US20100001736A1 - Flow tracking in block caving mining - Google Patents

Flow tracking in block caving mining Download PDF

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Publication number
US20100001736A1
US20100001736A1 US12446840 US44684007A US2010001736A1 US 20100001736 A1 US20100001736 A1 US 20100001736A1 US 12446840 US12446840 US 12446840 US 44684007 A US44684007 A US 44684007A US 2010001736 A1 US2010001736 A1 US 2010001736A1
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Prior art keywords
magnetic
axis
transponder
ore
signal
Prior art date
Legal status (The legal status is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the status listed.)
Abandoned
Application number
US12446840
Inventor
Barend Jacobus Pienaar
Paul J.A. Lever
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CMTE Dev Ltd
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CMTE Dev Ltd
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G01MEASURING; TESTING
    • G01BMEASURING LENGTH, THICKNESS OR SIMILAR LINEAR DIMENSIONS; MEASURING ANGLES; MEASURING AREAS; MEASURING IRREGULARITIES OF SURFACES OR CONTOURS
    • G01B7/00Measuring arrangements characterised by the use of electric or magnetic means
    • G01B7/003Measuring arrangements characterised by the use of electric or magnetic means for measuring position, not involving coordinate determination

Abstract

The invention provides a method and system for monitoring the flow of ore in block cave mining operations by inserting an active magnetic beacon 1 into the ore body 12 and generating an alternating magnetic signal with the beacon 1. The ore is monitored with a magnetometer (14, 15, 16, 17, 18) to detect the magnetic flux emitted by the beacon 1 thereby determining the position of the beacon. Successive recordings of the position of the magnetic beacon are taken as it moves along with the ore as it “caves”. In this way, the flow patterns of the ore may be revealed.

Description

    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    The present invention relates generally to a method and apparatus for monitoring ore flow in mining operations.
  • [0002]
    The invention has been developed primarily for use in relation to block caving mining operations, and will be described with reference to this application. It will be appreciated, however, that the invention is not limited to this particular use and may be also adapted to monitor material flow in other underground mining applications.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0003]
    The following discussion of the prior art is provided as technical background, to enable the features and benefits of the invention to be fully appreciated in an appropriate technical context. However, any reference to the prior art should not be taken as an express or implied admission that such art is widely known or forms part of common general knowledge in the field.
  • [0004]
    Block caving is an underground mining method that may be applied to naturally fractured ore bodies. By undercutting the base of an ore body, the overlying ore is caused to cave into the opening created. The broken ore may be removed from a series of draw points, and unbroken ore continues to cave into the cavity created.
  • [0005]
    Monitoring and predicting material flow in such situations would be beneficial in terms of advanced efficiencies and subsequent cost savings however, to date, technologies for monitoring ore flow have not been particularly successful.
  • [0006]
    It is an object of the present invention to overcome or substantially ameliorate one or more of the limitations of the prior art, or at least to provide a useful alternative.
  • DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION
  • [0007]
    Accordingly, in a first aspect, the invention provides a method of monitoring the flow of ore from an ore body during block caving mining operations, said method including the steps of:
      • implanting an active magnetic transponder in the ore body;
      • generating an magnetic signal with the transponder;
      • remotely monitoring the magnetic field in the area ore body with a magnetometer to identify the signal from the transponder; and
      • calculating the origin of the signal at discrete intervals to determine the path of the transponder and derive the flow of the ore as it is mined.
  • [0012]
    “Ore” is generally understood to be the ore making up the ore body, however the term “ore” as applied herein may include substantial amounts of surrounding earth and rock material.
  • [0013]
    Preferably, the signal is monitored by the magnetometer along a remote monitoring axis, said monitoring axis and said rotation axis aligned generally parallel to one another and perpendicular to said plane of rotation such that the location of the transponder can be deduced as lying on a plane orthogonal to said monitoring axis and coincident with a point of peak signal strength monitored by said magnetometer.
  • [0014]
    Preferably, the signal is monitored by the magnetometer on a remoter monitoring plane, said monitoring plane and said rotation axis aligned generally parallel to one another and perpendicular to said plane of rotation such that the location of the transponder can be deduced as lying on an axis normal to said monitoring plane and coincident with a point of peak signal strength monitored by said magnetometer.
