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Title:
A BACKFILL SLURRY SAMPLING APPARATUS, AND BACKFILL SYSTEM EQUIPPED WITH SUCH SAMPLING APPARATUS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/063872
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1), in which a sample portion of a backfill slurry flow is conducted to a sampling line (3) via a sampling valve (4). A sample positioning means (5) is provided, comprising a plurality of receptacle holders (6) for detachably receiving and carrying sample receptacles (5a, 5b, 5c), said sampling positioning means being arranged for selectively positioning each of receptacle holders (6) separately between a feed position (6a), and a stowed position (6b, 6c). Control means (7) are provided for operating the sampling valve (4) and the sample positioning means (5). An engaging member (4a) of the sampling valve (4) is positioned, when the fluid communication between the backfill feed line (2) and the sampling line (3) is closed, within an interaction-region of the backfill slurry flow in the backfill feed line (2), thus preventing backfill slurry build-up forming on said engaging member (4a).

Inventors:
HELINSKI MATTHEW (AU)
TENNANT CODY (AU)
HOLMES JARED (AU)
MACKIE HAMISH (AU)
Application Number:
PCT/FI2017/050691
Publication Date:
April 04, 2019
Filing Date:
September 29, 2017
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
OUTOTEC FINLAND OY (FI)
International Classes:
G01N1/20; B28C9/00; E21B33/13; E21F15/08; G01N1/10; G01N35/02; G01N35/04
Domestic Patent References:
WO2013098487A12013-07-04
Foreign References:
CN104849096A2015-08-19
US6038934A2000-03-21
EP1845357A12007-10-17
GB191214004A
US20020064881A12002-05-30
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BOCO IP OY AB (FI)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1 . A backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ), comprising:

a backfill feed line (2) for conducting a backfill slurry flow from a backfill supply line (10) to a backfill reticulation line (1 1 );

a sampling line (3) for conducting a sample portion of the backfill slurry flow from the backfill feed line (2) to be received by a sample receptacle (5a), said sampling line (3) comprising:

- a sampling intake (3a) for coupling the sampling line (3) in fluid communication with the backfill feed line (2), and

- a sampling outlet (3b) for feeding the sample portion of the backfill slurry flow to a sample receptacle (5a),

a sampling valve (4) configured to selectively open and close fluid communication between the backfill feed line (2) and the sampling line (3) so as to, respectively, allow and block, conduct of a sample portion of the backfill slurry flow from the backfill feed line (2) to the sampling line (3);

characterized by

sample positioning means (5) comprising a plurality of receptacle holders (6) for detachably receiving and carrying a plurality of sample receptacles (5a, 5b, 5c), said sampling positioning means being arranged for selectively positioning each of the plurality of receptacle holders (6) separately between a feed position (6a), and a stowed position (6b, 6c), said feed position (6a) being configured such that the sample portion of the backfill slurry flow from the sampling outlet (3b) is received within a corresponding sample receptacle (5a)carried by a receptacle holder (6a) in the feed position;

the backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) further comprising control means (7) operationally coupled so as to operate the sampling valve (4) and the sample positioning means (5), said control means (7) being configured, when in use, to:

- operate the sample positioning means (5) such that a receptacle holder (6) corresponding to an empty receptacle (5a) is positioned from the stowed position (6b) to the feed position (6a)

- open, and subsequently, close the sampling valve (4), so as to conduct a sample portion of the backfill slurry flow from the backfill feed line (2) to the sampling outlet (3b) for said sampling portion to be received by the receptacle (5a) corresponding to the receptacle holder (6) in the feed position (6a), and - operate the sample positioning means (5) such that the receptacle holder (6) corresponding to the receptacle (5a) retaining said sample portion of the backfill slurry flow is positioned from the feed position (6a) to the stowed position (6c), and

the sampling valve (4) being configured such that an engaging member (4a) thereof is positioned, when the fluid communication between the backfill feed line (2) and the sampling line (3) is closed, within an interaction-region of the backfill slurry flow in the backfill feed line (2), such that the engaging member (4a) is flushed by the backfill slurry flow, thus preventing backfill slurry build-up forming on said engaging member (4a).

2. The backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) according to Claim 1 , characterized in that one or more receptacle holders (6) are detachably equipped with a receptacle (5a, 5b, 5c).

