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The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy 1st International Symposium on Block and Sub-Level Caving Cave

Mining Octavio Araneda Andre Sougarret.

Keynote address Lessons learned in cave Mining: El Teniente 1997-2007 Octavio Araneda &Andr Sougarret Codelco Chile, El Teniente
Introduction The aim of this keynote address is to review and reflect upon the development of cave mining in El Teniente mine over the last 10 years. In 1997, El Teniente mined at a rate of 97.000 tpd, and of this production, 50% of the ore mined was primary ore (hypogene, hard rock), and the other 50% was secondary ore (supergene, and softer rock). Two significant challenges were successfully met: the restart of Teniente Sub6 sector following the occurrence of heavy rockburst events during 1989 to 1992 [1,2,3]; and the start up of a new mining sector in primary rock, the Esmeralda sector [4]. With respect to events in the Sub6 sector, a very successful experimental mining program was developed between 1994 and 1996, and a considerable advance in the knowledge of rockbursting was gained. The lessons learnt, included practical ways to minimize the risk of rockbursts through the control of mining (draw rates, undercutting rates), the development of seismic monitoring and procedures to minimize the exposure of workers. By 1997, Sub6 was producing 10.000 tpd, the breakthrough to the surface had been accomplished, and the sector was undercutting and growing without major rockbursts taking place.

Fig 1. Sub6 mining periods, after Rojas et al The Esmeralda sector, commenced undercutting in 1996 with a new mine design and the introduction of the pre undercutting technique [5,6]. The Esmeralda sector design was based upon mining experience in the Sub6 and Teniente 4 Sur sectors. The main Page 1

The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy 1st International Symposium on Block and Sub-Level Caving Cave Mining Octavio Araneda Andre Sougarret. driver of the Esmeralda sector design, was the requirement to avoid heavy damage to the production level and associated ore passes, associated with the passage of the abutment stresses surrounding the advancing caving front.
Undercut limit
Ore mined December 1999

Fig 2 Esmeralda mine, 1999 INCREASING PRODUCTION IN THE LARGEST UNDERGROUND MINE A pre feasibility study was developed, (1997 to 1999), in order to replace the old Sewell mill, (given that the mine was extending in depth, below the level of the plant), and to expand the total capacity from 97.000 up to 126.000 tpd. The investment program considered the increment in capacity of the Colon concentrator, (located at a level below the main Teniente haulage level), through a new SAG mill plant, and the expansion of the ball mill and flotation plant. The project also included the increment in the capacity of the main railway system (Teniente 8) through its automation and the replacement of locomotives [7]. With respect to the mine, the expansion project was based upon the incorporation of new mine sectors: Pipa Norte (10.000 tpd) and Diablo Regimiento (28.000 tpd), and the expansion of Esmeralda (45.000 tpd) and Reservas Norte (35.000 tpd). The challenge included not only an increment around 30% in the production, but also increasing the contribution of primary ore to 80% the total mine call. The mining plan was based upon the lessons learnt in the Sub6 and Esmeralda sectors, with draw rates between 0,3 to 0,6 tpd/m2 and undercutting rates up to 30.000 m2 per year per sector. Diablo Regimiento had to achieve breakthrough to the level above, a process that was particularly complicated in Sub6, and to a minor extent in Esmeralda.

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The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy 1st International Symposium on Block and Sub-Level Caving Cave Mining Octavio Araneda Andre Sougarret. Reservas Norte represented the expansion of the former Sub6, incorporating changes to the previous design, including the change from post undercuting to pre undercuting, and a new materials handling system of trucks and ore passes feeding Teniente 8. Pipa Norte and Diablo Regimiento based their designs upon the Northparkes mine, given similar dimensions as the Northparkes foot print. The aim was to have a high productivity, (over 200 tpd/man), and haul the ore directly from the drawpoints to the crushers, allowing large boulders to be handled (up to 1,5 m). The design included large LHDs (13 yds3), and a LHD automation system [8,9]



