RIO Tinto has partnered with CRCMining, Newcrest Mining and Elexon Electronics in the development of a cutting-edge real-time cave flow tracking system of caved material within block caves. The ground-breaking cave tracking technology uses unique 3D position systems to enable real-time monitoring of sensors in the block cave, which move along with the ore, optimizing the flow of caved material and minimising ore dilution.

"The Cave Tracker system is a step-change technology that will deliver significant benefits to the mining industry. It will enable real-time mapping of cave material movement, which can be used to minimize dilution and maximize recovery from caves," says CRCMining's Hard Rock and Surface Mining Program leader Dihon Tadic. "Monitoring the material flow in block caves has not been possible previously, leading to poor control of block cave operations and sub-optimal outcomes.

"The technology will assist in development of improved caving models, which will enable miners to design better cave layouts, ultimately improving mine safety and productivity."

Rio Tinto's general manager of Geotechnical Engineering and Cave Management for the Copper Group, Andre van As, believes there is value for the caving industry and the mining industry as a whole. "We now have a way of remotely and wirelessly tracking rock mass movements in real-time, and preserve the integrity of the resource. It has application in every method."

He says, "The real value is in preserving the security and integrity of the resource. By monitoring the flow of material in real-time we can potentially minimize the dilution in recovering ore from the block cave, thereby improving performance. The technology will also significantly improve safety, and enable better management of the mine."