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Santiago Chile, 22-25 August 2004 498 Massmin 2004

Perseverance nickel mine is part of WMC Resources
Leinster Nickel Operations. Leinster is approximately
645km northeast of Perth in Western Australia. The Leinster
nickel deposit is located within the Agnew-Wiluna
greenstone belt at depths of 375m to +1120m (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Perseverance Regional Geology
In 2003, 42,000 tonnes of nickel-in-concentrate were
produced from the Leinster nickel concentrator and dryer.
Ore was sourced from Perseverance underground and
Harmony open pit mines. The Perseverance underground
mine consists primarily of a disseminated nickel orebody.
Mining of this deposit is by sublevel cave (SLC) mining
method. Several smaller nickel lenses/pods are mined
using a variety of open stoping mining methods.
In 2003 the SLC produced >1.5Mt. at 1.93%Ni., with an
additional 118kt. at 2.29%Ni mined during stope
development. Current proven and probable SLC reserves
total 14Mt at 1.77%Ni. (Cooper, 2004).
Forecasting of tonnes and conducting resource
reconciliations in the SLC have proven difficult in the past.
This was in part due to ore stocks being left in higher levels
of the mine, following a planned drop down strategy
(triggered by an inflexion zone in the orebody), and a
change from tonnage to grade based cutoffs (Wood et al.,
This paper discusses improvements in the understanding
of flow behaviour and in predicting the draw performance
within various areas of the SLC at Perseverance mine.
In 2000, two major reviews of the sublevel cave
performance were undertaken at Perseverance (Bull, 2000;
Rosengren and Scott, 2000) from which several design and
operational changes were made. The most notable change
was a reduction in the centre-to-centre crosscut spacing
from 17.5 to 14.5 metres. This was based on the theory of
interactive draw as shown in Figure 2 below. Essentially the
theory supports a uniform draw down of the cave material,
reducing early dilution ingress, and hence improved metal
The theory of interactive draw also required the
introduction of strict bogging practices for the SLC.
Interactive bogging involves retreating individual levels with
an aligned cave front and cycling the bogging of drawpoints
between adjacent crosscuts on the level. Perseverance
rules were developed where bogging from individual
crosscuts was limited to a maximum of 300 tonnes per cycle
(with 100 tonne the optimum) and an absolute maximum of
600 tonnes per shift. These measures were implemented in
an attempt to avoid surging of waste ingress. The shift
bogging limits have also assisted in providing a more
An important challenge when operating a sub level cave (SLC) is to optimise draw point performance against metal
recovery and ore grades. WMCs Perseverance Nickel mine (Leinster, Western Australia) has recently improved metal
recovery, whilst maintaining consistent grades from its SLC operations. To improve the recoveries, a series of steps was
followed culminating in the implementation of a formal draw marker trial. This draw marker trial deployed 1762 cement
filled steel markers across a series of 126 conventional production long holes. The aims of the trial were to determine
draw ellipse shape, ascertain the nature and extent of any interaction of draw, and analyse the effect of fragmentation on
draw performance. By doing this it was planned to assess the nature of material flow within the cave so that draw and
hence cave extraction horizons can be optimised.
Draw point analysis using a marker
trial at the Perseverance Nickel Mine,
Leinster, Western Australia
Bradley Hollins, Mining Engineer, WMC Resources Ltd., Olympic Dam, S.A. (formerly of Perseverance Mine)
John Tucker, Production Engineer, WMC Resources Ltd., Perseverance Nickel Mine, Leinster, W.A.
Santiago Chile, 22-25 August 2004 Massmin 2004 499
consistent hoist performance by ensuring that problems in
an individual cross-cut are dealt with in a timely manner
rather than having all the adjacent cross-cuts stop and wait.
Prior to managing by interactive practices a difficult cross-
cut could be left for days or even weeks before being
Some of the key design parameters currently used in the
SLC are summarised in Table 1 and shown in Figure 3.
Rings between adjacent crosscuts are staggered by 1.5
metres (looking in plan view) to avoid drilling into holes from
adjacent crosscuts. The drill holes are drilled past the ring
design tonnage outline in an attempt to fragment the
material between adjacent crosscuts.
Steel sets were installed in sections of the 10030 level of
Perseverance mine. Although these steel sets were intended
for ground support rather than draw markers, they have also
provided an opportunity to follow the movement of large
structures over multiple levels. Figure 4 shows the movement
of these steel sets along with reported sightings of red sand
(which was originally used as backfill in old stopes).
