The feasibility of Dugald River mine was highly sensitive to mining and geotechnical design assumptions, particularly stope dilution and strike length. Following the start of initial mine development in 2012 the project was suspended in 2013 due to concerns over the complex ground conditions and resulting dilution, stope sizes and general mineability. A technical risk mitigation program was undertaken with a key aim to increase the level of confidence in predicting stope dilution.
A stope sizing and dilution model was developed that provided a range of stope sizes based on geotechnical conditions and acceptable dilution. The original feasibility used a standard stope size of 25 m height by 25 m span. The new model was used as the foundation for the subsequent updated development plan for Dugald River that reduced much of the previous technical risk through greater confidence in the geotechnical and mining parameters.
Several methods to predict stope hanging wall dilution and appropriate stope size have been used at Dugald River that relied on the modified stability graph method. Improvements to the method were identified as more rock mass and mining data became available through the completion of a trial stoping program, increased underground development and a large geotechnical core logging campaign. These improvements not only focused on the technical aspects of the model, but also on creating an easy to use and sustainable process that could be used at multiple stages of mine planning from life-of-mine (LOM) through to final stope design.
Several of the main improvements are:
- understanding stope failure mechanisms and collecting only geological
information that is most relevant
- detailed modelling restricted to the rock mass that could be expected to
influence stope behaviour
- accounting for different stope failure mechanisms with the stability chart
- assigning a geotechnical confidence factor to the data
- making it useful as a mine planning tool with integration into the mine
- using performance of completed stopes to update and calibrate the
The model provides recommended hydraulic radius and associated dilution estimates across the ore body. Providing the hydraulic radius allows planning engineers the option to consider single, double and triple lift stoping options suitable to mine scheduling. While the model has been calibrated for conditions at Dugald River the process used to create the model is not site specific and is applicable to other steeply dipping tabular orebodies.
Hassell, R, de Vries, R, Player, J and Carswell, J F, 2017.
Improving the prediction of stope hanging wall dilution – a critical factor to
the success of Dugald River, in Proceedings 13th AusIMM Underground Operators’
Conference 2017, pp 71–78 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: