Underground Ramp Design Parameters

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The aim of this Wiki article it to outline the factors to be analyzed in choosing each design parameter when considering a ramp system for an underground mine. Proper consideration of each design element ensures ramps are built optimally to perform their desired functions at the lowest possible cost.

Ramp Use

There are many differing requirements for ramps in underground mining operations with varying degrees of importance to the mines output. In general they can be categorized as follows:

Surface production ramp:    

A ramp that provides access to the mine from surface and is used to transport ore using haul trucks. In general these are used in more shallow underground mines as an alternative to shafts, however recently they have been widely used in high volume, moderate depth mines in Australia (1). See Shaft vs. Ramp Access 

Ore handling ramp:             

A ramp that does not go to surface but is still a fundamental part of production and ore handling. Generally used to move ore from sublevels to primary levels or to the nearest ore pass where it can then be transported to a loading pocket to be hauled to surface via skips.

Service ramp:                      

A ramp that is needed solely to move equipment and personnel between levels and sub-levels as work progresses, rather than for production purposes.

Note: In some cases a ramp will perform some or all of the listed functions. In particular, a surface production ramp can perform all functions and an ore handling ramp can also act as a service ramp.

When establishing a mine plant design, of which ramps are a vital component, it is important to consider how equipment and ore will be able to move throughout the mine efficiently. Some large mines with multiple orebodies may need more than one surface production ramp. Others may need several ore handling ramps to accommodate a shaft, or perhaps simply a single service ramp to occasionally move equipment. Each deposit has unique requirements. The type of ramp and its intended use will dictate all other ramp design parameters. A surface production ramp will need to be built to accommodate the desired production rate. This needs to be done while considering the ideal ratio of CAPEX toOPEX and an optimized NPV (or other project goals). Generally speaking, more spent on CAPEX will result in lower OPEX; larger, more efficient haul vehicles, optimized cycle times for reduced consumables and wages (see "Ramp Grade" section). On the opposing end of the spectrum, service ramps need only be designed to meet minimum regulatory requirements as well as vehicle requirements (See "Cross-Sectional Dimensions" section).

Placement and Ramp Type

Generally speaking, there are three main types of ramps as well as variations or hybrids of the three: spiral ramps, switchback ramps and straight ramps. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Placement will also play a large role in determining what type of ramp is best suited to a project, therefore these design parameters should be established in tandem.

Ramp Type

Spiral ramps:                    

Spiral ramps allow vehicles to travel at moderate speeds without having to slow to round corners, as in the case of switchback ramps, and can access multiple levels reasonably well with short cross-cuts. They also provide a compact footprint when land parcel size on surface is a design constraint. They can however be harder on equipment and operators who must be subjected to continuous centripetal forces.

Switchback ramps:            

Switchback ramps are ideal for accessing all levels and sublevels with minimal cross-cuts and should therefore be the primary choice for ore handling and service ramps, particularly when low development costs are a priority. They do however require vehicles to slow at each corner, which can substantially increase travel/ cycle times.

Straight ramps:                 

Straight ramps are rarely capable of accessing all the necessary levels of a mine and should therefore be reserved for surface production ramps. They allow vehicles to travel faster than other ramp types. Straight ramps will reach surface a substantial distance from the orebody and infrastructure placement should be planned accordingly. Consequently, larger land ownership requirements are also required. It should however be noted that in some cases these problems can be solved with a single well placed switchback.

Ramp Placement

Ramp placement is dictated by functional/ production requirements and is constrained by geotechnical considerations. Generally speaking, a ramp used for production should be placed centrally relative to the orebody to achieve minimum average travel times from stope to ramp. That said, geotechnical constraints such as dykes or faults can sometimes make this difficult or impossible. It is also preferable to place a ramp in the footwall rather than the hanging wall where tensile stress is less likely to be a significant factor (2). The geotechnical area of influence is also a key consideration, see Figure 1. That is, ramps must be placed so that the stress accumulations caused by mining excavations do not affect the structural integrity of the ramp and vice versa (2).

Area of influence(.jpg

 Figure 1: This diagram illustrates yielded rock mass surrounding excavations and their effects on one another. It demonstrates the effect proximity between excavations has on their structural integrity. It should be noted that it shows yielded elements after the full stress redistribution cycle has occurred, a process which takes some time. For this reason it is not immediately problematic within temporary excavations such as stopes as it would be within permanent excavations such as ramps.