  • [0015]
    Preferably, the first and second signals are generated on respective first and second planes of rotation by rotating the magnetic field about respective first and second rotation axes and wherein said first and second rotation axes are generally orthogonal.
  • [0016]
    Preferably, the first signal is monitored on said monitoring plane such that the location of the transponder can be deduced as the intersection between the plane orthogonal to said monitoring axis and coincident with a point of peak signal strength on said monitoring axis and, the axis normal to said monitoring plane and coincident with a point of peak signal strength on said monitoring plane.
  • [0017]
    Preferably, said second rotation axis is gravitationally aligned to be generally vertical and said second rotation axis is substantially horizontal.
  • [0018]
    Preferably, the monitoring axis is located in a vertical borehole adjacent the ore body.
  • [0019]
    Preferably, the monitoring plane is located on the surface above the ore body.
  • [0020]
    Preferably, the transponder is programmable to generate said first and second signals at distinct but generally sequential periods.
  • [0021]
    Preferably, the transponder is programmable to generate said first and second signals at predetermined intervals and for predetermined periods.
  • [0022]
    Preferably, the rotation axis is gravitationally aligned generally vertical.
  • [0023]
    Preferably, the signal is monitored by a plurality of magnetometers each moveable along a respective vertical monitoring axis disposed substantially adjacent and surrounding the ore body.
  • [0024]
    Preferably, each monitoring axis is disposed in a vertical borehole.
  • [0025]
    Preferably, at least one magnetometer monitors the strength of the signal generated by the transponder along the respective monitoring axis such that the peak signal strength depth on the monitoring axis corresponds to the origin of said signal and the depth of the transponder can be deduced.
  • [0026]
    Preferably, the position of the transponder on the horizontal plane is calculated by monitoring the relative timing of the alternating signal and calculating the phase angle between the monitoring axes with respect to the transponder.
  • [0027]
    Preferably, each magnetometer is linked to a central control unit to record and compare data from the magnetometers.
  • [0028]
    Preferably, the transponder is programmable to generate said signal at predetermined intervals and for predetermined periods.
  • [0029]
    Preferably, the magnetic field is generated by a high magnetic moment rare earth bar magnet.
  • [0030]
    Preferably, the magnetometer includes a super conducting quantum interference device (SQUID).
  • [0031]
    According to another aspect, the invention provides an active magnetic transponder including:
      • a protective outer casing of a non-magnetic material; and
      • a magnetic field generator for generating an alternating magnetic signal.
  • [0034]
    Preferably, the magnetic signal generator includes means for generating magnetic field having a polar axis, said magnetic field configured for rotation about an axis of rotation perpendicular to the polar axis of the magnet.
  • [0035]
    Preferably, the means for generating a magnetic field includes a rare earth bar magnet.
  • [0036]
    Preferably, a motor for rotating the bar magnet.
  • [0037]
    Preferably, the magnetic signal generator is mounted within a cavity defined by the outer casing.
  • [0038]
    Preferably, the magnetic signal generator is gimbal mounted within a housing.
  • [0039]
    Preferably, the gimbal is biased to align the magnetic signal generator with a first predetermined axis.
  • [0040]
    Preferably, the gimbal is gravitationally biased.
  • [0041]
    Preferably, the magnetic signal generator is located within a sphere within the cavity.
  • [0042]
    Preferably, the cavity is generally spherical and has a diameter larger than the outside diameter of the sphere.
  • [0043]
    Preferably, a damping fluid is provided in a gap between the cavity and sphere.
  • [0044]
    Preferably, the fluid is viscous oil.
  • [0045]
    Preferably, the magnetic signal generator is moveable between said first predetermined axis and an orthogonal second predetermined axis.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0046]
    Preferred embodiments of the invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:
  • [0047]
    FIG. 1 is a schematic cross sectional view of a transponder in accordance with the invention;
  • [0048]
    FIG. 2 is a schematic pictorial view of a system including a magnetometer array in accordance with the invention;
  • [0049]
    FIG. 3 is a schematic cross sectional view of a transponder in accordance with an alternative embodiment of the invention; and
  • [0050]
    FIG. 4 is a schematic pictorial view of a magnetometer array placed in vertical boreholes around an ore body in accordance with an alternative embodiment of the invention.
