Underground mining of aggregates. Main report

Brown, Teresa J.; Coggan, John S.; Evans, David J.; Foster, Patrick J.; Hewitt, Jeremy; Kruyswijk, Jacob B.; Smith, Nigel; Steadman, Ellie J.. 2010 Underground mining of aggregates. Main report. Penryn, UK, Camborne School of Mines, 322pp. (Unpublished)

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This report examines the economic feasibility of underground mining for crushed rock aggregates in the UK, but particularly in the London, South East and East of England regions (the South East area of England). These regions import substantial volumes of crushed rock, primarily from the East Midlands and South West regions, requiring relatively long transport distances to market for this bulk commodity. A key part of the research was to determine whether or not aggregate could be produced and delivered to a local market from an underground aggregates operation at a cost comparable with that for production and transport of the commodity from traditional surface quarries located further afield. In essence the investigation asked – could the reduced transport costs compensate for the higher production costs underground so that underground crushed rock aggregates producers can compete with the established Leicestershire and Somerset surface quarries exporting to the South East? Work Programme The research effort involved establishing and verifying cost models for aggregates production, stone processing (sizing and sorting), haulage of product to market, environmental impact mitigation, health and safety, decommissioning and restoration. Another major element of the work was the re-examination of the BGS exploratory borehole and geophysical databases to identify potential areas of crushed rock aggregates resource at depth in the South East area of England. Land use pressure is typically higher in this area of England than elsewhere so another major part of the research was the identification of potential concurrent uses of land around the surface facilities of underground aggregates mines. The value, development costs for specific developments and determination of yields expected, from these uses were estimated. These were also used to investigate potential economic benefits associated with after uses of remediated surface land above potential underground aggregates mines and also for the new underground space that would be created. Key technical issues such as subsidence within relatively heavily populated areas of the South East area of England were also addressed. Economic Results The discounted cost of aggregate delivered at a discount rate of 10% was the metric used to appraise the options. This is the price of aggregate that leads to a zero net present value of project cash flows realised over the aggregates project life. The results show that the discounted costs of aggregate delivered to a local South East area of England market from an underground mine producing 3.5 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) of crushed rock aggregates, are in the range of £13.03 per tonne to £13.93 per tonne for the top six prospect locations. These are greater than the corresponding cost for a “reference” quarry in Leicestershire producing 3.5 MTPA (£10.95 per tonne), but lower than a “reference” quarry in Leicestershire producing 1.25 MTPA (£16.48 per tonne). These figures indicate that underground crushed rock aggregate mines located within the South East area of England may be able to compete for a share in the overall market by replacing / displacing aggregate imported from the quarries in Leicestershire and Somerset producing around or less than 1.25 MTPA. The surprise in these figures is not really that the more remote surface quarry has a lower discounted cost of aggregate delivered, but that the values for the quarry and underground mine are so close. The capital intensity for the development of underground aggregates mines was found to be higher than that required for surface quarries of comparable scale, by a factor ranging from 1.33 to 1.65 and thus may represent a disincentive for aggregates operators. Carbon Emissions The total carbon emissions of the ‘reference’ 3.5 MTPA quarry in Leicestershire were estimated at 9.28 kg CO2/tonne aggregate delivered and this is to be compared with carbon emissions for the 150 metre deep underground mines serving the local market which were estimated at 9.31 kg CO2/tonne delivered for a Bletchley prospect using an adit to access the sub-surface and 14.25 kg CO2/tonne delivered for a prospect based on the Chitty bore hole using a shaft. Depth of the mine is a key factor in determination of the relative carbon emissions from each of the underground mining operations considered as electricity consumption for ventilation, pumping and winding is proportional to depth. Recommendations The current research generated seven principal recommendations which are discussed in detail in the concluding section of the report. These are:  Appraise policy incentives for underground aggregates mining.  Conduct an industry-wide consultation on findings from the current research.  Obtain public and stakeholder opinion on new uses for underground space.  Conduct research to reducing the energy intensity of mine services.  Develop a deep level aggregates-specific drilling campaign.  Investigate underground aggregates mines developed from existing surface quarries.  Investigate underground aggregates as co-products of industrial minerals mining.

Item Type: Publication - Report
Programmes: BGS Programmes 2010 > Minerals and waste
Funders/Sponsors: Mineral Industry Research Organisation
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: This project was a collaboration between the Camborne School of Mines (part of the University of Exeter), the British Geological Survey and Omya UK Ltd.
Additional Keywords: aggregates, underground, mine, mining, quarry, quarrying, surface, economics, feasibility
NORA Subject Terms: Economics
Earth Sciences
Date made live: 15 Sep 2010 08:35 +0 (UTC)

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