Ramp Grade

Grade is a very important design parameter to consider. It has a substantial impact on both capital expenditure and operating cost. Generally speaking, more capital spent will result in lower overall operating costs and vice versa. The typical gradient range for underground ramp systems is between 10% and 15.5% (1), although in some high volume mines with larger trucks (such as is often the case in Australia) (1), they can be in a range more similar to that of open pit haul roads, 6% to 10% (3). It is important to identify your goals in terms of an ideal ratio of capital and operating cost when determining an ideal grade. This will depend on both the projects overall cash flow projections and the ultimate purpose of the ramp (see "Use" section).

Capital Costs

Capital costs for ramps are based almost entirely on length with few fixed overhead costs, as is the case with shafts (which require a surface plant, headframe and hoist, as well as construction infrastructure set-up). Ramp costs are composed nearly entirely of items that increase linearly: Development costs (drilling, blasting and mucking), support (rock bolts, mesh, shotcrete, etc.) and services (ventilation, lighting & electrical wire, etc.). Figure 2 demonstrates how length decreases as a function of grade. This length factor could also be considered a capital cost factor given length and cost are directly correlated.

Length factor.jpg

Figure 2: This graph represents the length to rise ratio as a function of grade. It also demonstrates how capital costs increase as a function of grade.

Media:Cycle_time_and_length_factor_data.jpg  Note: This file also includes data used to generate Figure 3.

Operating Costs

The driving force in ramp operating costs are related to equipment: Consumables, operator wages, ventilation requirements and equipment maintenance. As a result, it is optimal to have the least amount of equipment possible, capable of meeting production targets. This can be achieved by reducing cycle times. As grade decreases equipment is capable of travelling faster but must overcome a greater distance. It is therefore beneficial to determine cycle times at variable grades to find the optimal grade for a minimum cycle time, see Figure 3.

Grade vs. cycle time.jpg

Figure 3:The following is an analysis using both Rimpull and Retarding curves for 25-ton and a 40-ton underground articulated trucks. (See "Appendix" for equipment specs and data.)


Media:25ton.jpg [6]

Media:40ton.jpg [7]

Truck Sizing

Increasing the size of haul vehicles in general reduces operating costs. There are fewer operators and larger vehicles are generally more efficient in terms of $/tonne moved. That said, production rate should be the driving force for vehicle sizing. The general consensus for the optimal number of operating vehicles on a ramp is in the range of 4-8 (1). The desired number of vehicles coupled with production rate will allow you to size haul vehicles. Every vehicle has unique performance characteristics therefore the optimal cycle times with regard to grade will vary with different vehicles (see Figure 3). In this particular case a 12% grade is optimal for both 25-ton and 40-ton rear loading trucks.

Note: Increasing vehicle size also requires a larger cross section, which will have a substantial effect on capital costs (see the "Cross-Sectional Dimensions" section).

Cross-sectional Dimensions

The cross-section of a ramp is regulated on a provincial level in Canada. In Nova-Scotia it is listed under Section 82 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act(4). It states that there must be at least 1.5 meters of lateral clearance between the maximum width of the largest piece of mobile equipment and both sides of the ramp or any obstructions the mobile equipment may pass. Vertically, the regulations require a minimum of 30 centimeters clearance between the highest point of the tallest piece of mobile equipment and the ramp’s roof or the bottom of any obstructions the equipment may pass under (4).

These obstructions can include walkways, ventilation ducts, safety stations, etc. One must remember that these are minimum regulatory requirments and consideration must also be made to situations such as the height of the muck in a loaded haul truck. It is also prudent to consider the equipment that will be used to develop the ramp. There must be clearance enough to allow mucking equipment to load the haul vehicles during the construction of the ramp.

Cross-sections may vary from 2.2 by 2.5 meters to 5.5 to 6.0 meters. Smaller ramps are allowed for rail-bound equipment, while a loaded heavy mine truck together with a ventilation duct requires approximately 25 meters squared of cross-sectional area (5). A visual example of this larger cross-sectional area can be found in Figure 4.

