Cave mines are considered to be future of mining to replace the capacity currently provided by surface mines. Cave mining has potentially low operational costs and high throughput however upfront development costs are high.
There are significant risks involved in cave mining which require managing. Our understanding of caving and ore flow mechanisms is in its infancy which effectively makes caving a ‘black box method’ – a bit like mining in the dark. When ore recovery is not performing as expected deviation from the mine plan increases risks. Safety risks are inherent and include air-blast and ground failure. Economic risks involve ore loss and grade dilution, both of which have a significant impact on the profitability and ROI of mining projects.
Optimising ore recovery is the central goal of mining. Ore recovery is directly influenced by ore loss and dilution. Reduced ore grade is a reality in underground mining and can have many causes related to recovery. Through optimised production procedures and with the right data miners can reduce dilution. Monitoring the cave back, ore flow and recovery enables active management of the cave and gives miners the information they need to reduce dilution and ore loss and consequently increase productivity and profitability.