The mining industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by safety, productivity and cost control. Mine backfilling is widely used to convert resources into reserves, reduce ore dilution, and improve underground working conditions. Backfill mining has several advantages, including the extraction of minerals left in pillars in room and pillar mining, the reduction of the risk of spontaneous rock bursts, the reduction of groundwater contamination when used with binders, and the improvement of mine ventilation. In the last three years alone, there have been over 48,000 patents filed and granted in the mining industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Extraction Technology in Mining: Mine Backfilling.

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 350,000 patents to analyse innovation intensity for the mining industry, there are 150+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry. 

Mine backfilling is a key innovation area in extraction technology

Backfilling is a key operation within underground mining. The backfill material supports the surrounding rock mass, reduces the risk of surface level subsidence, reduces wasteful ore dilution, and creates a safer mining working area. Mining backfill can also be used to dispose of potentially hazardous waste while reducing the environmental impact on the surface by storing backfill waste. The mine backfill process is influenced by the type of mine, tailings, and stope or void location. Heavy equipment is typically used to pump backfill into a stope. Gravity can, however, be used to backfill a shallow mine using dump trucks. The tailings are typically processed at the surface level in large plants before backfilling a mine. A vacuum disc filter is used to extract excess water from tailings, then add a binder to that material using weigh hoppers. High-pressure piston pumps are used to deliver the finished product to the mines, and barricades are placed at the opening of a stope to keep the backfill in place while it cures.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies.  According to GlobalData, there are 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established mining companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of mine backfilling.

Key players in mine backfilling – a disruptive innovation in the mining industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Leaders in mine backfilling include Jinchuan Group, which operates one of China's largest modern mines. The company employs a unique downward hexagonal approach backfill method that includes mechanised mining equipment such as a drill trolley, scarper, and patio drill. The company has constructed independent backfill systems in several mining areas, and approximately 90% of the backfill slurry can be transported by gravity, with only a few areas requiring pressure pumping backfill.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the mining industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Mining.

GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article. 

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.