3. The backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) according to Claim 1 or 2, characterized by

the sampling apparatus (1 ) comprising a flushing inlet (4b) downstream of the engaging member (4a) of the sampling valve for coupling a flushing fluid supply line to the sampling line (3), such that a flushing fluid flow may be conducted to the sampling line (3) when the sampling valve (4) is closed.

4. The backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) according to Claim 3, characterized by the backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) further comprises a flushing valve configured to selectively open and close fluid communication between the flushing fluid supply line and the sampling line (3) so as to, respectively, allow and block, conduct of a flushing fluid flow from flushing fluid supply line to the sampling line (3), and said control means (7) being operationally coupled to the flushing valve, and further configured to selectively open, and subsequently, close the sampling valve (4), so as to conduct a flushing fluid flow from flushing fluid supply line the sampling line (3) for flushing residual sample portion of the backfill slurry flow from the sampling line (3).

5. The backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) according to Claim 3 or 4, characterized by the flushing inlet (4b) being provided on the sampling valve (4), downstream of the engaging member (4a) thereof, such that the flushing fluid supply line is coupled to the sampling line (3) via the flushing fluid inlet (4b) and the sampling valve (4).

6. The backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) according to Claim 3 or 4, characterized by the flushing inlet being provided on the sampling line (3), downstream of the sampling valve (4), such that the flushing fluid supply line is coupled to the sampling line (3) directly via the flushing fluid inlet.

7. The backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) according to any of the preceding Claims 3-

6, characterized by said control means (7) being further configured to operate the sample positioning means (5) such that no receptacle holder is positioned in the feed position (5a) when a flushing fluid flow is conducted to the sampling line (3).

8. The backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) according to any of the preceding Claims 1 - 7, characterized in that the sampling valve is a piston valve, dart valve or ball valve.

9. The backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) according to any of the preceding Claims 4-

7, characterized in that the sampling valve (4) and the flushing valve are constructed as a single piston valve having:

- an open position, in which fluid communication between the backfill feed line (2) and the sampling line (3) is open, and respectively, the fluid communication between the flushing fluid supply line and the sampling line (3) is closed;

- a closed position, in which fluid communication between the backfill feed line (2) and the sampling line (3) is closed, and respectively, the fluid communication between the flushing fluid supply line and the sampling line (3) is closed, and

- a flushing position, in which fluid communication between the backfill feed line (2) and the sampling line (3) is closed, and respectively, the fluid communication between the flushing fluid supply line and the sampling line (3) is open.

10. The backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) according to any of the preceding Claims 1 - 9, characterized by further comprising:

sample quantity determination means (8) for producing information indicative of a determined quantity of a sample portion of the backfill slurry flow received within a receptacle (5a) corresponding to a receptacle holder (6) positioned in the feed position (6a), and wherein

the control means (7) being further configured to close the sampling valve (4) valve when the determined quantity of a sample portion of the backfill slurry flow within a receptacle exceeds a predetermined sample threshold quantity.

1 1 . The backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) according Claim 10, characterized by the sample quantity determination means (8) comprising a timer for measuring a time during which the sampling valve (4) is open, or, at least a sensor chosen from the group consisting of:

- a load cell;

- a non-contact level sensor,

- a contact level sensor, and

- a flow sensor.

12. The backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) according to any of the preceding Claims 1 - 1 1 , characterized in that the sample positioning means (5) comprises an actuator for selectively positioning each of the plurality of receptacle holders (6) separately between a feed position (6a), and a stowed position (6b, 6c), said actuator being operationally coupled with the control means so as to be operated by said control means (7). 13. The backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) according to any of the preceding Claims 1 -

12, characterized in that the sampling positioning means comprises a linear magazine equipped with a plurality of receptacle holders (6) for receiving and carrying the plurality of sample receptacles

14. The backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) according to any of the preceding Claims 1 - 12, characterized in that the sampling positioning means comprises a rotatable carousel equipped with a plurality of receptacle holders (6) for receiving and carrying the plurality of sample receptacles.

15. The backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) according to any of the preceding Claims 1 - 14, characterized in that the sample positioning means (5) comprises a gripper configured to

- grip a receptacle from a receptacle holder (6) in a stowed position (6b),

- move said receptacle (5a) in the feed position (6a), said gripper thus functioning as a receptacle holder in the feed position (6a) for said receptacle (5a), and

- return said receptacle to the receptacle holder in a stowed position (6b) said gripping arm having a least an actuator being operationally coupled with the control means so as to be operated by said control means (7).