  • PREFERRED EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION
  • [0051]
    Referring to the drawings, the invention provides a method and system for monitoring the flow of ore in block cave mining operations by inserting an active magnetic transponder into the ore body and generating a magnetic signal with the transponder. The ore is monitored with a magnetometer to detect the magnetic flux emitted by the transponder thereby determining the position of the transponder. Successive recordings of the position of the magnetic transponder are taken as it moves along with the ore as it “caves”. In this way the flow patterns of the ore may be revealed.
  • [0052]
    One embodiment of transponder 1 is shown in FIG. 1. The transponder 1 has a high strength non-magnetic outer casing 2 sufficiently tough to protect a fragile internal system in an environment of moving ore, rock and earth under high pressure. The casing 2 may be manufactured from non-metal, non-electrically conductive, high strength materials such as ceramic or composite material.
  • [0053]
    While shown in the drawing as having a generally compact spherical outer form, it may be of any shape deemed suitable.
  • [0054]
    The outer casing defines an inner cavity 3 housing the magnetic field generator 4. In this embodiment, the magnetic field generator is held within an inner housing 5, itself positioned within the cavity 3 in the casing 2.
  • [0055]
    In this embodiment, the inner housing is a sphere 6 and the inner cavity in the casing correspondingly spherical in shape. The sphere 6 is weighted either by a mass 7 on one side, or by selective weight distribution of the internals. For instance, in the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the mass 7 is also the battery for powering the electronics. In this way, regardless of the orientation of the outer casing, the inner sphere will, under the influence of gravity, align itself with the weighted side down. In this way the sphere acts as a gimbal providing a known orientation on at least one axis. Of course other types of aligning gimbal and/or gyroscopic configurations may be used without departing from the scope of the invention. For instance, a three-ring mechanical gimbal or flywheel gyroscope may be used.
  • [0056]
    The sphere 6 has an external radius less than the radius of the cavity. The difference in size provides a gap 8 between the sphere and the casing for receiving and containing a fluid. In this embodiment, the fluid is a viscous liquid 9 such as oil. This requires that both the inner sphere and outer casing can be sealed, one within the other. The fluid provides some separation between the sphere and the outer shell and acts as a lubricated bearing allowing free movement between the sphere and outer casing. In addition, the fluid provides a measure of shock damping and gimbal damping and the separation provides a degree of tolerance should the outer casing be partially deformed under pressure. Advantageously, the casing and its components are neutrally buoyant in the fluid within the outer casing to improve the damping and further reduce friction between the casing and sphere.
  • [0057]
    The transponder generates the magnetic signal by rotating a high magnetic moment rare earth bar magnet 10 about an axis 11 perpendicular to the North-South polar axis of the magnet. In this way the magnetic signal will be seen to alternate N-S when monitored on the plane of rotation. While it may be discernable from adjacent the plane of rotation, it will be strongest square to the plane.
  • [0058]
    In this embodiment, the magnet is rotated using a small synchronous motor 12. The magnet, motor and power source along with control electronics are located within the sphere. In alternative embodiments, the motor may be replaced by driving the bar magnet using pulsed coils placed around the magnet in the plane of the magnet.
  • [0059]
    The magnet has a magnetic moment in the order of 1.5 Tesla, although more powerful magnets may be used, if available.
  • [0060]
    In alternative embodiments, the bar magnet may be replaced by a magnetic field generating electromagnet and suitable electronics. In still further alternative embodiments a radial array of stationary magnetic coils may be activated sequentially to generate the appearance of a rotating magnetic field.
  • [0061]
    The rotational velocity is selected to optimise the power consumption caused by induction effects from the rotating magnet. A speed of rotation may be in the order of 10 Hz. In addition, the rotational velocity of the magnet is electronically controlled to achieve the required frequency accuracy and phase accuracy of the alternating magnetic field when viewed from a point.
