An investment of $10 million will be made by Rio Tinto over the next five years to create a centre to research underground mine construction in Ontario, Canada. The project in partnership with the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI) will be based in Sudbury Ontario.
It would be the fifth such research centre that Rio Tinto has set up worldwide. The other four centers for research are located at Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and London. The centre in Ontario will focus on innovative rapid mine construction and ground control for mining at depth.
The head of innovation at Rio Tinto, John McGagh said that in order to satisfy the global demand for minerals they needed to go deeper to access new resources. He also said that there was no other mining operation in the world attempting to take the approach that they were on this scale.
The project will involve the construction of the new underground excavation system in 2012 at the Northparkes’ copper and gold mine in New South Wales. A full scale performance verification trial would be undertaken as part of the programme.
Key areas that CEMI will work on include:
- developing and designing innovative support methods for different excavation systems;
- establishing reliable predictions of rock behaviour to ensure effective construction technologies are selected and utilised;
- advanced rock mass characterisation technologies;
- performance of mechanical rock excavation based systems from an equipment and ground management perspective;
- pillar design and underground excavation stability projects such as rock fracture modelling.