Movement of the steel sets and sand has shown that the
drop down strategy pillar has broken up as planned. In
addition, the steel sets are known to have moved 270
metres while deviating less than three degrees from a
Figure 2: Independent vs Interactive Draw (Bull, 2000)
Table 1: Typical Design Parameters
Parameter Value
Blasted drive width 5.1 metres
Blasted drive height 4.8 metres (with flat backs)
Level interval 25 metres, floor to floor
Blast ring rump 150 forward
Apparent ring burden 3.0 metres
Ring toe spacing 3.2 metres
Explosive type Powerbulk VE, density 1.0
Blast hole size 102 mm
Shut off grades 0.9% below forecast tonnes;
(grade at which 1.2% forecast tonnes to
bogging is stopped design tones; 1.4% above
and next ring prepared design tonnes
for firing)
Cut off grade 0.9% nickel
Production ring tonnage 3,500 tonnes (approximate)
75mm of fibrecrete; mesh
(floor to floor) pinned
with 2.4 metre long
SLC ground support split sets; an additional
50mm of fibrecrete; rings
containing 15 debonded
gewie bolts (3 metre long)
on 1.5 metre burdens.
Figure 3: Cross section of 9715 crosscut (XC) 25 and 9715
XC27 ring designs
Figure 4: Movement of steel sets and red sand through the
Perseverance mine
Santiago Chile, 22-25 August 2004 500 Massmin 2004
vertical trajectory. The path of the red sand is less well
understood as there were three adjacent stopes filled on the
10000 level.
In 2001, unsuccessful attempts were made to use old
bogger tyres to study the flow of material through the cave.
Following this attempt, six concrete filled drums were bolted
into the sidewalls of the 9850mRL prior to production
blasting. These drums are yet to be recovered. The SLC is
now down to the 9740mRL.
A more formal approach to studying the flow of material
through the Perseverance SLC was commenced in 2002.
The aim of these draw marker trials was to further improve
metal recovery through gaining an understanding of the flow
characteristics in the SLC. The approach undertaken was
based on similar trials conducted at Ridgeway Gold Mine
(Power, 2002-2004).
The markers used in the trial were constructed of steel
pipe 250mm long and 45mm in diameter. This marker size
is consistent with measurements of fragmentation indicating
that around 90% of material is smaller than 0.4 metres
(Passmore, 2002). Each marker had an individual identifier
welded on the side and was filled with concrete to simulate
the ore density. The markers were finished with a spider at
the top to centralize it during insertion in the marker hole
and a red cap at the base to keep it in position.
The trials were conducted in five separate crosscuts on
three different levels of the mine. A total of 1762 markers
were installed at one-metre intervals. Half of the 126 marker
holes were grouted after the markers were installed. By
varying the number and pattern of marker rings between
blast holes, the depth and width of draw could be studied.
After firing of production blast rings, markers were
primarily retrieved manually when ore was transferred by
loader to a designated inspection area. This method
accounted for 53% of markers found. During the period of
markers being recovered detailed records of the ring
material and visual flow characteristics were collected for
analysis at a later stage.
Secondary means of marker collection included
inspecting the draw point rill, bogger bucket and crosscut.
As a last resort, a magnet located adjacent to an
underground conveyor belt was used to collect any
remaining markers. When markers were collected using the
magnet (20% of the markers found), an estimate was made
of the tonnes that would have been extracted when the
marker reported to the draw point.
During the trials, there was no evidence of interactive draw
behaviour in any of the trial areas (figure 5). The maximum
width of draw measured through the recovered draw markers
was 11.5 metres (+/- 1 metre). This means a zone of blasted
material located between crosscuts and at the toes of blast
holes did not report to any of the draw points from which the
material was fired. During the trials, the measured size and
width of this zone varied, however generally 35% of the
blasted tonnes did not report to the crosscut from which they
were fired or any of the adjacent crosscuts. As more than
100% of design tonnes were bogged from the marker trial
areas, material must have been travelling to the draw point
from outside the blast envelope.
To study the depth of draw, up to three marker rings were
positioned between each apparent blast burden (3 metres).
On the 9715mRL crosscuts, markers were recovered from
positions up to 2 metres in front of the ring being fired (figure
6). There was no difference in results between areas where
the markers were grouted into position and areas where
they were not grouted.
The trials indicate that markers placed at the level above
can flow into the draw point within bogging of 20% of the
blasted (design) tonnes. This is consistent with early
observations of barren ultramafic and felsic dilution entry
when crosscuts above were bogged to waste. At the time of
writing this paper, markers were starting to appear in draw
points on levels below the trial areas. The second stage of
marker recovery confirms the observations of vertical piping
of material from above (figure 6). Recovery has been from
markers positioned directly above the crosscut in an area
between the extraction draw zones of adjacent cross cuts
on the level above.
Figure 5: Cross section looking west showing the marker
trial results
Figure 6: Long section (looking north) showing marker trial
Santiago Chile, 22-25 August 2004 Massmin 2004 501
The recovery of markers behind a freshly fired ring is
consistent with brow break back records throughout the
mine. At Perseverance, typical wear at the brow is
approximately 1.5 metres and in some cases up to 6 metres
of the brow has worn away during bogging. Brow wear and
shearing of blast holes occasionally means that remedial
work including cleaning out blast holes, redrilling blast holes
or slashing (heavily dumped drill rings) through existing
blast holes is necessary.
At the time of writing, 540 markers had been recovered.
