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Technical considerations for the application of TBMs for mining projects

Transactions of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration , 2013, Vol. 334, No. 1, pp. 498-505

Brox, D.


Tunnel boring machines (TBMs) have been used for the construction of various tunnels for mining projects for the purpose of access, conveyance of ore and waste, drainage, exploration, water supply and water diversion. Several mining projects have seen the successful and economic beneficial use of TBMs, and there is an increasing awareness of the benefits of TBMs for mining projects. Key technical considerations for the use of TBMs for the construction of tunnels for mining projects include geological issues (rock type, rock alteration, rock strength, rock abrasivity, durability, ground water inflows), depth of cover and the potential for overstressing/rockbursts, site access and terrain, portal locations, TBM constraints, minimum tunnel size, tunnel support requirements, contractor and labor experience, and project schedule demands. TBMs offer key project schedule benefits with high rates of progress, which is a unique economic advantage recognized for mining projects where timing is of the essence in order to advance mining development and achieve early startup for operations. A thorough evaluation of the anticipated ground conditions should be performed as part of the decision to adopt a TBM for a mining project. Minimum specifications for TBMs are necessary in order to prevent the incorrect type of TBM from being used. Appropriate geotechnical investigations are necessary in order to provide key information on the anticipated subsurface conditions for careful planning and design of the proposed tunnel alignment. The overall site and geological conditions associated with some projects may suggest that it is not appropriate to use TBMs for some mining projects due to a perceived higher risk.