  • [0062]
    In one embodiment of the invention, the rotating bar magnet and motor assembly are mounted so that the axis of rotation of the magnet may be adjusted, at least between two generally orthogonal orientations 11 and 11′. In a first orientation, with the sphere at rest and aligned with gravity, as shown in FIG. 1, the magnet is configured to rotate about a first axis which is substantially horizontal 11. Accordingly the magnet is rotating on a vertical plane. From this position, without substantially offsetting the gravitational alignment of the sphere, the axis of rotation of the magnet is adjusted to a second orientation whereby the magnet will rotate around a generally vertical axis 11′ so that the magnet is rotating on a horizontal plane.
  • [0063]
    The schematic drawing FIG. 2., shows a fractured ore body 12 to be mining by block caving mining techniques. The base of the ore body is undercut at 13 and the ore body caves into the opening created. In use, the transponder 1 is placed within the ore body 12. The transponder may be placed on top of, within or adjacent the ore body generally by drilling a vertical or horizontal bore using standard earth boring techniques.
  • [0064]
    In order to detect the very small magnetic fluctuations emitted by the transponder, the magnetometer uses lock-in amplifier technology. Lock-in amplifier technology has the ability to extract very small signals from an electrically noisy environment. It essentially acts as a very narrow band amplifier with a “Q” in the region of 105.
  • [0065]
    By way of example, the magnetic field strength 100 m from a 1.5 tesla magnet is in the order of 1×10−11 tesla. Using a detector coil with a diameter of 500 mm this would induce a circulating current of around 100 nano-amps (1 micro-volt) at 15 Hz.
  • [0066]
    In one simple implementation, as few as one magnetometer 14 may be used to locate the transponder. Whilst the magnet in the transponder is rotated in the first orientation, around a horizontal axis 11, (in a vertical plane) the magnetometer is used at a location above or below the ore body/transponder to determine the position of the transponder in the azimuthal plane. The position may be determined by locating at which point on the azmuthal plane the signal from the transponder is strongest. Thus, the position of the transponder can be deduced as lying on an axis normal to said azmuthal plane and coincident with a point of peak signal strength monitored by said magnetometer.
  • [0067]
    The magnet in the transponder is then switched to rotate in the second orientation, around a vertical axis and the magnetometer positioned beside the ore body can be used to locate the vertical position of peak signal strength. Accordingly the vertical position of the transponder can be deduced. Combining the known positions, a three dimensional position of the transponder can be determined. By recording the position of the transponder over time, as ore flows down to the draw points, a picture of the flow can be generated, particularly it multiple transponders are used.
  • [0068]
    However, communication with the transponder is difficult whilst it is buried in the ore in the ore body meaning remote control of the orientation of the magnet is not feasible. Therefore, the transponder is pre-programmed to turn on and cycle at predetermined times for a predetermined period. A cycle may include, powering up the motor, rotating in the first orientation, reorienting the magnet to the second orientation, rotating the magnet in the second orientation, returning the magnet to the first orientation and powering down. The period between cycles is programmable and to conserve power, the bar magnet is rotated in each orientation only for a time sufficient to acquire the transponder's position.
  • [0069]
    Given that there is only a small time to determine the transponders position, from a practical point of view, it makes more sense to use an array 15 of magnetometers 16 as illustrated in FIG. 2. Here, a number of magnetometers 16 are placed above or below the ore body in a horizontal plane. The exact pattern of the magnetometers may vary, but one such method as shown in FIG. 2 the magnetometers are laid out in a grid formation. A two dimensional position of the transponder on the azimuthal plane is determined by locating the detector displaying the maximum received signal.
  • [0070]
    Once an azimuthal position is determined, the plane of rotation of the magnet is changed to the second orientation such that the magnet rotates in an orthogonal (horizontal) plane. A linear array 17 of magnetometers 18 inserted down a vertical borehole 19 may then be used to locate the transponder's vertical position. Again, combining the know positions, a three dimensional position of the transponder can be determined.
  • [0071]
    The position acquisition can be automated with the use of computer controllers and automated scanning techniques.
  • [0072]
    Naturally, in a large ore body it is desirable to collect flow information from multiple transponders as the mining operations progress. In such cases each transponder includes an accurate real-time clock synchronised with a master clock. Each transponder is pre-programmed to cycle at unique time-slots throughout the day, (or on multiple days) so that each transponder may be individually tracked and the generated magnetic fields of multiple transponders do not interfere with one another and confuse the readings.
