Crushers play an important role in the material handling process for underground mine operations. The main purpose of a crusher is the size reduction of the feed. This size reduction is achieved by applying a force to the material, creating cracks in the material which in the end will cause the material to break into smaller pieces. There are two categories of crushers based on the way the force is applied to the material. For crushers of the first category apply force via pressure, the crushers of the second category apply force via impact. In underground mine operations, size reduction is necessary to facilitate the transport of the material to the mill. Resizing of material often is the first step in the concentration process of the ore (de la Vergne, 2003). Since crushing is an important step of the ore concentration process, the selection and sizing of crushers should be given sufficient consideration during the mine design process.
The objective of this article is to outline the factors that determine the selection and sizing of crushers for underground mining operations. This article gives an overview of the different crushers and the parameters that determine the sizing and selection of the crusher. The second section describes the options for crusher location in an underground mine. Section three deals with the handling of the material from the grizzly to the skip and the role of the crusher in this process. The fourth section explains the technology and selection parameters of several types of crushers. In chapter five, details on crusher costs can be found. The last section provides information on various aspects of dust control.
Location of the Crusher In an Underground Mine
The location of the crusher in an underground mine operation has a great impact on the design and development of the mine. The reason for this great impact is the role of the crusher on the design of material handling and skipping. Two possible locations for an underground crusher exist: near the shaft and under the orebody. Factors that determine the location of the shaft are the steepness of the orebody, the production schedule of the mine and the ground stress. It will take approximately six to twelve months to excavate, install and commission an underground crusher station (de la Vergne, 2003).
Near the Shaft
In classic mine design, the crusher is located near the shaft. This has the advantage that the material can go directly from the crusher to the skip. For mine operations that use truck haulage, the extra travel distance for the trucks is compensated by the advantages of more rapid access for excavation of the crusher and the expenses involved in moving the crusher (de la Vergne, 2003).
Under the Orebody
By mining rule of thumb, production shaft should be positioned in the footwall side of the orebody in the host rock from its stability point of view. For the same reason ore handling and hoisting equipment including the underground primary crusher will also be located in the footwall side of the ore body.
Figure 1 : Crusher Location in an Underground Mine (www.ugdsb.on.ca)
The material handling portion of crushing is the means by which the ore travels from the grizzly all the way to the skip in an underground mining operation. This can easily be broken down in to three sections, pre-crushing, crushing, and post crushing. Pre-crushing is the movement of material through the grizzly, down the ore pass, and finally into the crusher itself. The crushing section is the ores movement through the crusher. This will vary, of course, depending on which crusher is utilized. Lastly, the post-crushing phase is the movement of the material when it exits the crusher and gets released in to the ore bin and then continues its path towards the loading zone at the skip.
At the start of the material handling process the ore needs to pass from the haulage equipment in to the primary feeding mechanism. A simple hopper at the end of the ore pass can perform this task. The hopper will increase the potential catchment area of the ore when dumped from the trucks ensuring minimal spillage of material. A hopper is a very simple apparatus, but its presence has significant performance implications. Without the use of a hopper at the beginning of the material handling process productivity would be lost due large amounts of material missing the entrance to the feed, resulting in expensive labor for cleaning the ore pass of debris.
At the bottom of the hopper there is a grizzly. The grizzly is responsible for preventing over size material from entering the ore passes and the crusher where the material is liable to do damage to the equipment and underground construction. A standard opening for the grizzly, as defined by McIntosh Engineering, is ±16 by 18 inches. The rock that is stopped by the grizzly is often broken in to more manageable pieces by using a hydraulic or pneumatic rock breaker.
In most underground mining applications a Ross Chain Feeder is installed. The Ross Chain Feeder serves the purpose of slowing the violent rush of dense heavy rock through the feeder system all the way in to the crusher. This will provide significant wear protection on the feeder system due to drastically reducing the impact velocity of the ore with the feeder apparatus. The Feeder Chain also serves to slow the ore to ensure that a back up or overload does not occur in the crushing system and the crusher’s output surge pile does not become largely unmanageable.
Figure 2: A Ross Chain Schematic (www.flsmidthminerals.com)
There are several types of crusher that are used in underground mining operations. The most common types of crushers are the gyratory crusher, the jaw crusher and the cone crusher. The technology and selection criteria will be discussed in section four.
After the ore is crushed it moves in to a chamber known as the ore bin. The bottom of the ore bin has a controlled hopper that will periodically release ore on to a transportation system. This transportation system can consist of either conveyors or trolleys, which guide the ore to the end of the pass where it will finally be loaded in to a skip so it can move up to the surface. This system will also be controlled using control chains to prevent the violent surge of a heavy rock mass to minimize damage.
Figure 3: An example of a conveyor assisted ore transport system into the skip (www.flsmidthminerals.com)
Technology and Equipment Selection
In any operation that incorporates size reduction, selecting the primary crusher is vital to the overall success. The main parameters to first decide on a general type of crusher are the impact strength, product size and material hardness. The final design for a crusher will be selected primarily based on required capacity, feed and product size. It should be noted that further crusher selection could be defined based upon the location and the degree of mobility.
Technological advancements, from 1830 when the first crusher design was patented, have allowed today’s crushers to take blasted ROM (Run of mine) feed up to 1500mm (60 inches) and reduce them to sizes ranging from -300mm to -38mm (Mular et al, 2002).
Mechanical Reduction Methods
The four main methods for size reduction are summarized in table 1 (Pennsylvania Crusher Corporation, 1995) below for ease of reading.