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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Previous projects > Industrial Processes > A continuous surface mining system for hard rock
Graphic element A continuous surface mining system for hard rock
New cutting equipment and cuttability indexing represent an alternative to conventional drill-and-blast rock quarrying in open-pit mines. Costs are reduced and quality improved.

Conventional rock quarrying requires environmentally disruptive drilling and blasting, especially where harder rock is concerned. What is more, these operations mix better quality material with other materials and produce stones with rough surfaces. Better methods involving advanced cutting machines do currently exist, but expert interpretation is invariably required to assess whether they can be used in specific situations.

This project focused on the development of a continuous surface mining machine adapted for use in hard rock conditions, together with a system for classifying rock cuttability. A prototype successfully cut through very hard weathered pegmatite, demonstrating that such a machine could work reliably in commercial operations. This is the first such machine to present a real economical alternative to drill-and-blast techniques. Significant progress was also made in formulating a rock cuttability index.

The project trials showed a 25% reduction in operating costs for a surface miner operating under conditions of intermediate rock hardness. The new system also gives a smooth surface and allows selective quarrying, meaning different grades of material can be easily separated and shipped to different customers, maximising the value of the deposit. Partners say moves to launch the new machines commercially began even before the end of the Brite Euram project.

Cordis RCN: 6733
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