Research

From prominent industries to health and safety organizations to hi-tech labs a mile underground, our research spans the globe.

At South Dakota Mines, research doesn’t always begin with a doctorate. Even freshmen dive in from day one, surveying underground and training with mine rescue teams at the Sanford Underground Research Facility, landing industry internships, or embarking on senior design projects focused on research and development.

Recent Grants Focus On Mine Safety and Industry Support

Dr. Robert Hall - Research Interests

My research focuses on improving the operations of mechanical equipment in the mining industry. To do this I have been targeting a variety of projects with differing companies and integrating expertise from other disciplines. My efforts to improve the current state of mining equipment can be categorized into these areas: machine maintenance and reliability, comminution and energy reduction, and intelligent machines.

Maintenance and Reliability

I have been actively involved in this area for the last 20 years and consider it a strategic area for continued research. I intend to continue to use collaborative projects with Industry for collecting data and to apply statistics, neural nets and other data mining tools to deepen the understanding of equipment behavior in the mine. Parallel to this the industry interaction allows a gradual migration of tools and skills to the sponsoring companies. This is done via formalized training courses as well as from normal project interactions.

Once an understanding of the equipment, its environment and corresponding interactions is developed this knowledge can be used to assess strategies for optimization of management procedures, equipment selection and life cycle planning. The ultimate result will be tools developed (software\hardware and business processes) from the research that will assist the industry in becoming more cost effective and efficient.

Comminution Technologies and Energy Reduction

I am interested in understanding the mechanisms of comminution and how improvements can be made in design and selection of equipment for specific applications. This has led to work in evaluating wear in gyratory crushers, scale up technologies for stirred mills and energy evaluation of high pressure grinding rolls. I believe there is much to be learned in this area and would continue to pursue research in this area. Parallel to this is an interest in wear and its mitigation. This is a significant area for mining that has not been well addressed by academics to date.

Intelligent Machines

Much of the existing work on automation of mining equipment has been on applying technology to existing equipment designs. As well, the majority of the work has been for underground mining equipment. I am pursuing work on open pit equipment automation using advance controls systems and vision Over the last several years I have been working on intelligent digging funded both by NSERC and Industry. This research has opened several areas for development.


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Improving Mine Ventilation

With the discovery of near-surface mineral deposits declining, exploring for deep-seated deposits and finding innovative ways to mine them is one solution to meet the ever-growing need. Awarded $1.25 million from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Assistant Professor Purushotham Tukkaraja, PhD, will design more advanced underground ventilation systems in underground block caving mines to create safer working environments and more profitable production for companies. Learn more about Tukkaraja’s research.


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A Different Kind of Pipeline

Boasting industry experience stretching from North and South American to Africa, Associate Professor Andrea Brickey, PhD, is now applying her expertise to rebuilding the faculty pipeline in US universities. Brickey’s $300,000 SME award will fund undergraduate and graduate students to further her research on hi-tech simulation and mine planning, as well as professional development opportunities. Read more about Brickey’s industry background and research.

Just Up The Road

Located 40 miles away, in nearby Lead, SD, the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) provides opportunities for future mining research. Right now, South Dakota Mines physicists are part of an international team there conducting neutrino research a mile underground.

We are seeking an opportunity, given funding and approvals, to create a Mine Health and Safety Laboratory at SURF. This would allow a variety of research endeavors including ground control, ventilation, explosives, and worker health. There is currently have a proposal to NIOSH to look at biometrics for mine workers. The project would involve real-time sensors attached to the miner that would provide data on air quality, muscle stress, noise, worker fatigue, and location.

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The Sanford Underground Research Facility is located at the former Homestake gold mine, donated by the Barrick Gold Corporation to South Dakota in 2006 for use as an underground laboratory. Inset Photo Credit: Matt Kapust, SURF