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Modelling mines under major constraints

In Québec, mineral deposits on the surface or at shallow depths are increasingly rare, and mining companies must therefore develop deposits at greater depths and under significant geological constraints. In all cases, for the sake of safety and the bottom line, the sites must be characterized to fully understand the rock mass in which the work will be undertaken. Until now, few models were able to provide the complete geotechnical profile of a site. That’s where Martin Grenon, full professor in the Department of Mining, Metallurgy and Materials Engineering at Université Laval, comes in.

More comprehensive characterizations of sites also help mining companies better plan their operations.

Current models account for the geological, hydrogeological and geomechanical aspects of rock masses independently. The model set out by Martin Grenon aims to pool these data and thus underline a project’s most critical elements—those that could compromise the stability of the mine’s underground workings. The researcher and his team considered the case of the Éléonore gold mine in Baie-James, whose development is subject to major constraints. Located under a reservoir, the site experiences substantial water inflow and excavation instability. The experts also delved into the mechanisms that influence the seismic activity of the site, since deep mining operations are more at risk of being affected by seismic events.

The result is a series of procedures that apply to all types of rock masses and may be adapted to the specific features of a particular site. More comprehensive characterizations of sites also help mining companies better plan their operations to avoid production delays and ensure the safety of the employees who work underground. The research project was made in collaboration with Goldcorp, the gold production company that is currently developing the Éléonore project, and funding from the Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles du Québec and the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies.