Cave mining requires careful management in order to monitor the significant and potentially dangerous risks involved. Our understanding of caving and ore flow mechanisms is in its infancy which effectively makes caving a ‘black box method’ –  a bit like mining in the dark. When ore recovery is not performing as expected, this deviation from the mine plan increases risks. Safety risks are inherent and include air-blast and ground failure. Economic risks involve ore loss and grade dilution, both of which have a significant impact on the profitability and ROI of mining projects.

Optimizing ore recovery is the central goal of mining. Ore recovery is directly influenced by ore loss and dilution. Reduced ore grade is a reality in underground mining and can have many causes related to recovery. Through optimized production procedures and with the right data, miners can reduce dilution. Monitoring the cave back, ore flow and recovery enables active management of the cave and gives miners the information they need to increase productivity and profitability for cave mining.

Elexon Mining for Cave Mine Monitoring


The Smart Marker System comprises of a collection of wireless, robust electronic markers that are embedded in the ore body of a block or sub-level cave mine to track ore flow.

During the mining process the embedded Smart Markers exit the draw point and are detected by a Smart Marker Reader that is installed near the ore extraction point. The data recorded helps mine operators to analyse ore recovery and gain valuable insights into ore flow; effectively giving them a set of ‘eyes into the mine’.


Networked Smart Markers are a robust and reliable alternative to Time Domain Reflectometers for measuring the location of the Cave Back.

Understanding the cave back position is critical for managing the propagation of the sublevel cave until it breaks through. The risks of uncontrolled caving include air blast, resource sterilisation and excessive waste ingress.

Networked Smart Markers use Smart Marker technology, with a long battery powered lifespan. Data communication is based on through-ground radio transmission which eliminates risk of system failure through cables broken by moving ground.

Cave tracker data


The Cave Tracker System is a world-first technology that enables monitoring of ore movement while it is still in the cave. This ability provides near real-time data to allow mine operators to analyse the behaviour of caves and actively manage cave propagation and extraction.

The Cave Tracker System is in an advanced prototype stage and has been validated in two cave mines. The results are highly encouraging and the measured data is already being used to complete the mine’s understanding of what is happening in the cave.