16. The backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) according to any of the preceding Claims 1 -

15, characterized in that the sample positioning means (5) further comprise enclosing means for selectively enclosing each of the plurality of receptacles (5a, 5b, 5c) separately, and

wherein the control means (7) are further configured to enclose a receptacle (5a) after having a sample portion of the backfill slurry flow being conducted thereto.

17. The backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) according to any of the preceding Claims 1 -

16, characterized in that the backfill sampling apparatus (1 ) further comprises climate controls means for enclosing at least a receptacle holder (6) in the stowed position (6b, 6c) within a climate controlled environment, and

wherein said climate control means are configured to control at least one of temperature, humidity or ambient pressure, of said climate controlled environment.

18. A backfill system, characterized by comprising:

the backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) according to any of the preceding Claims 1 -

17, said backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ) being positioned in a subterranean location;

a backfill slurry supply apparatus (9) configured to mix mining-derived solid by-product material with cementitious binder material so as to produce a backfill slurry flow, said back fill slurry supply apparatus (9) being positioned in a surface location, and a backfill supply line (10) for conducting the backfill slurry flow from the backfill slurry supply apparatus (9) to the backfill slurry sampling apparatus (1 ).

Description:
A BACKFILL SLURRY SAMPLING APPARATUS, AND BACKFILL SYSTEM

EQUIPPED WITH SUCH SAMPLING APPARATUS.

FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE

The present disclosure relates to mining backfill operations using cementitious slurry, and more particularly to a sampling apparatus used for taking samples of said slurry. The present disclosure further concerns a backfill system using such a sampling apparatus.

BACKGROUND OF THE DISCLOSURE

In underground mining operations, it often necessary to form new subterranean structures (such as stopes, galleries, shafts, tunnels and haulage ways) near already existing ones, so that the valuable materiel being mined may be more efficiently extracted.

However, a major limiting factor in creating new subterranean structures near pre-existing ones is the weakened structural strength of the ground. This problem has been previously addressed by backfilling exhausted subterranean structures with non-valuable by-products obtained from the mining operations. For example, such by-products may be mixed with a cementitious material to from a backfill slurry, which is then conducted to the exhausted subterranean structure and left to cure. Cured backfill hardens and substantially increases the structural strength of the ground surrounding the subterranean structure in question.

However, the both the curing time and the strength achieved by backfilling depends greatly on the properties of the slurry itself and the environmental conditions in which the slurry cures. Therefore, samples are typically taken of the backfill slurry, and after curing, these samples are tested in order to determine various properties, including the curing time and the strength achieved by backfilling.

Moreover, there is a strong preference to take samples underground, as opposed to taking the samples on the surface. Firstly, the non-valuable by-product is often only preliminarily mixed with the cementitious material on the surface, final mixing being achieved by the backfill slurry running through the supply line between the surface and the subterranean structure. This enables a shorter retention time within the mixer apparatus, and respectively, a smaller physical size thereof. Additionally, samples taken underground may be left there to cure in similar conditions as those prevailing in subterranean structure to be backfilled. Hence, a more representative sample is achieved (as opposed to a sample taken on the surface) without the need for creating artificial environmental conditions for the sample to be cured in or transporting the sample underground. Particularly, transportation of an uncured sample is undesirable, as the vibrations associated to transportation often affect the properties of the slurry. However, a problem with such subterranean sampling has been the amount of required manual labour time, due to long distances between the subterranean structures and the surface. Automated arrangements have not previously been considered feasible due to the critical nature of the samples, in addition reliability factors and problems related to achieving uncontaminated samples, namely due to slurry build-up in the sampling lines and valves.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DISCLOSURE

An object of the present disclosure is to provide a robust and reliable backfill slurry sampling apparatus consistently providing uncontaminated samples, such that the operation of the sampling apparatus may be automated to a high extent. It is a further object of the present disclosure to provide a backfill system utilizing such a backfill slurry sampling apparatus.

The objects of the disclosure are achieved by a backfill slurry sampling apparatus and a backfill system which are characterized by what is stated in the independent claims. The preferred embodiments of the disclosure are disclosed in the dependent claims.

The disclosure is based on the idea of providing the backfill slurry sampling apparatus with a sample positioning means and a sampling valve, both of which are operationally controlled by a control means enabling automated operation. Moreover, the sampling valve is constructed such that no backfill slurry build-ups are formed on the engaging member of the sampling valve, thus preventing sample contamination and sampling valve malfunction. This increases the robustness of the sampling apparatus and ensuring the quality of the samples, such that automated operation may reliably be implemented.

