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Computer Simulation of Underground Room and Pillar Mining

R S Suglo and J Szymanski 2

ABSTRACT cutting, blasting, cleaning, hauling, etc. This single coal seam is
moderately hard and can easily be cut by a continuous miner
The problems associated with underground mining continue to grow in
size and complexity. As a result mine management is becoming aware of (Manula and Suboleski, 1982). The seam has a flat dip «10°)
the benefits that can be achieved through the use of computer-oriented averages 2.13 m in. height; the floor conditions are excellent
tools for system analysis. When such tools are employed in conjunction while that of the roofis good with roofbolting done at 1.52 x 1.52
with benchmarking practices, the drivers of the system that lead to m pattem with short bolts. The mine plans to mine 2.6 million
superior performance can more easily be determined. This paper discusses tons of coal per annum by the room and pillar method from a 15
the use of the Simulation Language for Alternative Modelling (SLAM 11)
in the determination of the drivers of an underground room-and-pillar
entry panel system each measuring 2.13 x 6.1 m. The production
mining system. The mining operations included in the model consist of schedule has 260 working days per year. The system will employ
extracting, loading and hauling of the coal using continuous mining three to five continuous miners and a number of shuttle cars each
equipment in a room and pillar system. Equipment specifications and with 10 tons carryjng capacity. Shuttle cars haul the coal from the
mining techniques used in the model are based upon current methods working face to a conveyor mechanism called the belt feeder
employed at the existing underground coal mines worldwide. The model
breaker (FB). The coal is then moved by belt conveyors out of the
developed is capable of adequately predicting the operational
performance of the real world system from a statistical point of view. The mine. To improve productivity and safety, full-face extraction,
results from the study show that computer simulation is an excellent tool roof bolting and face ventilation are performed by the continuous
for evaluating various mine configurations and for gaining a better miner and crew. Management is interested in knowing what
understanding of the mining systems. equipment combination and production time duration will enable
them to achieve the projected annual mine production of coal and
INTRODUCTION also to determine the main drivers of the output of the system.
The increasing costs and complexities of mining operations and
equipment require that great care be taken in the planning and MODEL BUILDING AND FORMULATION
design stages and also to continuously assess, review the
operations for optimum output and maximum efficiency. This
The Simulation Language for Alternative modelling (SLAM m,
an advanced Fortran-based language, was employed to determine
process often requires an improvement in the mine planning and the drivers of the system that lead to superior performance in all
design particularly in the area of equipment selection for any the scenarios. Figure 1 shows the SLAM 11 network model of the
particular mining system (Manula and Suboleski, 1982). As it is continuous miner-shuttle cars system. In this system the entities
costly and dangerous to experiment with the real system, mine to be modeled are the three to five continuous miners and the
management is becoming increasingly aware of the benefits that shuttle cars. Three or four shuttle cars are to be assigned to each
can be achieved through the use of computer-oriented tools for continuous miner (CM) and these shuttle cars will always return
system analysis. Computer simulation of the models of a given to the same CM at the end of the cycle. Since scheduled
system is one of the tools employed to gain useful information maintenance on all mining equipment is to be done at the
without necessarily building, disturbing or destroying the real weekends, all the continuous miners and shuttle cars are
system (pritsker, 1986). considered as unfailing entities in the various modifications.
The focus of this study was to develop a simulation model for
underground coal mining in a typical room and pillar stope. The
primary objectives of this simulation study were to determine the
system drivers that lead to superior performance and
LOAD ,I t;"') HAUL ,I., 'Fif;

understanding of the interaction of the system components. ~ ICM=I'4 ~ ~ -

System drivers (influential factors that affect the output of a given
system) that lead to superior performance are determined by
benchmarking key factors from one stoping configuration
(equipment specifications, etc) with other alternative stoping
configurations (Litke, Strong and Szymanski, 1988).

The main scenario considered involves various automated miner
bolter/shuttle car combinations but this could easily be modified
to simulate a conventional mining operation involving drilling,


1. Graduate Student in Mining Engineering, Er ~ ~ ASI

606 Chemical-Mineral Building, Department of Mining,
Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineering, University of Alberta,
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2G6..
2. Professor of Mining Engineering, 606 Chemical Mineral
Building, Department of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum
Engineering, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, FIG 1 - SLAM 11 network model of the continuous
Canada T6G 2G6. miner-shuttle cars system.

