New product could become an important tool in ensuring the health and safety of underground workers
New technology that helps keep broken rock in place in underground mines is being tested in Sudbury. A thin, spray-on lining is being applied to rock deep underground to see if it will help keep rock safely in place in the event of a natural rock burst, or other rock movement.
For the product’s developers, finally getting to the testing phase is a significant step forward. The Canadian Mining Industry Research Organization — a non-profit group that is run by the mining industry — said they have been working on this product for quite some time.
“I think it’s going to support mining [and] the effort of the industry to mine deeper,” said Charles Graham, one of the product’s developers. “It’s going to manage some of the risks — the geotechnical risks — for doing that. It opens up and maintains possibilities that otherwise might be lost to us if we didn’t have that kind of product.”
The new product could become an important tool in ensuring the health and safety of underground workers, according to a press release from the province.
Product has ‘elasticity’
Graham likened the spray-on lining to plastic and said it had similar properties to “the stuff you see sprayed for insulation nowadays in houses.”
He said they have been aiming to develop a “product that has great retention.”
Researchers were looking for a particular tackiness “so that it sticks to the rock and has elasticity, so it has strength and tension like a rubber band.”
In the event of moving rock, “the liner will move and hold the rock in place, rather than fail, as our other much stiffer products do,” Graham said.
The product has been tested at Xstrata Nickel in Sudbury and the next round of testing will be done at Mining Technology International’s underground facility.
The goal is to have the product on the market within the next two years.
The province announced Thursday it’s investing $300,000 from its Northern Ontario Heritage Fund to support the project.