Ramp cross-section.jpg

Figure 4: Illustrates typical vehicle specs combined with regulatory requirements to generate ramp cross-sectional dimensions. [6] 


The main considerations when determining the appropriate size of a ramp system intersection include: Vehicle sight lines, vehicle turning radius requirements and grade at the intersection. To better illustrate the effects of these considerations, an analysis of a ramp system intersection is described below in Table 1. For the purpose of this analysis, the equipment specifications of a variety of sized CAT haulage trucks were used.

Table 1': <u</u>'''Summary of equipment specifications for the ramp system intersection analysis.

Equipment  Clearance Width (m) Turning Radius: Outside (m) Turning Radius: Inside (m)
CAT AD30 4.00 8.57 5.03
CAT AD45B 4.50 9.29 5.31
CAT AD60 5.00 10.01 5.54


These values were used to create an example of a ramp system intersection. The minimum clearance width for each truck type was used to design the ramp width and the maximum turning radius for each truck type was used to design the corners of the intersection. This is shown in Figure 5. Typical manufacturer specifications are similar to the ones used in Table 1 are also shown in Figure 6

Ramp intersection1.jpg

Figure 5:Example of a ramp intersection with varying parameters based on truck size shown in Table 1.

Ramp intersection2.jpg

Figure 6: demonstrates typical manufacturer specs relating to turning radius. Note that these are minimum dimensions for clearance and that additional width needs to be applied as detailed in the "Cross-Sectional Dimensions" section of this article. Further clearance may also need to be applied to acheive improved sightlines for safety purposes.¨[6]  

As shown in <u>Figure 5
, an increasing minimum truck clearance width yielded a larger maximum turning radius for the corners of the intersection, thus making the intersection larger. It should be noted that In addition to the turning radius requirements to accommodate equipment, the appropriate clearance should also be added. These clearance values are regulated and more details can be found in the cross- section portion of this article.
Sight lines should also be taken into account. Maximum vehicle speeds and their corresponding stopping distances should be correlated to sightlines to ensure safe vehicle interaction. All underground vehicles have operating lights which increases vehicle visibility beyond direct sightlines but this benefit should be viewed as a safety buffer.

Another important aspect of intersection parameters includes the ramp grade. Ideally, the ramp grade should be nearly flat, particularly where the ramp intersects a level drift or cross-cut. This will greatly impact the two main considerations explained above. While it is not required by law to have a flat grade at intersections, for high traffic areas on the ramp system, it may be beneficial for safety purposes and efficient vehicle interaction.

It should be noted that more substantial ground support is required at intersections than in the rest of the ramp system due to the fact that excavations are much larger and that various openings converge at an intersection resulting in large stress accumulations (2). This is particularly pertinent at corners, where the more acute the angle and the smaller its radius, the larger the stress accumulation (2). Sharp corners should be avoided as they will inevitably fail over time potentially causing minor blockage and production delays.


Sample Calculations

See accompanying data tables: Media:Cycle_time_and_length_factor_data.jpg




Cycle time=((length/(rimpull speed))*60min)+((length/(retarder speed))*60min)+constants



1] Thomas, Doreen A., Marcus Brazil, David H. Lee, and Nicholas C. Wormald. "Network Modelling of Underground Mine Layout: Two Case Studies." Math.uwaterloo.ca. ARC Special Research       Center for Ultra- Information Networks, 2007. Web. 24 Jan. 2014

[2] Diederichs, M. S., P. K. Kaiser, and E. Eberhardt. "Damage Initiation and Propagation in Hard Rock during Tunnelling and the Influence of Near-face Stress Rotation."International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences (2004): n. pag.Www.eos.ubc.ca. Science Direct, 9 Feb. 2004. Web. 4 Feb. 2014.

[3] Tannant, Dwayne D., and Bruce Regensburg. "Guidelines for Mine Haul Road Design."Circle.ubc.ca. N.p., 2001. Web. 24 Jan. 2014.

[4] “Underground Mining Regulations made under Section 82 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.” www.novascotia.ca. Province of Nova Scotia, 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2014

[5] “Mine Development: Drifts and Ramps.” red.webmaster@atlascopco.com Atlas Copco RDE, 2002. Web. 04 Feb. 2014.