An advantage of the backfill slurry sampling apparatus and the backfill system according to the disclosure is that substantially fewer man-hours are required to obtain a necessary sampling rate. Particularly, during operation, personnel is only required to replace receptacles containing samples with empty receptacles, for example once a day - as opposed to the conventional arrangement requiring personnel to travel underground for manually taking and collecting each sample.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the following the disclosure will be described in greater detail by means of preferred embodiments with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which

Fig. 1 illustrates a schematic representation of backfill system according to an embodiment of the disclosure; Fig. 2 illustrates a schematic representation of backfill slurry sampling apparatus according to an embodiment of the disclosure;

Fig. 3 illustrates a schematic representation of backfill slurry sampling apparatus according to an embodiment of the disclosure equipped with flushing functionality;

Fig. 4 illustrates a schematic representation of a sampling valve used in a backfill slurry sampling apparatus according to an embodiment of the disclosure, and

Fig. 5 illustrates a schematic representation of a sampling valve used in a backfill slurry sampling apparatus according to an embodiment of the disclosure equipped with flushing functionality. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DISCLOSURE

According to a first aspect of the present disclosure, a backfill slurry sampling apparatus 1 is provided.

The backfill slurry sampling apparatus comprises a backfill feed line 2 for conducting a backfill slurry flow from a backfill supply line 10 to a backfill reticulation line 1 1 .

The backfill slurry sampling apparatus further comprises a sampling line 3 for conducting a sample portion of the backfill slurry flow from the backfill feed line 2 to be received by a sample receptacle 5a. The sampling line, in turn, has a sampling intake 3a for coupling the sampling line in fluid communication with the backfill feed line 2, and a sampling outlet 3 for feeding the sample portion of the backfill slurry flow to a sample receptacle 6a.

A sampling valve 4 is also provided, configured to selectively open and close fluid communication between the backfill feed line 2 and the sampling line 3. That is, the sampling valve is configured to respectively allow and block conduct of a sample portion of the backfill slurry flow from the backfill feed line 2 to the sampling line 3.

The backfill slurry sampling apparatus further comprises sample positioning means 5, in turn, comprising a plurality of receptacle holders 6 for detachably receiving and carrying a plurality of sample receptacles 5a, 5b, 5c. The sampling positioning means 5 are arranged for selectively positioning each of the plurality of receptacle holders 6 separately between a feed position 6a, and a stowed position 6b, 6c. Particularly, the feed position 6a is configured such that the sample portion of the backfill slurry flow from the sampling outlet 3b is received within a corresponding sample receptacle 5a carried by a receptacle holder 6 in the feed position 6a.

The backfill slurry sampling apparatus 1 further comprises control means 7 operationally coupled so as to operate the sampling valve 4 and the sample positioning means 5. For example, a programmable logic controller equipped with a suitable input/output interface may be used as the control means 7.

Moreover, the control means 7 are configured, when in use, to operate the sample positioning means 5 such that a receptacle holder 6 corresponding to an empty receptacle 5b is positioned from the stowed position 6b to the feed position 6a. Thereafter, the control means 7 operate the sampling valve 4 to conduct a sample portion of the backfill slurry flow from the backfill feed line 2 to the sampling outlet 3b by opening, and subsequently, closing the sampling valve 4. Consequently, the sampling portion will be received by the receptacle 5a corresponding to the receptacle holder 6 in the feed position 6a. The control means 7 are further configured to then operate the sample positioning means 5 such that the receptacle holder 6 corresponding to the receptacle 5a retaining said sample portion of the backfill slurry flow is positioned from the feed position 6a to the stowed position 6c. Stowed positions 6b, 6c may be arranged to be associated with empty and full sample receptacles 5b, 5c, and to receive plurality corresponding receptacle holders 6. Also, a single stowed position associated with both empty full sample receptacles 5b, 5c may be provided on the sample positioning means 5.

Notably, the sampling valve 4 is configured such that an engaging member 4a thereof is positioned, when the fluid communication between the backfill feed line 2 and the sampling line 3 is closed, within an interaction-region of the backfill slurry flow in the backfill feed line 2. That is, the engaging member 4a is flushed by the backfill slurry flow, thus preventing backfill slurry build-up forming on said engaging member 4a. Build-ups are typically formed by a deposition of the solid contents of the slurry. Having the engaging member in an interaction-region of the backfill slurry flow prevents blockage and malfunction of the sampling valve 4, in addition to contamination of the sample portion by the build-up migrating into the sampling line 3.

Preferably, but not necessarily, the sampling valve 4 is a piston valve, a dart valve, or a ball valve, as these types of valves have been found particularly suitably configurable such that the engaging member is positioned within an interaction-region of the backfill slurry flow in the backfill feed line 2, when the fluid communication between the backfill feed line 2 and the sampling line 3 is closed

Preferably, but not necessarily, one or more receptacle holders 6 are detachably equipped with a receptacle 5a, 5b, 5c, when in use.

In an embodiment of the first aspect according to the disclosure, the sampling apparatus 1 comprises a flushing inlet 4b downstream of the engaging member 4a of the sampling valve 4 for coupling a flushing fluid supply line 2 to the sampling line 3, such that a flushing fluid flow may be conducted to the sampling line 3 when the sampling valve 4 is closed. That is, the flushing inlet is 4b is on the sampling outlet 3b side of the engaging member 4a.

Such an arrangement ensures that the any residual contents of a preceding sample portion may be flushed out of sampling line 3 before conducting a subsequent sampling portion to the sampling line 3. This further prevents blockage, malfunction and sample contamination associated to partially cured residual backfill within to the sampling line 3.

Preferably, but not necessarily, the backfill slurry sampling apparatus 1 further comprises a flushing valve (not illustrated) configured to selectively open and close fluid communication between the flushing fluid supply line and the sampling line 3 so as to, respectively, allow and block, conduct of a flushing fluid flow from flushing fluid supply line to the sampling line 3. In such a case, the control means 7 are operationally coupled to the flushing valve, and further configured to selectively open, and subsequently, close the sampling valve 4, so as to conduct a flushing fluid flow from flushing fluid supply line the sampling line 3 for flushing residual sample portion of the backfill slurry flow from the sampling line 3. This enables the flushing of the sampling line 3 to be initiated by the control means 7in a pre-determined sequence with respect to the actual sampling. For example, the control means 7 may be configured to initiate a flushing fluid flow through the sampling line 3 for a given time period after and/or before conducting each sample portion of the backfill slurry flow.

The flushing inlet 4b may be provided on the sampling valve 4, downstream of the engaging member 4a thereof, such that the flushing fluid supply line is coupled to the sampling line 3 via the flushing fluid inlet 4b and the sampling valve 4. This ensures that also the sampling valve 4 is flushed of residual backfill slurry. Alternatively, the flushing inlet may be provided on the sampling line 3, downstream of the sampling valve 4, such that the flushing fluid supply line is coupled to the sampling line 3 directly via the flushing fluid inlet. This arrangement, in turn, enables a relatively simple sampling valve 4 construction, as opposed to having the flushing fluid inlet on the sampling valve 4.

Preferably, but not necessarily, the control means 7 are further configured to operate the sample positioning means 5 such that no receptacle holder is positioned in the feed position 5a when a flushing fluid flow is conducted to the sampling line 3. This enables the sampling line 3 downstream of the flushing fluid inlet, i.e. including the sampling outlet 3b, to be flushed form residual backfill slurry. It is conceivable, that an additional drainage line (not illustrated) may be provided for collecting the flushing fluid. Alternatively, the flushing fluid may be collected to one or more flushing receptacles. Particularly, if the such a flushing receptacle is being also received and held in a receptacle holder 6 of the sample positioning means 5, the control means 7 are further configured so that no flushing fluid is introduced to the sample receptacles 5a, 5b, 5c.

In a further embodiment of the first aspect according to the present disclosure the sampling valve 4 and the flushing valve are constructed as a single piston valve having an open position, a closed position and a flushing position.

In the open position, fluid communication between the backfill feed line 2 and the sampling line 3 is open, and respectively, the fluid communication between the flushing fluid supply line and the sampling line 3 is closed.

In the closed position, fluid communication between the backfill feed line 2 and the sampling line 3 is closed, and respectively, the fluid communication between the flushing fluid supply line and the sampling line 3 is closed.

In the flushing position, fluid communication between the backfill feed line 2 and the sampling line 3 is closed, and respectively, the fluid communication between the flushing fluid supply line and the sampling line 3 is open.

Such an arrangement removes the need for a separate flushing valve. This, in turn, simplifies the construction of the backfill slurry sampling apparatus 1 , and consequently increases reliability thereof.

In yet another embodiment of the first aspect according to the present disclosure, the backfill slurry sampling apparatus 1 comprises sample quantity determination means 8 for producing information indicative of a determined quantity of a sample portion of the backfill slurry flow received within a receptacle 5a corresponding to a receptacle holder 6 positioned in the feed position 6a. Suitably, such sample quantity determination means 8 are operationally coupled to the control means for communicating said information indicative of a determined quantity of a sample portion to the control means 7.

Additionally, the control means 7 are further configured to close the sampling valve 4 valve when the determined quantity of a sample portion of the backfill slurry flow within a receptacle exceeds a predetermined sample threshold quantity. Preferably, but not necessarily, such a predetermined threshold quantity corresponds to an effective volume of a sample receptacle 5a, 5b, 5c, or at least does not exceed the volume of a sample receptacle 5a, 5b, 5c. Preferably, but not necessarily, each of the receptacle holders 6 are equipped with sample quantity determination means 8 for producing information indicative of a determined quantity of a sample portion of the backfill slurry flow received within a corresponding receptacle 5a, 5b, 5c held by the receptacle holder 6. Suitably such additional sample quantity determination means are operationally coupled with the control means 7, as discussed above.

Preferably, but not necessarily, one or more of the sample quantity determination means 8 comprises a timer for measuring a time during which the sampling valve 4 is open, or, at least a sensor. Suitably such a sensor is chosen from the from the group consisting of a load cell, non-contact level sensor, contact level sensor and a flow sensor. For example, a load cell may be a piezoelectric load cell, a hydraulic load cell or a pneumatic load cell. For example, a non-contact level sensor may be an infra-red sensor, laser sensor, ultrasound sensor, radar sensor, or machine vision based sensor. For example, a contact level sensor may be a float level sensor. For example, a flow sensor may be an electromagnetic flow sensor, a sonar flow sensor or an optical flow sensor. It should be noted, that the above examples of possible sensors are presented in a non-exclusive manner, and that naturally, any other suitable type sensor may be used.

Moreover, the sample quantity determination means may comprise any combination of a timer and / or different types of sensors.

In an embodiment according to the first aspect of the present disclosure, the sample positioning means 5 comprises an actuator for selectively positioning each of the plurality of receptacle holders 6 separately between a feed position 6a, and a stowed position 6b, 6c. Such an actuator is to be operationally coupled with the control means so as to be operated by said control means 7.

Non-limiting examples of such an actuator includes electric motors, such as linear and rotational motors. Particularly, stepper motors and servo motors are considered to be suitable, as these incorporate position control capabilities. Moreover, fluid powered (i.e. pneumatic or hydraulic) linear and rotational actuators may also be used.

Additionally, proximity sensors and/or limit switches, operationally coupled with the control means 7, may be provided in connection with the receptacle holders 6 and their respective positions 6a, 6b, 6c for enabling position control of an actuator.

For example, the sampling positioning means 5 may comprise a linear magazine equipped with a plurality of receptacle holders 6 for receiving and carrying the plurality of sample receptacles 5a, 5b, 5c. Suitably, such a linear magazine is linearly movable so as to selectively position each of the receptacle holders 6 separately in the feed position 6a.

As an alternative example, the sampling positioning means 5 may comprise a rotatable carousel equipped with a plurality of receptacle holders 6 for receiving and carrying the plurality of sample receptacles 5a, 5b, 5c. Suitably, such a carousel is rotatable so as to selectively position each of the receptacle holders 6 separately in the feed position 6a.

Other configurations regarding the receptacle holders 6 may also be used.

Moreover, regardless of the type of the sample positioning means 5 used, it may comprise a gripper arm configured to

- grip a receptacle from a receptacle holder 6 in a stowed position 6b, 6c;

- move said receptacle 5a in the feed position 6a, said gripper thus functioning as a receptacle holder in the feed position 6a for said receptacle 5a, and

- return said receptacle to the receptacle holder in a stowed position 6b, 6c.

Such a gripping arm equipped with at least an actuator being operationally coupled with the control means so as to be operated by said control means 7.

In another embodiment according to the first aspect of the present disclosure, the sample positioning means 5 further comprise enclosing means for selectively enclosing each of the plurality of receptacles 5a, 5b, 5c separately. Moreover, the control means 7 are further configured to enclose a receptacle 5a after having a sample portion of the backfill slurry flow being conducted thereto. For example, the enclosing means may be configured to place and close a lid on top of a sample receptacle 5a, 5b, 5c.