SC h4

Fig 3. Diablo Regimiento production level and Crushing stations EL TENIENTE MINE TODAY Ten years later we are producing approximately 140.000 tpd, 80% originating from primary ore. The expansion program, increased the copper production from 330.000 to 430.000 metric tonnes per year, which has fortunately occurred during the upper part of the copper cycle price. In general terms smaller sectors, such as Pipa Norte and Diablo Regimiento, have experienced small differences in the actual results with respect to the original plans. Pipa Norte has enjoyed good geotechnical behaviour., most notably, the smooth advance of the undercut, and without major problems. Diablo Regimiento experienced a very successful breakthrough process, helped by hydraulic fracturing, (preconditioning). Seismic activity was of a low magnitude, and Page 3



The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy 1st International Symposium on Block and Sub-Level Caving Cave Mining Octavio Araneda Andre Sougarret. the entire process took place without rockbursting a major accomplishment. The expected time for the breakthrough, based upon Esmeralda and Sub6 experience, was projected to be 23 months. The actual breakthrough took just 10 months, allowing the sector to achieve production greater than the plan established for 2007. Major problems took place in the large caving sectors, Esmeralda and Reservas Norte, most of them related to geotechnical behaviour. The main goal of the Esmeralda design was to avoid significant rockbursts, and in this respect the design has been very successful. However since 2001, the mine has suffered with collapses in the central part of the caving front, that have reduced its undercutting rate and forced the development and implementation of contingency plans to deliver the planned production. Today, a change from pre to advance undercut is in process, together with a new mining sequence that reduces the width of cave fronts.



Collapsed area




A.H.P. A.H.T.

FRO N T. L L E G. CH IM. # 2 INY.

Actual caving face


Fig 4. Esmeralda mine, 2007. In Reservas Norte, the main problem has been rockbursting, especially in the west side of the face (stronger rock mass). A series of rockbursts since 2001 slowed the pace of the advance of the cave, and a large rockburst in August 2005, forced a review of the way the sectors mining plan. During 2007, (following the successful experience of preconditioning in Diablo Regimiento), the complete caving front of Reservas Norte (68.000 m2) has been preconditioned, and undercutting and extraction on the preconditioned rock mass will start by the end of this year.

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The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy 1st International Symposium on Block and Sub-Level Caving Cave Mining Octavio Araneda Andre Sougarret.

Preaconditioned area

Actual caving face

Fig 5. Reservas Norte, 2007

El Teniente has managed to cope with all the above mentioned difficulties, by implementing various contingency plans, but with higher costs than expected. During this period of ten years, a number of lessons have been learned, which have triggered changes in the way that El Teniente approaches the design and implementation of cave mining, in order to enhance the performance and reliability of the main mining areas, and this will also be the foundation for the design and implementation of future projects.

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The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy 1st International Symposium on Block and Sub-Level Caving Cave Mining Octavio Araneda Andre Sougarret. LESSONS LEARNED 1. Beware of wide cave fronts

If we consider the history of mining in Teniente, over the last 25 years, the major problems have been associated with wide panel caving fronts: Teniente 4 Sur, Sub6Reno, and Esmeralda. All these sectors have had caving front widths between 500 and 900 m. It is difficult to encounter similar experience elsewhere in the world, with such wide fronts. The normal experience in other mines is to use caving fronts with widths less than 300 m. In the following table the width of the caving fronts of several hard rock caving mines are shown.

Mine Esmeralda (Teniente) NorthParkes Palabora DOZ Henderson

Front width (m) 500 800 < 200 200 200 - 300 150 - 200




Fig 6. Caving fronts widths In our experience the use of wide caving fronts have been associated with operational and geotechnical difficulties, mainly the occurrence of collapses.
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The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy 1st International Symposium on Block and Sub-Level Caving Cave Mining Octavio Araneda Andre Sougarret.