  • [0073]
    In an alternative system and method, the transponder does not require the ability to shift the plane of the generated magnet field between perpendicular horizontal and vertical planes. Instead, it is only necessary to generate the field on the horizontal plane, which maybe achieved by rotating the poles of the magnet about a vertical axis as previously discussed. A transponder of this type is shown in FIG. 3.
  • [0074]
    As shown in FIG. 4, each transponder is placed into the ore body 12 at a selected position as previously described, however in this implementation, a plurality of boreholes 19 are drilled surrounding the ore body, preferably with even spacing.
  • [0075]
    During each transponder's 1 cycling period, magnetometers 20 are lowered gradually into each borehole 19 respectively, each scanning to record magnitude and phase measurements of the generated field as they descend. Preferably, the magnetometers are linked to descend at the same level and rates and so that the scans can be synchronised.
  • [0076]
    The vertical position of the transponder may be deduced by recording the peak signal strength as received by each magnetometer as they are progressively lowered. These peak readings should generally correspond for a given transponder, although an average may be calculated.
  • [0077]
    It is anticipated that in block caving mining operations because the ore flows under gravitational pull, the transponders are unlikely to ascend. Consequently, once the vertical position has been established during the initial scan, subsequent scans for a particular transponder may be commenced from a point based on that initial position.
  • [0078]
    For this reason while it may be possible to raise the magnetometers while scanning, it is more logical to lower them, at least for all but the initial scan.
  • [0079]
    A directional bearing to the transponder may be determined by monitoring and comparing the phase angle differences between the signals recorded by each of the magnetometers. More specifically, the relative timing of the phases as recorded by each magnetometer can be used to calculate the relative angular displacements 21 of each magnetometer with respect to the transponder and hence triangulate the position of the transponder.
  • [0080]
    In the embodiment depicted, three boreholes/magnetometers are used however, it is certainly possible to use more than three thereby achieving superior positional accuracy and or mine area coverage.
  • [0081]
    In another alternative embodiment, the arrays of magnetometers may be replaced or supplemented by one or more directionally sensitive detectors whose positions are accurately known. By each seeking a maximum magnetic field at the magnetic carrier frequency, the azimuth and elevation of a transponder can be established.
  • [0082]
    In a further alternative embodiment the magnetometer may exploit super conducting quantum interference device (SQUID) technology. SQUID technology uses a super conducting detector coil immersed in liquid nitrogen or helium in a dewer. SQUID's are capable of detecting magnetic fields with strengths in order of femto teslas (10−15 tesla).
  • [0083]
    Since the SQUID is able to provide directional information, it is mounted on a gimbal so that it can be moved in azimuth and elevation to find the maximum magnetic field signal.
  • [0084]
    It will be appreciated that the invention provides a method and apparatus for tracking the flow of ore in block caving mining operations. The use of magnetic field generation and detection allows the invention to track objects implanted within the ore. By tracking the flow of those objects, an understanding of the flow characteristics of the mine can be achieved leading to more accurate planning and corresponding efficiencies. In these and other respects, the invention represents a practical and commercially significant improvement over the prior art.
  • [0085]
    Although the invention has been described with reference to specific examples, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the invention may be embodied in many other forms.

Claims (31)

  1. 1. A method of monitoring the flow of ore from an ore body during block caving mining operations, said method including the steps of:
    implanting a beacon in the ore body;
    generating an magnetic signal with the beacon;
    monitoring the magnetic field in the ore body area with a magnetometer to identify the signal from the beacon; and
    calculating the origin of the signal at discrete intervals to determine the path of the beacon and derive the flow of the ore as it is mined.
  2. 2. A method according to claim 1 wherein the signal is generated by rotating a magnetic field having a polar axis, about a rotation axis perpendicular to said polar axis thereby to generate an alternating magnetic signal when monitored on the plane of rotation of the magnetic field.
  3. 3. A method according to claim 2 wherein the signal is monitored by the magnetometer along a remote monitoring axis, said monitoring axis and said rotation axis aligned generally parallel to one another and perpendicular to said plane of rotation such that the location of the beacon can be deduced as lying on a plane orthogonal to said monitoring axis and coincident with a point of peak signal strength monitored by said magnetometer.