In still another embodiment according to the first aspect of the present disclosure, the backfill sampling apparatus 1 further comprises climate controls means for enclosing at least a receptacle holder 6 in the stowed position 6b, 6c within a climate controlled environment. Particularly, the climate control means are configured to control at least one of temperature, humidity or ambient pressure, of said climate controlled environment.

Naturally, each receptacle holder in the stowed position 6b, 6c, in addition to their corresponding receptacles 5b, 5c, may be enclosed within a climate controlled environment by the climate control means. Suitably at least each receptacle holder associated to a sample receptacle 5c having received a sample portion of the backfill slurry flow is enclosed within a climate controlled environment by the climate control means. According to a second aspect of the present disclosure, a backfill system is provided. The backfill system comprises the backfill slurry sampling apparatus 1 according to any of the embodiments discussed above in connection with the first aspect of the disclosure. Particularly, the backfill slurry sampling apparatus 1 is in a subterranean location.

Furthermore, the backfill system comprises a backfill slurry supply apparatus 9 configured to mix mining-derived solid by-product material with cementitious binder material so as to produce a backfill slurry flow. Particularly, the backfill slurry supply apparatus 9 is positioned in a surface location. For example, tailings or overburden may be used as the mining-derived solid by-product material

The backfill system further comprises a backfill supply line 10 for conducting the backfill slurry flow from the backfill slurry supply apparatus 9 to the backfill slurry sampling apparatus 1 .

Naturally, such a backfill system may comprise a plurality backfill slurry sampling apparatuses 1 .

It should be noted, that the present disclosure encompasses the combinations of the embodiments discussed above and variations thereof.

In the following, the operation of a backfill system and a backfill slurry sampling apparatus 1 according to the present disclosure is discussed with reference to the enclosed drawings.

Fig. 1 illustrates a schematic representation of backfill system according to an embodiment of the disclosure. Particularly, a backfill slurry supply apparatus 9 is provided on a ground surface level, the backfill slurry supply apparatus 9 mixes mining-derived solid by-product material with cementitious binder material so as to produce a backfill slurry flow. This backfill slurry flow is then conducted underground along a backfill slurry supply line 10 to a backfill slurry sampling apparatus 1 located at a subterranean structure, such as a mine gallery. Most of this backfill slurry flow is conducted forward along a reticulation line 1 1 for filling or lining the subterranean structure. However, the backfill slurry sampling apparatus 1 periodically recovers a sample portion of the backfill slurry flow and collects the sample portions in sample receptacles. These sample portions may then, at a later stage, be analysed for determining properties related to the backfill slurry.

Fig. 2 illustrates a schematic representation of the backfill slurry sampling apparatus according to an embodiment of the disclosure. The backfill sampling apparatus 1 comprises the backfill feed line 2, receiving backfill slurry from the backfill supply line 10, and conducting it forward to the backfill reticulation line 1 1 . The sampling valve 4 is coupled to the backfill slurry feed line 2 and allows, when open, a sample portion of the backfill slurry to flow from the backfill slurry feed line 2 to the sampling line 3. Moreover, the sampling valve 4 is controlled by control means 7 operationally coupled to the sampling valve 4, as illustrated by the dash dotted line extending between the two.

The sampling line 3 has a sampling intake 3a for coupling the sampling line 3 in fluid communication with the backfill feed line 2, and a sampling outlet 3b for feeding the sample portion of the backfill slurry flow to a sample receptacle 5a.

The sample positioning means 6 comprises a plurality of receptacle holders 6 for detachably receiving and holding sample receptacles. Moreover, the sample positioning means 5 may move a receptacle holder 6 carrying an empty sample receptacle 5b, from a corresponding stowed position 6b to a feed position 6a. Furthermore, the sample positioning means 5 may then move a receptacle holder 6 carrying a sample receptacle

5a from the feed position 6a to a stowed position 6c corresponding to sample receptacles having received a sample portion of the backfill slurry flow. Although Fig. 2 differentiates between stowed positions 6b and 6c of empty and full receptacles for the purpose of clarity, this is not necessary. That is, a single stowed position corresponding to both empty and filled receptacles may alternatively be used.

