The Importance of Drift Design in Your Mining Operations 

By Robin Montufar

The evolution of mining throughout history has been closely tied to economic developments, societal changes, and technological advancements.  Long gone are the days when miners would blindly start blasting and digging to get access to mineral deposits, with the exceptions of artisanal operations and clandestine mines in far off parts of the world.   

In today’s modern mining operations, the importance of safety when planning out a mine cannot be overstated. Part of this planning includes the very critical task of planning the drifts that will give miners and equipment the needed access to the minerals underground. The design of mine drifts is a complex process which requires careful planning and engineering to ensure the safety, efficiency, and productivity of underground mining operations. Fortunately, modern technology has given rise to advanced software tools tailored to this very purpose. In this article, we’ll explore the significance of drift design in underground mining and delve into the powerful software solutions that facilitate the process. 

The Significance of Drift Design 

The main reasons for well planned-out drifts are safety, resource optimization, environmental considerations, and future-proofing. 

Safety is paramount in the mining industry and ideally no mining task is undertaken without first considering the safety of the workers.  A well-designed drift ensures the safe passage of miners and equipment while minimizing the risk of collapses, cave-ins, or other accidents.  

Resource Optimization is essential in your mine plan because companies need to maximise returns on their investments while making the most of the resources they have. Properly designed drifts can enhance the flow of materials and equipment, reducing downtime and boosting productivity. This optimization translates to cost savings and increased profitability. 

Environmental Considerations are a must in every moder mining operation and responsible mining practices must include the minimization of our environmental impact. Thoughtful drift design can help reduce the disturbance of surrounding rock formations and groundwater resources as well reduce the amount of rock that is drilled and blasted.  

In real life, mining operations are dependent on a variety of factors which affect their longevity, be it new government regulations, commodity prices, development of new mining technologies, new ore discoveries, etc.  A mine can be planned to have a lifespan of 10 years, but that planned lifespan can easily double due to one of the aforementioned reasons and this is where future-proofing is essential. A well-designed drift takes future expansions and changes into account, saving time and resources down the line. 

Software for Drift Design 

Modern mining companies utilize advanced mine planning software packages like Promine, Surpac, Deswik, or MineSight. These comprehensive platforms enable engineers and geologists to create detailed 3D models of the underground mine, facilitating drift design and optimization. 

Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software such as AutoCAD and MicroStation is essential for creating precise engineering drawings of drifts. CAD software such as Promine ensures that drifts meet safety standards and can accommodate necessary infrastructure.  With Promine’s “Drift Design” module, engineers and geologist can easily plan drifts, annotate them, edit them, create 3D-models for easy visualization, create longitudinal sections along drift to show advance progress and survey information, and compute planned tonnage and volume.  In addition to CAD tools, computational tools like FLAC (Fast Lagrangian Analysis of Continua) and UDEC (Universal Distinct Element Code) are indispensable for analyzing the stability of drifts. They simulate rock behavior under various conditions, helping engineers make informed design decisions. 

Software tools in modern mining operations provide 3D models of the mine, allow engineers to visualize drift designs in a realistic environment, help with safety analysis features by helping to identify potential hazards and mitigate risks associated with drift design, help with accurate costs estimations while doing drift planning and help to facilitate communication among various stakeholders, including engineers, geologists, and miners. 

In the challenging world of underground mining, drift planning software has emerged as a powerful ally for designing drifts that are not only efficient but also safe and environmentally responsible. These software solutions empower mining professionals to create detailed, accurate, and future-proof drift designs, optimizing operations and reducing risks. As technology continues to advance, we can expect even more sophisticated software tools to shape the future of underground mining, further enhancing safety, productivity, and sustainability in this essential industry. 


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