The hypothesis concerning such geotechnical difficulties [10] is that long and extensive panel caving fronts promote high abutment stresses and large displacements of the rock mass above and beneath the caving excavation as the undercut front passes. Large displacements beneath the caving excavation, the associated strains, and the relaxed induced zone, significantly weaken the jointed rock mass in which the production level is developed. The greatest effect of this weakening will ordinarily occur in the central area of the caving front, modified by the rock mass characteristics and weak major structures. The operational difficulties of using wide caving fronts, plus the logistics and management involved in supervising caving fronts, almost a kilometre in length, are daunting, and difficult to achieve successfully. The practical argument used to support the application of reduced width caving fronts, is based upon the successful experience in several mining sectors with reduced caving fronts, such as Teniente 4 Regimiento, Teniente 3 Brechas, Teniente 4 Isla LHD, Pipa Norte, Diablo Regimiento, and Puente. A very successful experience of reducing the cave width was achieved in Teniente 4 Sur during 2006. Now, we are moving to reduced caving fronts width in Esmeralda and Reservas Norte, and the new Pilar Norte project (17.000 tpd cave) will be developed using the same concept
2. Advance undercutting: fine tuning the mine design

Undercut experience in the 80s and at the beginning of the 90s in Teniente focussed upon the use of post undercutting. The main problems experienced with this design were the high levels of damage in the production level, the low availability of the productive infrastructure and sloughing in ore passes. The high magnitude of the abutment stresses, between 70 to 90 MPa, generated a zone of damage round the caving front, and recovery and repairs were invariably required after the passage of the undercut front. In addition, the production levels were extremely vulnerable to seismic events, which resulted in heavy damage, especially in the abutment zone. In 1997, pre undercutting was introduced into the Esmeralda sector, with the aim of minimizing damage to the production level, and to have a stronger mine infrastructure by reducing the damage generated by seismicity. The quality of the workings improved in a remarkable way, together with a tremendous reduction in the level of damage. The availability of the mine production drawpoints increased (from 75% with post undercutting up to 90%), and the design resisted the seismic activity very well. In fact the damage in the production level, as a product of seismicity was negligible.

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The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy 1st International Symposium on Block and Sub-Level Caving Cave Mining Octavio Araneda Andre Sougarret.

The condition of the ore passes also improved, not only due to the change in the construction sequence, but because of improvements in support (steel rings). However new problems were generated by the design, that were not assessed properly previously. The first one was that the damage issue was translated to the undercutting level. Post undercutting has a UCL design that blasts an 18 m height from drifts separated on 30 m centres, leaving pillars of 26 m width. The new design, a flat undercut of 4 (m) height, has drifts separated on 15 m centres, leaving pillars of 11 (m) width. The reduction of the pillar in the undercut level, together with the condition of the undercut excavation ahead of the extraction front, increased the abutment stress, created a problem of damage in the UCL, especially serious in the weaker rockmasses (Centre and Eastern part of the front). The damage in the UCL complicated the undercutting, because of blast hole damage, and this produced remnant pillars that provoke collapses in the production level. The second problem with the design was brought about by logistics and planning issues. The concept to pre-develop and build most of the mine below the undercut implies two things: the first is that a distance of at least 60 m is needed between the undercut face and the first drawbell in extraction, ie space is needed to carry out the mine preparation. The second issue, is that a very small area is available to perform the work, generating a significant level of congestion and a low number of working faces. The problem, of course, increases with a wider caving face.

Fig 6. Pre and post undercutting. Preparation zone, after Rojas et al.
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The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy 1st International Symposium on Block and Sub-Level Caving Cave Mining Octavio Araneda Andre Sougarret.

This state of affairs imposes heavy restrictions upon mine preparation, reducing the productivity and increasing the cost. Also there is a tendency to generate an ever increasing undercut area, extending the length of the undercut roof, which increases the abutment stress, seismicity and the level of damage in the UCL. Finally, pre undercut design, precludes the development of ore passes and infrastructure ahead of the caving front, and so complicates the management of collapses and other problems, in the production level. What is the best design? Advance Undercut is the best solution, for it reduces the complexity regarding mine development, reduces the undercut roof span and is better positioned, to handle collapses. The experience in Pipa Norte, Diablo Regimiento and Reservas Norte is a practical confirmation of that. We are changing to advance undercut in Esmeralda and implementing this approach in new projects like Pilar Norte. We are still looking for a better design for the UCL. The high stress level in Teniente complicates any design, because the pillar rock mass safety factors are very close to 1, but wider pillars are very difficult to blast efficiently.


