Rio Tinto is teaming up with world leading researchers to create the Rio Tinto Centre for Underground Mine Construction. The work will assist Rio Tinto develop The Mine of the Future™ programme, which focuses on significantly improving the construction of underground mines through the use of mechanized tunnelling technology.
The new Centre will be based at the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI) in Sudbury, Ontario, and will focus on innovative rapid mine construction and ground control for mining at depth.
Rio Tinto is investing US$9.8M over five years in the centre, completing a suite of five global long term Rio Tinto research centres around the world.
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As part of this programme, Rio Tinto will conduct a full scale performance verification trial in 2012 at Northparkes’ copper and gold mine in New South Wales, Australia, of the first of three new underground excavation systems.
Rio Tinto Head of Innovation, John McGagh, said: “In order to satisfy the global demand for minerals we will need to go deeper to access new resources. By partnering with CEMI, Rio Tinto is supporting research into high-speed underground mine construction.
“This collaboration is in keeping with our long term commitment to innovation. It’s part of our strategy to collect the world’s experts and develop mutually beneficial partnerships to develop technologies, which address the future requirements of Rio Tinto. Put simply, there is no other mining operation in the world attempting to take the approach that we are on this scale.”
CEMI President/CEO Doctor Peter K Kaiser said Rio Tinto’s support would enable CEMI to collaborate with recognised researchers on ground control and machine performance issues.
“With test sites, possibly on three continents, it will be of strategic importance to strengthen collaborations with expertise beyond our boundaries,” Dr Kaiser said.
“In collaboration with Rio Tinto, CEMI will be able to expand its research and development programmes and increase its global reach.”
Rio Tinto General Manager Underground Innovation Dr Fred Delabbio said: “Our partnership with CEMI provides an opportunity to combine experts from the civil and mining industries. The Centre’s research into high speed underground mine construction will include implementation of mechanised tunnelling and shaft sinking systems and CEMI will assist in the development of innovative support systems and in minimising the risks for such technologies.”
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.
The Centre for Underground Mine Construction is the fifth global long term Rio Tinto research centre.
• The Rio Tinto Centre for Mine Automation – in collaboration with the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney
• The Rio Tinto Centre for Advanced Mineral Sorting – a partnership with the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre at The University of Queensland
• The Rio Tinto Centre for Materials and Sensing – at Curtin University in Perth
• The Rio Tinto Centre for Advanced Mineral Recovery – in collaboration with the Imperial College in London
• The Rio Tinto Centre for Underground Mine Construction – in collaboration with the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation in Canada