I visited Palabora Underground Mining Project (PUMP) in 2006 during a vacation to South Africa. Located adjacent to the Kruger National Park, the Palabora Mine is often visited by wildlife from the park!!
Palabora's block-cave mine is a benchmark for integrated design and was successfully initiated below the Palabora Open pit mine in a competent orebody. The block height of the cave reaches a record 450 meters in the centre, increasing up to 700 meters on the periphery, rendering Palabora a world-class mine. The production footprint is very small, measuring 650 meters in length and 200 meters wide, with 20 production cross-cuts and 320 draw-points.
The construction of the underground mine was completed in October 2004 when the 20th cross-cut was brought into full production. By May, 2005 the mine was consistently achieving 30,000 tonnes per day - one of the fastest ramp-ups to full production in the world. The mine is extending it's operations by the development of the lift (Lift 2), to extend the Life of the Mine (LoM) by up to 15 years.
For an outcrop ore body (ore extends from surface of the bedrock), it is be best to mine by open pit down to the point where the cost of mining the last ton is equal to the cost of
mining that ton from underground. This concept is not simple to apply. The last cut in the pit is highly profitable while the first production from underground is the most costly because it will take months to develop the sequence of stoping required to meet full production capacity.
Moreover, the economical depth of an open pit is likely deeper if no underground mining is
Source: Tim Koniaris
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