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CAMIRO re-invents itself with move to NORCAT

June 1, 2010
by Norm Tollinsky
In: Research with 0 Comments
The Sudbury-based mining division of CAMIRO, the Canadian Mining Industry Research Organization, is re-inventing itself to focus more on shorter-term, clearly defined projects that address pressing industry needs.

The change in focus coincides with the organization’s move from the Laurentian University campus to the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology Inc.’s (NORCAT) new 60,000-square foot Innovation and Commercialization Centre.

According to managing director Charles Graham, the re-invention of the mining industry research and development consortium nudges it closer to the development end of the R&D continuum.

“We will be getting closer to the customer, faster, and deliver tighter, more focused work to a sharper deadline for a clearer, concrete need,” said Graham. CAMIRO will also have access to the NORCAT Mine to test new equipment and processes.

CAMIRO currently has a number of research projects underway, including a heat stress study designed to help mining companies mitigate the effects of high temperatures on workers at depth. Other projects-in-progress are focused on rockbursting and the use of thin spray-on liner as an alternative to screen and shotcrete.

Synthetic rope

Graham is particularly intrigued about another opportunity to test the use of a semi-synthetic hoist rope that rope manufacturer CASAR claims can dramatically improve hoisting capacity.

“The benefit to the industry is that they can hoist 30 per cent more on the same rope, or go 30 per cent deeper.”
The rope has a Kevlar core with a wire rope exterior. The Kevlar is lighter and stronger, while the wire rope exterior allows it to hold its shape and spool properly on the drum as the conveyance travels up and down.

“If you can tell an operator he can now hoist 30 per cent more than he did yesterday, he’s thrilled,” said Graham. “Likewise, if you can delay a decision on how you’re going to mine at depth before you bottom out on your hoisting setup, this is something that you want to look at.”

The product has been subjected to laboratory testing, but CASAR, a subsidiary of U.S.-based WireCo, is now interested in going one step further and Graham is looking for a mine interested in serving as a test site.


CAMIRO conducted a major study on rockbursting several years ago and is now co-ordinating the collection of historical seismic and operational data from mines across North America for research purposes.

“If we can say we did this and it resulted in that and we have enough records for enough mines, we might be able to draw some conclusions (to lessen the risk of rockbursts),” said Graham.

CAMIRO’s Sudbury Regional Seismic Network helps mines throughout the Sudbury Basin monitor seismic activity.
Seismic monitors at individual mines are too close to what they’re trying to monitor and pick up a lot of blasting and drilling noise, Graham explained. By monitoring seismicity from other locations in the basin, the blasting and drilling noise fades away and only significant events are picked up. The data from dedicated seismographs at each mine is collected and then redistributed to each mine.


Another area of interest Graham is focusing on is the use of biodiesel in mining operations.

“It’s a renewable fuel, better for the engine. It reduces the amount of diesel particulate in the workplace and it’s better for the atmosphere,” he said.

Sudbury-based Rainbow Concrete has transitioned to the use of biodiesel for its transportation fleet and salt mines in the U.S. are using it as well, said Graham. One of the major benefits is cost. Biodiesel, he said, costs between four and seven cents a litre, while diesel at the pump is close to $1/litre. (See Rainbow Concrete story on Page 21).

Converting to cleaner-burning biodiesel could allow mines to save money on ventilation, but regulations stipulating ventilation requirements are based on the size of an engine, not the cleanliness of the fuel, so there’s no particular benefit to reducing diesel particulates.

The conversion to biodiesel is also problematic because of the fuel’s detergent properties.

“If you introduce biodiesel into your operation, it picks up all the scale and scum from the inside of tanks and pipes, liberating it into solution so you end up plugging all the filters on your equipment,” said Graham. “You have to go through a rigorous process of cleaning everything before you start and that’s a show stopper for most people.”

The alternative is to keep changing filters as they get plugged up until the fuel system is cleaned out, “but that’s a headache, too,” he acknowledged.

Spray-on lining

Xstrata Nickel has transferred responsibility for spray-on lining R&D to CAMIRO’s Deep Mining Research Consortium. Spray-on liner is potentially safer than handling screen and less time consuming.

In the next phase of the project, spray-on liner will be used on 20 rounds in succession in an operating mine. Between rounds, the process will be evaluated and tweaked to get the best results. In a third phase, spray-on liner will be used on 50 rounds.

CAMIRO is supported by Xstrata Nickel, Xstrata Copper, Barrick Gold, Rio Tinto, FNX, North American Palladium, Golder Associates and CANMET.

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