Underground Operators' Conference Kalgoorlie, 13-14 November 1995 343


Testing of the collected data on the service times of the CM and at the Queue node labeled FB. At the FB, depending on the status
shuttle cars using the stabilised probability plot method showed of the server(s) [the number of tipping mechanisms or tipping
the data closely followed the Weibull distribution (Szymanski and spots available], the arriving shuttle car either proceeds to dump
Griffin, 1988). Table 1 shows the estimated Weibull distribution the material or waits in the queue in file six. After dumping the
parameters for all the components of the CM, shuttle cars time load the shuttle cars return to their respective miners for loading
cycles. in an activity of duration equivalenced to RETURN. To avoid
Starting at the top left hand corner of Figure 1, entities (shuttle excessive queue lengths at the FB, the system is modelled such
cars) arrive at a GOON node G1 which leads to the Continuous that when the number of cars in the FB queue exceeds eight, all
miners queue (CM) via a spotting activity whose duration has arriving shuttle cars are diverted (balk) to a stockpile area labeled
been equivalenced to SPOT_TIME. If there is no shuttle car SPARE where they dispose of the load and return to the CMs.
waiting on the CM, the shuttle car is immediately loaded and This material is later rehandled by load-haul-dump machines.
proceeds to haul its load to the FB in a time equivalenced to Statistics of the total production (tonnes) and the number of units
HAUL. Waiting cars are kept in files one to four which refer to that balk, etc are collected at the COLCT nodes labeled COLl
the number of the continuous miners. Loaded shuttle cars arrive and COLSP for analysis. The shuttle cars are inserted into the
network by ENTRY statements and continue to cycle through the
network until the simulation is terminated (pritsker, 1986).
Estimated activity durations for continuous miners and
shuttle cars used in simulation
Type of Cycle Component Distribution Parameters .
The results of Slam II simulation runs for various CM-shuttle car
Beta Eta combinations over periods ranging from one 6.5-hour shift to two
CM Loading Time (min) 3.83 2.21 lO.5-hour shifts are summarised in Tables 2 and 3. Cases A to C
Shuttle cars Snot Time (min) 1.52 0.88 are where there are three shuttle cars per miner and one server at
Loading Time (min) 3.83 2.21 the FB; Cases D to F have there shuttle cars per miner but with
Haul Time (min) 11.26 4.18 two servers at the FB; Cases G to I have four shuttle cars per
Dumn Time (min) 2.08 1.55 miner and one server while Cases J to L are similar to Cases G to
Return Time (min) 9.88 4.06 I but with two servers at the FB. Significantly, with three shuttle
cars per miner, the output of three miners is almost tlie same as
that of five miners (Cases A to C in Table 2).

Summary ofsimulation runs for various continuous miner-shuttle car combinations.

Case Number of Production (tonnes) Balked units

number miners 780min 840min 960min 1260min 780min 840min 960min 1260min
A 3 5480 5930 6730 8780 0 0 0 0
B 4 5300 5710 6630 8780 47 49 51 67
C 5 5500 5960 6730 8760 216 232 276 361
D 3 7890 8570 9850 12890 0 0 0 0
E 4 9750 10480 11980 15710 0 0 0 0
F 5 10620 11460 13030 17210 10 10 11 12
G 3 5630 6070 6970 8970 36 37 43 62
H 4 5390 5850 6720 8750 297 316 364 482
I 5 5590 5920 6760 8840 613 658 750 993
J 3 9740 10430 11910 15570 0 0 0 0
K 4 10670 11490 13160 17460 25 27 28 35
L 5 11280 12050 13780 18000 168 189 215 289
Case Number of ( ueue lengths at feeder breaker Waiting times at feeder breaker (min)
number miners 780min 840min 960min 1260min 780min 840min 960min 1260min
A 3 3.19 3.20 3.19 3.27 4.49 4.52 4.51 4.66
B 4 5.97 5.99 5.91 5.88 8.67 8.70 8.45 8.40
C 5 6.94 6.91 6.93 6.95 9.74 9.63 9.79 9.90
D 3 0.49 0.46 0.44 0.42 0.46 0.45 0.42 0.41
E 4 1.46 1.57 1.50 1.49 1.16 1.21 1.20 1.19
F 5 3.59 3.56 3.64 3.58 2.62 2.60 2.67 2.61
G 3 5.64 5.62 5.62 5.75 7.73 7.66 7.67 8.01
H 4 7.07 7.05 7.07 7.07 10.09 9.98 9.98 10.08
I 5 7.37 7.39 7.40 7.42 10.21 10.32 10.38 10.46
J 3 1.23 1.29 1.25 1.25 0.99 1.04 1.00 1.01
K 4 4.17 4.17 4.14 4.03 3.03 3.03 3.01 2.91
L 5 5.78 5.83 5.85 5.59 3.97 4.03 4.05 4.10

344 Kalgoorlie, 13 -14 November 1995 Underground Operators' Conference


Summary ofserver utilisation of various continuous miner-shuttle car combinations.

Case Number of Server utilisation (%)

