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Rock cutting technology- principles of rock cutting and its application


Increased pressure for dramatic improvements in safety from stakeholders in the South African mining industry has created the objective of eliminating exposure to possible harm (risk exposure). Clearly, the ability to use machinery to realise this objective is an obvious route for the industry to pursue with greater vigour than before. 

Drilling is already an established mining technique. Raise boring has been successfully and effectively used in mining for many years in excavations, generally at inclinations greater than 45 degrees. Technologies to bore at inclinations as low as 30 degrees are well advanced. Tunnel boring is now a widely adopted method of excavating tunnels in the civil construction industry but is still rarely used in mining applications.

In developing innovative mechanised mining solutions, engineers with sound knowledge of the principles and tools of rock cutting are essential. 

Course Structure

The course will take place over five full days and the schedule may vary depending on the amount of interaction and discussion. A mixture of lectures and case studies on the various subjects will come from industry and university presenters. Contact time will be supplemented with homework reading and a study pack.

Course Content

The content of the course will include the following and will be built into the structure outlined below. The geomechanical issues and equipment design considerations for 0-15º, 15-40º and 40- 90º inclinations will be dealt with separately.

• Basics of tunnel and raise boring, and boring equipment

• Geomechanical issues
o Site investigation
o Geology
o Rock testing and rock mass classification
o Rock fracture
o Mechanics of rock cutting

• Equipment design considerations for various inclinations

• Modeling and prediction of boring performance
• Project management
o Contracting considerations
o Risk management
o Health and safety
o Skills requirements
• Engineering considerations
o Infrastructure and logistical support
o Equipment maintenance
o Materials handling
o Ventilation
This content may be communicated either during presentations and discussions or developed in the project work.

Course Lecturers

Course presenters:

Prof Dick Stacey, School of Mining Engineering, Wits University
Prof Jim Porter, CMMS, Wits University
Andy Griffiths, GOBA Consulting,
Dr Steven Bluhm, BBE
PG van Zyl, JPMC
Joseph Pichler, Sandvik
Marius Oosthuizen, Murray and Roberts Cementation
Koos Jordaan, Master Drilling
Andre O Smit, Sandvik
Rod Pickering, CMMS
Teresa Hattingh,CMMS, Wits University


The following outcomes are addressed by the course:

o Engineering problem-solving
o Application of mathematical, scientific and engineering knowledge
o Engineering design
o Investigation, experimentation and data analysis
o Use of engineering methods, skills and tools (including ICT)
o Lifelong learning ability
o Engineering professionalism and project management

Project and examination

There will be a 3-hour examination for the course. This will be written on a date to be confirmed, and will account for 70% of the final mark for the course. In order to achieve a Wits University Certificate of Competence, students will be required to complete a project. The aim of this project will be to enhance and demonstrate the knowledge that they have gained on the course. The time spent on this project should be a minimum of 50 effective hours. The project report, in hardcopy, must be handed in at a time agreed upon during day four and will account for 30% of the final mark for the course.


This is a formal course in the postgraduate programme of the School of Mining Engineering. The University regards this course as NQF level 9. The course has been accredited by ECSA for CPD purposes as follows: five-day attendance = 4 points, five-day attendance and satisfactory completion of assignment and examination = 6 points. 


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