The Centre for Underground Mine Construction is the fifth global research centre to be established by Rio Tinto.
Prototype test sites will be used to improve ground characterization techniques and develop innovative support systems to facilitate high speed, mechanized tunnel and shaft development technologies for underground mines in highly stressed ground and at depth.
Researchers will monitor rock performance to better understand strainburst potential, the integration of innovative support systems to accelerate advance rates, and in situ testing to better and more reliably anticipate rock behaviour. Research will also focus on construction logistics and the optimization of machine performance. Smart engineering approaches will be developed to observe and control both equipment and ground to minimize risks and uncertainties and to facilitate flexibility in matching construction to conditions encountered in complex orebodies.
Work at the Centre will also include projects related to pillar design and underground excavation stability, including projects on rock fracture modelling and engineering design for economic mine layouts at depth.
“In order to satisfy the increasing global demand for minerals, Rio Tinto is seeking a step change improvement in the construction of the next generation of large underground mines,” said John McGagh, head of innovation at Rio Tinto. “In announcing the formation of the Rio Tinto Centre for Underground Mine Construction, we confirm our commitment to supporting the development of advanced technologies to help Rio Tinto turn the mine of the future into reality.”
Rio Tinto chose to work with CEMI “because of its outstanding track record in building successful solution teams,” said Fred Delabbio, the company’s general manager of underground innovation.
“The research partnership demonstrates that we have established the means to tackle industry’s most challenging problems,” said CEMI president Peter Kaiser. “It also shows that the vision of CEMI’s founding partners was correct and that the early investment by the Ontario provincial government and the founding industrial partners, Xstrata Nickel and Vale with the support of Laurentian University, was strategic for the development of excellence in mining innovation.
“This work recognizes CEMI’s role in promoting Canada as a centre for excellence in the areas of ground ch
aracterization and ground support. It will provide opportunities for home grown researchers…to work on solutions for the construction challenges that the next generation of underground mines will bring.”