Number miners Continuous miner Feeder breaker
780min 840mio 960min 1260 min 780min 840min 960min 1260mio
A 3 38.1 37.7 37.8 37.8 98.7 98.8 98.8 98.9
B 4 29.7 29.5 30.1 30.3 99.5 99.5 99.6 99.7
C 5 32.8 32.9 34.0 32.0 99.7 99.7 99.8 99.8
D 3 55.0 54.9 54.8 55.2 72.6 72.5 72.5 72.5
E 4 50.1 50.2 50.2 50.9 89.2 89.7 89.8 89.7
F 5 46.0 46.0 46.0 45.8 97.6 97.6 97.8 96.6
G 3 42.4 42.5 42.4 41.6 99.8 99.8 99.8 99.9
H 4 44.2 44.4 43.9 43.9 99.7 99.7 99.8 99.8
I 5 51.0 51.0 48.0 49.0 99.7 99.7 99.8 99.8
] 3 68.1 67.8 67.8 68.5 88.2 88.4 88.1 88.1
K 4 55.5 55.8 55.8 56.3 98.7 98.6 98.7 98.8
L 5 54.0 54.5 54.0 55.0 99.6 99.7 99.7 99.7

d) four miners each with four shuttle cars and two servers
at the FB operating over 780 min (Case K).
19000 ,--------,-------r-------, e) five miners each with four shuttle cars and two servers
at the FB operating over 780 min (Case L).
17000 t-------+------t---------".-i
However, considering the number of balked units, queue
I'~ +----+----+~-----:/~..L-j
/ lengths and waiting times of the shuttle cars at the FB, options
(a), (d) and (e) above are considered unfavourable and are
';"JOOO t - - - - - - - +- - ----::".....+"/=----::,.L.:....----l eliminated from further consideration.
·~II000 t:~===-_--==-=-+v------==".......-::::.---=-
~--t------~ The optimum equipment combinations are either four miners
f . - with three shuttle cars per miner or three miners with four shuttle
Cl. 9000 t-------+------t------::.:i cars per miner operating over a period of 840 minutes (Cases E

=.. =
. and J respectively). With these combinations there are no balked
7000 t----+---..,..-b..o-"""'---------l ~ units. This means that miners with cutting rates ranging from 4.17
780 mln
... ~:::=L--J to 5.6 tons per minute are required to allow for surges and
contingencies (Hartman, 1982). The server utilisation at both the
840 mln 960 mln 1260 mln
-et-four Miners (one Server) ••• FlveMlnen(one~)
CM and FB queues (in cases E and J) ranges from 50 to 90 per
-«-Four ~hllCfs (Two Xrverl) -Five Mlnersltwo ief~11
cent (Table 3). Further simulations and cost analysis of both
combinations is required to select the more appropriate one.
FIG 2 - Graph of simulated production figures for three shuttle cars 2. By increasing the number of parallel servers at the FB from
per continuous miner (one or two servers at ore pass). one to two (ie if two shuttle cars can dump simultaneously),
the output is increased by 73 per cent with shorter queue
Figure 2 is a graph of the results for some CM-Shuttle car lengths, reduced number of balked units and an
combinations with a different number of servers at the FB. It improvement in server utilisation in all combinations.
shows that the production is directly proportional to the length of However, increasing the number of shuttle cars from three
time and to the number of miners being employed. The to four per miner only results in an average increase of less
production per unit time is almost doubled with two servers at the than two per cent in all combinations. This suggests that the
FB instead of one in most cases. With one server each, there is no number of servers at the FB is a stronger system driver in
this scenario than the number of continuous miners.
significant difference in production of four and five miners. Thus
it is not worth the extra cost of equipment in going from four to 3. The reduction in number of balked units with more than one
five continuous miners. server at the FB either reduces or completely eliminates any
The following observations can be made from the results: material rehandling from the stockpile (SPARE).

1. The targeted output of IQ 000 tonnes of coal per day from CONCLUSIONS
the mine can be achieved with any of the following
equipment combinations: The results from this study show that the targeted annual
a) five continuous miners each with three shuttle cars and production of the mine can be achieved with either four miners
and three shuttle cars per miner or with three miners and four cars
two servers at the FB operating over 780 min (Case F in
Table 2). per miner (two servers at FB in both cases) operating over two
seven-hour shifts. The number of parallel servers, shuttle cars and
b) four miners each with three shuttle cars and two servers miners are the main system drivers in this model. As these results
at the FB operating over 840 min (Case E). were obtained without building or interfering with the real
c) three miners each with four shuttle cars and two servers system, computer simulation has been shown to be an excellent
at the FB operating over 840 min (Case J). tool for evaluating various mine configurations and systems.

Underground Operators' Conference Kalgoorlie, 13-14 November 1995 345


REFERENCES Methods Handbook, (Ed: W A Hustrulid), pp 325-336, (SME of

AIME: Littleton).
Hartman, H L, 1982. Introductory Mining Engineering, pp 336-383 (John Pritsker, A A B, 1986. Introduction to Simulation and SLAM 11, 3rd edn,
WLley and Sons: New York). 818 p, (John Wiley and Sons, Inc: New York).
Litke, A B, Laroche, D, Strong, D and Szymanski, J, 1993. A computer Szymanski, J and Griffin, W H, 1988. A simulation analysis for
simulation model of underground production mining: a tool for continuous miner and trucks operation using SLAM n, in
benchrnarking. in Proceedings of APCOM XXN 1993, vol 3, Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on Continuous
pp 402-409, (CIM: Quebec). Surface Mining, pp 189-199 (A A Balkema: Brookfield).
Manula, C B and Suboleski, S C, 1982. Study of the interrelationships
and constraints in underground coal mining, in Underground Mining

346 Kalgoor1ie. 13 - 14 November 1995 Underground Operators' Conference