How does a mine work?

Narrow-vein mining

Perhaps the best way to understand Dalradian’s project is to compare it to a hi-tech, highly regulated, precision-led quarry – only one that is based underground with some processing on the surface.

There are six stages to Dalradian’s approach. The first is narrow-vein mining.

Unlocking Tyrone’s Precious Metals

All of Dalradian’s mining activity will take place underground using a technique known as narrow-vein mining, so called because of the narrow seams, or veins, of quartz / carbonate rock – roughly 1m in width – which contain Curraghinalt’s gold, copper and silver.

The objective is to systematically extract just these seams (sometimes called ‘ore-bearing rock’) while leaving as much of the ordinary country rock in place as possible. This reduces the amount of mining and processing required, which minimises energy use.

Narrow-vein mining is a precision-led, largely mechanised process that uses computer modelling to help identify which seams to mine first and where best to drill and place small explosive charges. Mining usually takes place from tunnels underneath the seams to allow gravity to provide a helping hand.

The mined ore-bearing rock will then move onto the next stage, processing, which will further separate the metals from the rock. The majority of extracted rock will be returned underground to help backfill the spaces created by mining.

The hi-tech nature of modern mining has greatly increased the amount of machinery which can be controlled remotely from an underground safe area or from the surface, helping support a safe work environment. Wi-fi will track where people are working underground, further enhancing safety and ensuring energy is used more efficiently.

With an initial £15m training programme, the mining aspect of operations will support a wide range of roles, including miners, haul truck operators, mechanics, welders and electricians.

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