The use of waterjet cutting for mining is not a new invention. Even the Ancient Romans used an archaic version of this technology for mining gold. Even the gold rush of North America utilized this technology. In the modern era, waterjet cutting has evolved highly and its application in mining has been exponentially more efficient. This article will analyze waterjet cutting for mining and detail how it benefits the industry.
Overview of Waterjet Cutting
Waterjet cutting technology utilized a highly pressurized water stream for piercing through a material and achieving the cutting action. The beam of water for this purpose is highly narrow, with a thickness less than a human hair. To ease the cutting process for hard materials like metals and alloys, abrasives are added to the water stream. The process is then called abrasive waterjet cutting.
How Does the Mining Industry Use Waterjet Cutting?
While mining is possible even without waterjet cutting, the use of this technology has helped in reducing stope height and increasing the safety standards of the mine.
Since the mining industry is notorious for its fatal accidents and life-threatening risks, the safety factor alone is a huge bonus for using waterjet technology.
The applications of waterjet in mining is not only limited to earth cutting, but also useful for other use cases such as slurry extraction.
What are the Mining Materials That Waterjet Technology Cuts?
In the mining industry, waterjet technology comes across a range of materials. Some of these materials are:
Gold is the material that led to the beginning of waterjet technology’s application in mining. Gold ores are soft materials, so waterjet technology can easily cut through the ore to extract the material. Gold is a weak formation in the gold ore, so it dissolves in the water stream and can be extracted from it easily.
In quarrying, sandstone is the most popular application of waterjet cutting. Sandstone mining commonly employs the technique of selective mining or borehole hydraulic mining. It is done with a pure water jet instead of adding abrasives. The material is disintegrated with a pure water jet and then pumped to the surface.
The mining of coal is done in a similar way to sandstone. However, in recent years, waterjet-assisted mechanical mining is being used instead of borehole hydraulic mining. Instead of using water to flush out the coal, the purpose of water jets is for pre-fracturing while mechanical tools cut out the coal.
Waterjet cutting can also be used for quarrying marble. However, the application of this technology for marble is quite less than for sandstone. However, waterjet cutting finds extensive application in marble cutting and etching.
Waterjet-assisted mechanical drilling is common in granite quarrying. Similar to the case of coal mining, waterjet in granite quarrying is used for pre-fracturing. The drilling itself is carried out with carbide-tipped tools. The use of water jets ends up reducing the energy density required for mining, saving costs and resources. For granite cutting, a mixture of water and abrasive is used.
Applications of Waterjet Technology in Mining Industry
Here are the specific use cases of water jet technology in the mining sector:
Waterjet cutters with abrasive materials are used for the destruction of hard rock which is crucial for the mining operation. Alternative cutting processes such as explosions create a lot of dust and unsafe work elements. However, waterjet cutting provides a safe and dust-free operation for cutting rock.
The mining industry is not a fixed-place industry. The equipment used needs to be dismantled and moved to new locations quite often. The dismantling work is quite difficult due to the heavy nature of the equipment. Waterjet helps in easing the dismantling operation by offering the cutting of metal frames, steel structures, conveyor belts, armored cables, and more.
Waterjet technology also assists during setup operations. For instance, when installing fasteners, a water jet helps in contouring the face preparatory workings for a secure assembly.
Waterjet-Assisted Mechanical Mining
Waterjet-assisted mechanical mining is one of the most widely used mining operations nowadays. Waterjet technology helps in pre-fracturing processes such as the weakening of the hard rock with discharge slots. The mechanical tools accomplish the job of final destruction and excavation.
Mining can often lead to fatal accidents due to outbursts of underground gases. Waterjet cutting provides the ability to create drainage holes for gases for avoiding such accidents, especially in the case of coal mines.
What are the Benefits of Waterjet Cutting in the Mining Industry?
There are many factors that make waterjet cutting one of the best technology for the mining industry. Some of these factors are:
- Dust-Free Cutting: One of the most important benefits of waterjet cutting in the mining sector is its dust-free cutting facility. When using a water jet to cut through rock or earth, the dust generated dissolves in the water itself. Therefore, the working environment is cleaner and better for physical labor.
- Versatility: Abrasive waterjet cutters can pierce through soft materials and hard materials alike. Their versatility provides the option to use them on any kind of terrain and for a wide variety of applications without any restrictions or changes in machinery.
- Cold Cutting Process: Mining is a temperature-sensitive affair for many resources such as coal. A water jet edge does not have any kind of thermal distortion or heating effects like heat-affected zone since it is a cold-cutting process.
- Productivity: Waterjet cutting expands the cutting efficiency and productivity of the whole mining operation. This is because the conventional operation requires multiple technologies for different materials along with the setup time for each method. However, the abrasive waterjet machine can handle many kinds of operations in a single setup.
- Labor Saving: Robotic waterjet machines operate through software programs instead of manual labor moving the cutting tool. This helps in saving up labor for higher-priority operations. It also increases the safety of the workforce.
Where to Find CNC Water Jet Cutting Machines?
Techni Waterjet is the leading provider of waterjet machines for the mining industry in North America. These machines are rugged enough to handle the tough requirements of the job and help you take over the competitive landscape.
There are many models to choose from based on the particular requirement and budgets. Besides the mining sector, Techni Waterjet machines are used in many other end-use industries like medical, aerospace, architecture, fabrication, automotive, etc.
Mining is one of the most demanding and testing industries, utilising the most high-end equipment and technologies out there. Abrasive waterjet technology has proven itself to be one of the best-suited options for this sector. Outperforming alternative industrial tools in terms of performance, safety, and convenience, abrasive waterjet cutting can definitely be a great fit for anyone in this industry.