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Optimising the Drilling Budget with Geophysical Logging


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Author Fallon G N and Fullagar P K


In resource definition and mine development, major capital expenditures are committed on the basis of sparse information and even in production surprises such as bad ground are not uncommon. Drill holes constitute the principal source of information about the orebody and its environment and optimisation of drilling implies maximising the yield of useful information per dollar expended. Geophysical borehole logging provides new flexibility for optimising the drilling budget. Economic benefits can flow from geophysical logging at all stages of the mining cycle. The most commonly cited benefit is substitution of diamond delineation drilling with cheaper percussion or reverse circulation drilling in cases where geophysical logs can substitute for core. This approach can deliver an attractive direct saving in drilling costs (and time) if drill meterage is unchanged, or a potentially greater indirect benefit from better ore control if more holes are drilled within the original drilling budget. More ore contact intercepts per dollar can translate into lower dilution and enhanced ore recovery, thereby increasing revenue as well as reducing mining costs. Substitution of diamond drilling with percussion drilling is not always feasible. However, geophysical logging of diamond holes is often highly advantageous in its own right, both for geotechnical characterisation as well as ore delineation. Operational advantages of logging include data objectivity, speed of interpretation and reduced core handling and analysis costs. Geophysical logging assists mining engineers by providing a continuous measure of in situ rock strength, even over intervals with poor core recovery. The additional expense of geophysical logging in blast holes can be justified in terms of more accurate ore boundary delineation and rock strength evaluation. Precise ore boundary delineation permits refinement of charge placement, to minimise dilution and maximise recovery. Detailed knowledge of rock strength can enable optimisation of blast design. Rock strength can be evaluated in real-time via analysis of drill performance data recorded with measurement-while-drilling (MWD) technology. To successfully apply geophysical logging in mines, its technical, operational and economic viability must all be established. This entails verification of the existence of appropriate physical property contrasts, investigation of the best way to integrate the geophysical results with the mining method and an objective assessment of the value of the resulting mine performance benefit. Geophysical logging is already well established in many mining operations. The greatest impediments to its wider utilisation at mines are: lack of appreciation of geophysics by most mine geologists, engineers and managers; limited interpretational aids; and the necessity to re-enter completed drill holes. In this paper we endeavour to address these issues by informing mine geologists about potential applications of geophysics, by illustrating automated interpretation of geophysical logs and by highlighting the importance of emerging MWD and logging- while-drilling (LWD) technology.