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Olympic Dam rock quality designation model – an integrated approach


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Author J M Clark, M Passmore and N Poznik


Olympic Dam is a world-class deposit and is unquestionably one of the most geologically, structurally and texturally complex orebodies in the world. As development advances into the Southern Mine Area (SMA) the geological understanding is rapidly evolving as underground drill rigs are prioritised to provide the additional data necessary to convert Indicated and Inferred Resources into Measured Resources. The SMA represents approximately 70 per cent of Olympic Dam’s total resource and is significantly more complex when compared to the Northern Mine Area with respect to the diverse nature and origin of lithotypes, rock mass characteristics and the extent of major structures controlling primary mineralisation trends.

Recent mine development into the central SMA has been impacted by a major structural gouge zone. Sound geological interpretation allowed mine geologists to successfully integrate their local understanding of the distribution of lithotypes with critical geotechnical data, chiefly rock quality designation (RQD), to delineate and better predict this major structural gouge zone. As a direct result, development rates improved whilst also increasing awareness for the importance of sound geological interpretation utilising all available data. In order to maximise predictability across all systems in place through the mining geology value chain, the integration of geological and geotechnical data in a geotechnical RQD block model provides an additional tool to assist in preventative solutions for complex problems to achieve a proactive mining environment.

This paper details the methods used to build the RQD block model, the geostatistical estimation parameters, 3D geotechnical domain wireframes, challenges regarding legacy approaches, and collection of geotechnical information and incorporating/linking geotechnical data with geological features, including the use of grade and lithotype domains. Although the geotechnical block model proved difficult and complex to construct, the resultant product has seen successful integration of geological and geotechnical data into mine planning providing higher resolution of critical parameters for local mining areas.


Clark, J M, Passmore, M and Poznik, N, 2017. Olympic Dam rock quality designation model – an integrated approach, in Proceedings Tenth International Mining Geology Conference 2017, pp 27–36 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).