In the arrangement of Fig. 1 sample quantity determination means 8, such as a load cell configured to measure the weight of a receptacle 5a corresponding to a receptacle holder 6 in the feed position, are operationally coupled to the control means 7 as illustrated by the dash-dotted line between the positioning means 5 and the control means 7. Naturally, the sample quantity determination means 8 may be associated to the feed position 6a or the receptacle holder 6 in the feed position 6a. Alternatively, each of the receptacle holders 6 may be equipped with respective sample quantity determination means 8, thus enabling determination of the quantity of a sample portion of the backfill slurry flow for each receptacle holder 6 corresponding to a receptacle 5a, 5b, 5c.

In operation, backfill slurry flows in the backfill feed line 2. When a sample is to be taken, the control means operate the sample positioning means to move receptacle holder 6 corresponding to an empty sample receptacle 5b into the feed position. When the receptacle holder is in the feed position 6a, the control means open the sampling valve 4 resulting in a sample portion of the backfill slurry flow being conducted in the sample line 3, and further being received in the sample receptacle 5a in the feed position 6a through the sample outlet 3b. The sample quantity determination means communicate information indicative of a determined sample quantity of the sample portion of the backfill slurry flow received within the sample receptacle 5a corresponding to the receptacle holder in the feed position 6a to the control means 7. This information is compared to a predetermined sample threshold quantity, and when the determined quantity of a sample portion equals or exceeds the predetermined sample threshold quantity, the control means 7 close the sampling valve 4. The control means 7 then operate the sample positioning means 5 to move the receptacle holder 6 corresponding to the sample receptacle 5a having received the sample portion of the backfill slurry flow, to the stowed position 6c, preferably leaving the feed position 6a empty. This sequence of acquiring a sample may then be repeated in a desired manner. The sample receptacles 6c in the stowed position 6c, containing sample portions of the backfill slurry flow, may then be collected for subsequent analysis as a batch of multiple sample receptacles 5c.

Fig, 3 illustrates an arrangement similar to that of Fig. 2, being equipped with an additional flushing fluid inlet 4b for coupling a flushing fluid supply line to the sampling line 3. Although Fig. 3 illustrates the flushing fluid inlet 4b as associated to the sampling valve 4, the flushing fluid inlet 4b may alternatively be coupled to the sampling line 3 downstream of the sampling valve.

In operation, the flushing of the sample line 3, and possibly of the sampling valve 4, is carried out between conducting subsequent sample portions of the backfill slurry flow through the sampling line 3.

Fig. 4 illustrates a schematic representation of a sampling valve used in a backfill slurry sampling apparatus 1 according to an embodiment of the disclosure. Namely, the sampling valve comprises an engaging member 4a, such as a piston, which may be actuated to open or close fluid communication between the slurry feed line 2 and the sampling line 3.

In the situation of Fig. 4 the sampling valve 4 is closed, i.e. the engaging member 4a prevents fluid communication from the backfill slurry feed line 2 to the sampling line 3. Moreover, the engaging member 4a is situated in an interaction-region of the backfill slurry flow in the backfill slurry feed line 2. This means that the slurry flow in the slurry feed line 2 flows over the engaging member 4a, thus preventing build-up, i.e. solids deposition, thereon. Although Fig. 4 illustrates the engaging member 4a being completely flush with flow area of the backfill slurry feed line 2, which is the preferred configuration. The engaging member 4a may, however, also extend slightly into the feed line 2, or extend slightly short of the feed line 2, as long as the backfill slurry flow flushes the engaging member 4a, that is, runs over it.

Fig. 5 illustrates an arrangement similar to that of Fig. 5, with the exception of the sampling valve 4 being equipped with the flushing fluid inlet 4b downstream, of the engaging member 4a. That is, the flushing fluid inlet 4b is on the sampling line 3 side of the engaging member 4a. Particularly, when the sampling valve 4 of Fig. 5 is closed, meaning that the fluid communication between the backfill slurry feed line 2 and the sampling line 3 is closed, fluid communication between the flushing fluid inlet 4b and the sampling line 3 is respectively open. Correspondingly, when the sampling valve 4 of Fig. 5 is open, meaning that the fluid communication between the backfill slurry feed line 2 and the sampling line 3 is open, fluid communication between the flushing fluid inlet 4b and the sampling line 3 is respectively closed. It should be noted, that the flushing fluid supply connected to the flushing fluid inlet 4b may be selectively initiated. This is to say, the flushing fluid flow from the flushing fluid supply 4b to the sampling line 3 is not necessarily conducted when the sampling valve is closed, but the flushing fluid flow may be introduced upon opening the flushing fluid supply, or a valve associated thereto, preferably by the control means 7.