Integrating the Theory of Sampling into Underground Mine Grade Control Strategies
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Grade control in underground mines aims to deliver quality tonnes to the process plant via the accurate definition of ore and waste. It comprises a decision-making process including data collection and interpretation; local estimation; development and mining supervision; ore and waste destination tracking; and stockpile management. The foundation of any grade control programme is that of high-quality samples collected in a geological context. The requirement for quality samples has long been recognised, where they should be representative and fit-for-purpose. Once a sampling error is introduced, it propagates through all subsequent processes contributing to data uncertainty, which leads to poor decisions and financial loss. Proper application of the Theory of Sampling reduces errors during sample collection, preparation, and assaying. To achieve quality, sampling techniques must minimise delimitation, extraction, and preparation errors. Underground sampling methods include linear (chip and channel), grab (broken rock), and drill-based samples. Grade control staff should be well-trained and motivated, and operating staff should understand the critical need for grade control. Sampling must always be undertaken with a strong focus on safety and alternatives sought if the risk to humans is high. A quality control/quality assurance programme must be implemented, particularly when samples contribute to a reserve estimate. This paper assesses grade control sampling with emphasis on underground gold operations and presents recommendations for optimal practice through the application of the Theory of Sampling.
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