Design and plan to face problems, difficulties will occur

Experience in recent years has shown that geotechnical problems such as collapses and rockbursts can be controlled and reduced. However they will occur. Mine planning and mine design have to take into account geotechnical risks, and contingency actions and plans must be developed in order to reduce the impact of their occurrence. A risk analysis of the mine plan was performed as part of the feasibility study of the future mine expansion, and contingency measures were defined to handle major deviations. Two sources to mitigate risks were analyzed: the extraction of crater material, and contingency sectors. The crater material is the broken ore, not recovered from upper levels. More than 10 levels have been mined since 1905, with cut off grades over 1 % especially in the levels mined before 1970. Because of the grade selection applied and incomplete recovery in certain areas, a huge resource is now available within the overlying crater, which is now convenient (in an economic sense) to be mined. The mine plan, usually includes the extraction of some minor part of the crater resource. Since 2003 a drilling program has been undertaken in order to improve knowledge of the crater resource, and better information is now available. Contingency sectors comprise marginal ore, smaller projects, (in the Teniente sense), that can be easily brought into production in order to handle a major problem or
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The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy 1st International Symposium on Block and Sub-Level Caving Cave Mining Octavio Araneda Andre Sougarret.

deviation from the mine plan. Mining sectors of 5.000 to 7.000 tpd, and with a life of 3 to 5 years, are identified and engineered in order to have a portfolio of options to cover the risks. With the advance of the mine plan, a decision has to be taken in order to use the option, (to build the project), or to wait. Contingency plans add real value when utilized, but the mine design must be structured in such a way as to be able to respond and behave in an appropriate way when difficulties occur. In the case of collapses, a hard lesson was learned in the Esmeralda sector. The aim of the design in Esmeralda was focused upon solving the rockbursting problem, and to reduce overbreak in long ore passes. In the case of collapses, the concept was that the use of pre-undercutting would be enough to eliminate that risk, because of the high strength and quality of the production level rock mass. With that in mind, the design and configuration of levels, (30 m between production, haulage and the ventilation levels), imposed considerable difficulties in the recovery of collapses below the production level, which has been a successful practice in Teniente 4 Sur, which has a different configuration of levels. In summary, problems will happen and the mine plan and design must take into account that fact, giving both the plan and the design, the flexibility to handle unforeseen problems.


Quality, and discipline are essential

Which problems in mines are due to technical issues and which problems are due to working practices and discipline? It is difficult to know, but our opinion is that most of the rockbursts and collapses could be avoided by improving working practices and discipline. In the case of El Teniente, since 2004 a significant effort has been made in the implementation of quality assurance and control systems. In the field of mine development and construction a huge improvement has been achieved, through a reinforcement of the management and technical teams leading the work, better and more detailed plans, and a new bidding system (based upon long term contracts). However, working practice problems remain an area for improvement, especially in the undercutting process. This issue is very difficult because of cultural problems, and the size and complexity of the operations and the organization. The challenge is to move from a production orientated culture, to a quality based culture. The geotechnical environment that El Teniente is facing, high stress and low rock mass safety factors, does not allow for mistakes.

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The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy 1st International Symposium on Block and Sub-Level Caving Cave Mining Octavio Araneda Andre Sougarret.

The future extension in depth of El Teniente requires a change in culture and an operational management system based upon quality and the strict achievement of plans.
5. Mining control is not enough to handle seismicity

The control of induced seismicity through the management of the mining process and seismic monitoring has been very successful in Teniente. The number of rockbursts has been reduced dramatically in the past 10 years. We have not suffered fatalities in the past 16 years, having mined over 500 million tons of ore. However large rockbursts tend to occur every two or three years, generating severe damage and delays to the advance of cave operations, and what is more important, risk to people. The most recent significant rockburst, occurred on the 30 August 2005 in Reservas Norte, and underlined that monitoring and control of mining are not enough to minimize this kind of risk. The answer is thought to be to modify the rock mass, by hydraulic fracturing, (preconditioning), in order to provide an environment in which a more controlled dissipation of energy may take place. Experience in Diablo Regimiento with preconditioning showed that the maximum magnitude of seismic events can be reduced significantly. Hydraulic fracturing created an environment in which a maximum magnitude of seismic events of Richter 1.2 occured, versus Richter 2 that was expected (based upon experience in the Esmeralda sector) [11].
5 After Preconditioning 4 Before Preconditioning


