Editor’s note: The Geology and Mining series, edited by Dan Wood and Jeffrey Hedenquist, is designed to introduce early-career professionals and students to a variety of topics in mineral exploration, development, and mining, in order to provide insight into the many ways in which geoscientists contribute to the mineral industry.
Mining narrow deposits presents a discrete set of additional challenges to those common to most mining. Some challenges arise from the deposit’s width, its geometry—dip and planar continuity—and its interaction with the surrounding rock mass. The geology of the surrounding rock mass and associated physical properties of its geologic units and structures influence the application of mining method and mine design for both surface (open-pit) and underground mining.
Successful mine development is the product of teamwork and depends on the collaboration, coordination, collective experience, and confidence of the team. Above all, it relies on relationships shared by the team members along the value chain. These relationships are extremely important, since miscommunication, misunderstandings, missing data, etc., can result either in lost opportunities to develop a better mine, or will load the project with unnecessary risk.
This article is focused on underground mining of narrow-width deposits (veins) and the role of economic geologists in the definition and development of these deposits. The crucial importance of recognizing potential for value creation early in the life of a narrow-width mine project is highlighted, when an economic geologist is often a project’s key proponent. This role as the key proponent may change as a project progresses toward development, but early geologic contributions provide the foundation for narrow-width mine development.