An effective geotechnical design provides an accurate and appropriate assessment, balanced with a mining company’s risk profile. Justifying the cost of slope assessment requires an understanding of the input sensitivities, and resultant risk, to achieve a slope of a required functionality. As a project progresses from Scoping to Feasibility, the geotechnical risk becomes better resolved through increased expenditure on drilling, testing, analysis and modelling as long as the input data is appropriately spatially distributed. Providing accurate and appropriate geotechnical assessments in the early stages provides confidence in all following stages, especially where initial analysis indicates difficult geotechnical conditions. It is also in the early stages of project definition that there is most opportunity to maximise the value of the deposit through investigations into optimal mining methods.
This paper examines the advantages of geotechnical engineering input through a project study period. Early geotechnical involvement allows the Scoping and Pre-Feasibility Studies to be more effective. Operational risks can then be better understood and dealt within the Feasibility Study phase, also ensuring that the correct risks and management controls are put in place.
With commodity price pressure and cost of resource recovery in a downturned industry, reducing the risk to cash flow, resource recovery and safety should be a primary goal for all mining companies. Reduced risk can be effectively achieved through geotechnical design of slopes to achieve a required performance as part of an integrated study to the Reserve definition and mine design.
Varden, R P, Player, J R, Player, N M and Jones, E, 2016. Justifying Slope Design Risks and Costs, in Proceedings Ninth AusIMM Open Pit Operators’ Conference 2016, pp 185–201 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).