-2 -1.7 -1.4 -1.1 -0.8 -0.5 -0.2 0.1 0.4 0.7 1 1.3 1.6 1.9 2.2 2.5


Fig 8. Seismic activity after preconditioning. El Teniente Mine is now putting in place an extensive preconditioning program in Reservas Norte, the most seismically active sector, and employing an upgraded seismic network. The evaluation of that experience is key in assessing the effect of preconditioning in the reduction of seismic risk, and very relevant for the long term future of mining in Teniente. Another lesson in relation to seismicity, is the effect of the column height on seismic risk. For several years, it was believed, that column height had a major influence on Page 11

The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy 1st International Symposium on Block and Sub-Level Caving Cave Mining Octavio Araneda Andre Sougarret.

seismicity. In fact Esmeralda mine was designed with a low column height (140 m), precisely to avoid the possibility of provoking large seismic events related to a high column height. Actual experience showed that induced seismicity is more related to rock mass characteristics (competence), than column height. In fact the region with higher column height in Teniente (the East wall, over 400 m) has a lower seismic risk compared to the lower column height zone (the West zone with a more competent rock mass). That empirical fact reinforces the rationale that precondictioning is a promising tool to reduce seismic risk.

These are some of the lessons that we have learnt in the past 10 years. The question is: how are we going to incorporate these lessons in current operations and future projects? An example of the application of these lessons is the Pilar Norte project, a remnant pillar of 40 million tonnes of ore, located between the Esmeralda and Reservas Norte sectors. Pilar Norte incorporates plans for:

Reduced width caving fronts Block type mining sequence Widespread preconditioning Advance undercutting A UCL design with more robust pillars

Besides the technical issues, some of the most relevant issues for management focus include: work practices, discipline, and cultural change. We have major challenges and problems to solve in Teniente in the coming years, not only in the current mines, but in the design and construction of the next extension in depth: the New Mine Level project. The sharing of lessons between companies is considered to be of the utmost importance to the mining industry, in order to succeed in the successful development of the current and future caving operations. Mining companies will therefore be best served by sharing their knowledge and lessons learned to the benefit of all.

The authors would like to express their thanks to CODELCO Chile Divisin El Teniente for permission to publish. Special thanks to Marko Didyk and the rest of the members of the Teniente Technical Advisory Board, William Hustrulid, Dick Stacy and Yves Potvin. To Gavin Ferguson for his contributions over the years and to all our colleagues in El Teniente who contributed in this paper.

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The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy 1st International Symposium on Block and Sub-Level Caving Cave Mining Octavio Araneda Andre Sougarret. REFERENCES

[1] Control of induced seismicity at El Teniente Mine. E Rojas, P Cavieres, R Dunlop, S Gaete. Massmin 2000. [2] Seismicity at El Teniente Mine. R Dunlop, S Gaete. Proceedings 4th International Symposium on Mine Planning and Equipment Selection, 1995. [3] Controlling induced seismicity at El Teniente Mine: the Sub6 case history. Proceedings 4th International Symposium on Rockbursts ans Seismicity in Mines. [4] Esmeralda Mine Explotation Project. M Barraza, P Crorkan. Massmin 2000. [5] Pre undercut caving in the Teniente Mine. E Rojas, P Cavieres, R Molina. SME Handbook 2001. [6] The Pre-undercut Caving Method at the El Teniente Mine. E Rojas, R Molina, A Bonani, H Constanzo. Massmin 2000. [7] Increasing the Efficiency of a High-Throughput Mine Railway. T Salt, K Mears. Railway Gazette International 2006. [8] Automation of mineral extraction and handling. F Varas. Massmin 2004. [9] Codelco El Teniente Loading automation in panel caving using Automine. V Schweikart, T Soikkeli. Massmin 2004. [10] Breaking the Cycle A Way Forward. G Ferguson. Internal report 2006. [11] Rock Preconditioning application in virgin caving condition in a panel caving mine, CODELCO Chile El Teniente Division. O Araneda, R Morales, J Henriquez, E Rojas, R Molina. Deep and High Stress Mining 2007.

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