ALROSA started the implementation of pillar mining with goaf stowing at the Aikhal underground mine using more efficient drill and fire system instead of traditional bench mining where tunneling machines are used.
Switching to this new method will enable to reduce the costs of mined ore and cut mining expenditures. Besides the fact that this system is more secure, its implementation will decrease the volume of stowing and cutting operations; the volume of breaking operations is expected to increase.
Pillar mining system was developed by Yakutniproalmaz research and design institute. Aikhal will become the first company’s underground mine where this system implemented. Previously drill and fire method wasn’t used at ALROSA’s underground mines.
As of today the company conducts pilot works at the underground mine to commission pillar mining. Drill and fire operations will start work on a full scale in 2017 in accordance with approved mining plan.
The Aikhal pipe deposit is one of ALROSA’s oldest deposits, with its open-pit mining being started in 1961 to take more than 30 years. After the open-pit mining at the deposit was completed in 1997, a pilot underground area was organized at the site as part of Aikhal open-pit mine. Later this area changed name to Aikhal underground mine. Since 2012 the mine has been operating at design capacity of 500 thousand tons of ore per year.
In 2014, rough diamond production at the Aikhal underground mine totaled 3.292 million carats. As of July 1, 2013 the Aikhal pipe resources (including reserves) amount to 15.998 million tons of ore with average diamond grade of 4.26 carats per ton.