The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology has been granted a contract for $1.25 million to design advanced underground mining ventilation systems in block caving mines.

“Ventilation is the lifeblood of a mine, and the ventilation engineer plays a key role in operating a safe and profitable underground operation,” says Purushotham Tukkaraja,of the Department of Mining Engineering & Management. “Currently, there is a need for qualified ventilation professionals in the mining industry.”

The five-year project from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) intends to create a practical mine ventilation design procedure that an operating block caving mine could use to predict gas emission rates and adequate air flows in underground working areas. It will also allow for the simulation of the caving process in an underground metal/nonmetal mine and for the validation of the numerical models through field measurements. The project will analyze the ventilation system by using cave resistance values in the network models.

Block caving is the underground version of open pit mining. The underground hard rock mining method involves undermining an ore body and allowing it to gradually collapse under its own weight.

For the first year, NIOSH has awarded the project a contract for $250,000. It is renewable annually for five years.

Phase 1 of the project aims to develop numerical models to predict geo-mechanical parameters such as caved rock porosity and permeability.

“With the discovery of near-surface mineral deposits declining, exploring for deep-seated deposits and finding innovative ways to mine them is one viable solution to the ever-growing need for minerals. Block caving is one such innovation, and it has the potential to rival surface mining both in rate of mineral production and production cost,” says Tukkaraja.

SD Mines graduate students will play a key role in the research, as the purpose of the NIOSH grant is to increase expertise in the area of mine ventilation through graduate education in addition to developing technologies that improve mine safety and health.

For more information, visit