  4. 4. A method according to claim 2 wherein the signal is monitored by the magnetometer on a remote monitoring plane, said monitoring plane and said rotation axis aligned generally parallel to one another and perpendicular to said plane of rotation such that the location of the beacon can be deduced as lying on an axis normal to said monitoring plane and coincident with a point of peak signal strength monitored by said magnetometer.
  5. 5. A method according to claim 4 wherein first and second signals are generated on respective first and second planes of rotation by rotating the magnetic field about respective first and second rotation axes and wherein said first and second rotation axes are generally orthogonal.
  6. 6. A method according to claim 5 wherein the first signal is monitored on said monitoring plane such that the location of the beacon can be deduced as the intersection between the plane orthogonal to said monitoring axis and coincident with a point of peak signal strength on said monitoring axis and, the axis normal to said monitoring plane and coincident with a point of peak signal strength on said monitoring plane.
  7. 7. A method according to claim 6 wherein said second rotation axis is gravitationally aligned to be generally vertical and said second rotation axis is substantially horizontal.
  8. 8. A method according to claim 7 wherein the monitoring axis is located in a vertical borehole adjacent the ore body.
  9. 9. A method according to claim 7 wherein the monitoring plane is located on the surface above the ore body.
  10. 10. A method according to claim 7 wherein the beacon is programmable to generate said first and second signals at distinct but generally sequential periods.
  11. 11. (canceled)
  12. 12. A method according to claim 2 wherein the rotation axis is gravitationally aligned generally vertically.
  13. 13. A method according to claim 12 wherein the signal is monitored by a plurality of magnetometers each moveable along a respective vertical monitoring axis disposed substantially adjacent and surrounding the ore body.
  14. 14. A method according to claim 13 wherein each monitoring axis is disposed in a vertical borehole.
  15. 15. A method according to claim 13 wherein at least one magnetometer monitors the strength of the signal generated by the beacon along the respective monitoring axis such that the peak signal strength depth on the monitoring axis corresponds to the origin of said signal and the depth of the beacon can be deduced.
  16. 16. A method according to claim 13 wherein the position of the beacon on the horizontal plane is calculated by monitoring the relative timing of the alternating signal and calculating the phase angle between the monitoring axes with respect to the beacon.
  17. 17. A method according to claim 13 wherein each magnetometer is linked to a central control unit to record and compare data from the magnetometers.
  18. 18. A method according to claim 13 wherein the beacon is programmable to generate said signal at predetermined intervals and for predetermined periods.
  19. 19. A method according to claim 1 wherein the magnetic field is generated by a high magnetic moment rare earth bar magnet.
  20. 20. A method according to claim 1 wherein the magnetometer includes a super conducting quantum interference device (SQUID).
  21. 21. A self-contained beacon for implanting into an ore body during block caving mining operations, said beacon including:
    a protective outer casing of a non-magnetic material; and
    a magnetic field generator for generating an alternating magnetic signal.
  22. 22. A beacon according to claim 21 wherein the magnetic signal generator includes means for generating magnetic field having a polar axis, said magnetic field configured for rotation about an axis of rotation perpendicular to the polar axis of the magnet.
  23. 23. A beacon according to claim 21 wherein the means for generating a magnetic field includes a rare earth bar magnet.
  24. 24-25. (canceled)
  25. 26. A beacon according to claim 21 wherein the magnetic signal generator is gimbal mounted within a housing.
  26. 27. A beacon according to claim 26 wherein the gimbal is biased to align the magnetic signal generator with a first predetermined axis.
  27. 28. A beacon according to claim 26 wherein the gimbal is gravitationally biased.
  28. 29. A beacon according to claim 26 wherein magnetic signal generator is located within a sphere within the cavity.
  29. 30. A beacon according to claim 29 wherein the cavity is generally spherical and has a diameter larger than the outside diameter of the sphere defining space for a damping fluid between the cavity and sphere.
  30. 31-32. (canceled)
  31. 33. A beacon according to claim 27 wherein the magnetic signal generator is moveable between said first predetermined axis and an orthogonal second predetermined axis
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CA2887224A1 (en) * 2012-10-19 2014-04-24 Orica International Pte Ltd Locating underground markers

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US20120074931A1 (en) 2012-03-29 application

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