oa Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy - Cave management and secondary breaking practices at Palabora Mining Company

Volume 107, Issue 12
  • ISSN : 0038-223X



Palabora Mining Company operates a low grade underground copper mine situated in the Limpopo Province, South Africa. Full production was first reached in May 2005 after a successful transition from an open pit operation to an underground block cave operation. The operation faces a number of technical and operational challenges, not the least being fragmentation of a competent rock mass and external dilution. The cave is subdivided into three main sectors being the east, the west and the central sectors. Caving was initiated from the weaker central sector, which has the majority of its drawpoints located directly under the open pit bottom currently filled with about 130 million tons of waste material from the pit wall failure incurred in 2004. About 48% of the ore reserve has to be extracted from the western sector, which has a much courser fragmentation compared to the other two sectors and only 25% from the central sector with the finest fragmentation. The main constraint during the ramp-up stage has been secondary breaking of drawpoint blockages. Ground-breaking secondary breaking and cave management initiatives and practices have made it possible for Palabora to realize and sustain high production rates.

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