The percentage of markers recovered ranged from 21% in
9740XC24 to 53% in 9715XC27. While this percentage of
markers recovered might seem low, the pattern of markers
recovered indicates that the collection methods were
successful. Rather, the low percentage of markers found to
date from the 9740 level trials is believed to be due to the
production decisions made as a result of poor ground
conditions in the trial areas. In one of the areas, two
production rings (six marker rings) were fired together. In
the other crosscut, slashing rings were drilled and fired
through the area containing markers. While unplanned
events, the slashing and multiple ring firings actually
contributed substantially to the understanding of material
flow at Perseverance.
In the 9715 level trials, 20% of the markers were
recovered from behind the ring being bogged. Therefore,
without firing multiple rings together as occurred on the
9740 level, a true indication of the depth of draw in front of
a ring would not be gained. When two rings were fired
together, markers were initially recovered within one metre
of the brow. In the crosscut where slashing was drilled
through marker rings, the flow of markers was
preferentially distributed around the position of the
slashing holes.
Detailed draw analyses were undertaken for all the
marker trial rings. The results showed dilution entry
points occurred between 11 and 25% of the tonnes
extracted. Two of the crossucts which had early dilution
entry points were affected by initial blasting related
issues. Figure 7 shows the recovery curves of the
marker trial rings.
Figure 7: Draw Recovery Curves from the marker trial rings
The analysis of the data confirmed a correlation
between hang-ups in the drawpoint and waste surging
(Figure 8). From visual observations of the hang-ups it
appeared that waste ingress was coming from the front of
the ring as opposed to dilution from above the blasted
ring. When a hang up did occur, markers from deeper,
wider, and lower down in the blast envelope were
Figure 8: Dilution Draw Curves showing the affect of hang-
ups on recovery
In 2003, reconciliation of material extracted against the
tonnes fired at that point in time was undertaken. This
showed that 94% of the tonnes bogged, 86% of the grade
and 81% of the nickel metal contained had been recovered
(Wood, 2003).
Perseverance mine has historical records of draw point
observations at intervals ranging from 50 to 300 tonnes.
These observations provide detailed information on all
aspects of the draw point performance. Using this
information, block modeling of historical production
information was undertaken and is regularly updated. With
this block model and statistical analysis of the historical
data, the impact on metal recovery of changes in design
(including crosscut spacing, level intervals and ring burden)
and varying draw point performance factors (such as hang-
up frequency, rock size and bogging rate) have been
One of the best ring performance prediction tools was
found to be the nickel grade left in the levels immediately
above a draw point. Areas where metal was left above
(indicated by higher last nickel grade calls) tend to perform
better than areas mined to the cutoff grade of 0.9% nickel.
This result was not unexpected and is consistent with the
vertical nature of the draw observed during the marker trials.
Using plots of the last nickel grade call recorded on a level
(Figure 9), the extent of a dilution blanket on new levels can
be studied in advance.
Metal recoveries at Perseverance are comparable with
those achievable using an open stope mining method.
The flow behaviour of material in Perseverance SLC is
now better understood, and future planning will make use
of this information to assist in optimising the extraction
The discipline and implementation of rules for firing and
bogging practices associated with interactive draw have had
a substantial positive impact with regards to metal recovery.
The theory of interactive draw and the associated
interaction of material between cross-cuts does not appear
to be true.
The ongoing recovery of markers below the initial trial
areas will add to our knowledge, and allow ongoing
incremental improvements in the modeling of flow
Santiago Chile, 22-25 August 2004 502 Massmin 2004
The authors are grateful to all their colleagues at Leinster
Nickel Operations for their assistance and interest shown
during the trial, in particular the support from Chris Stone,
Geoff Booth, and Andrew McDonald is greatly appreciated.
Also, the authors want to acknowledge the permission given
by WMC Resources Ltd to publish this technical paper.
Bull, G, 2000. WMC Leinster Nickel Operation, Sublevel
cave review. Internal report, September 2000.
Cooper, A, 2004. Ore Reserves December 2003, Leinster
Nickel Operation. Internal report, January 2004.
Passmore, A, 2002. Sub-Level Cave Fragmentation
Study, WMC Resources Perseverance Geology Internal
Report, October 2002.
Power, G, 2002-2004. Personal Correspondence.
Rosengren, K, Scott, A, WMC Resources, Leinster Nickel
Operations Sublevel cave, Review of Drilling and Blasting
Operations, Internal Report, October 2000.
Wood, P L, Jenkins, P A, and Jones, I W O, 2000.
Sublevel Cave Drop Down Strategy at Perseverance
Mine, Leinster Nickel Operations, in MassMin 2000
Conference Proceedings, Ed. Chitombo G., ISBN 1
875776 76 9, AusIMM, Melbourne, pp. 517 - 526.
Wood, P, 2003. Perseverance mine sublevel caving,
internal presentation, October 2003.
Figure 9: Block model slice of 9780 level showing last nickel