoyed limited
progress in terms of productivity im-
provements and degree of mechaniza-
tion. The development of mechanized
scaling and bolting rigs has been slower,
mainly due to variations in safety rules
and works procedure in specific rock

To summarize, equipment manufac-
turers have had difficulty in providing
globally accepted solutions. Nevertheless,

there is equipment available from Atlas
Copco to meet most of the current de-
mands of miners and tunnellers.

Mechanization stages

Various methods of mechanized bolting
are available, and these can be listed
under the following three headings.

Manual drilling and bolting

This method employs light hand held
rock drills, scaling bars and bolt instal-
lation equipment, and was in wide-
spread use until the advent of hydraulic
drilling in the 1970s. Manual methods
are still used in small drifts and tun-
nels, where drilling is performed with
handheld pneumatic rock drills. The
bolt holes are drilled with the same
equipment, or with stopers. Bolts, with
or without grouting, are installed manu-
ally with impact wrenches. To facilitate
access to high roofs, service trucks or
cars with elevated platforms are com-
monly used.

Semi-mechanized drilling and

The drilling is mechanized, using a hy-
draulic drill jumbo, followed by manual
installation of the bolts by operators wor-
king from a platform mounted on the

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