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The necessary role of the geologist in geotechnical data gathering


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Author P B Hills


Almost a quarter of a century since Bridges (1993) documented techniques for the assessment of ground conditions in a seminal paper in the Proceedings Second International Mining Geology Conference, the necessary role of the geologist in recording geotechnical data on exploration properties and in mines remains. Typically, the geologist is the first professional on the exploration property. Of course, most exploration properties don’t become mines. However, when a property does start to come together and form a coherent mineral deposit and professionals from across the minerals industry spectrum, including specialist geotechnical engineers, become increasingly involved, it remains the geologist who has the most intimate knowledge of the deposit. By association, that knowledge extends to the character of the rock mass.

Throughout the various phases of prefeasibility, feasibility, construction and production, culminating in the mature mine, the knowledge of the rock mass held by the geologists continues to grow. In the current era of minimising cost and optimising profit, meeting the requirements and expectations of stakeholders ranging from fellow employees to investors, industry and financial regulators and the broader public, in a social environment where occupational health and safety concerns are of uppermost concern in every endeavour, the value of the geologists’ observations cannot be understated. Mines nowadays employ more geotechnical engineers than they did in the early 1990s when Bridges (1993) wrote his paper. More funds are available for specific geotechnical investigations of exploration properties and mines; none-the-less, those programs remain limited in their extent and there is a wealth of additional data available for collection with the appropriate training, at little additional effort. Fundamentally it is all about the numbers. Any hole not geotechnically logged is a hole that will need to be drilled again if the data is required. Any face, surface or underground, not geotechnically mapped is one that may need to be mapped a second time. That doesn’t mean every hole or every face. However, it is the proposition of this paper that the opportunity for additional geotechnical data to be gathered during traditional geological investigations is an opportunity that cannot be ignored. Occupational health and safety requirements demand that the geotechnical risks associated with mining are appropriately managed. Mining regulations in most Australian and overseas jurisdictions requires the consideration of geotechnical risk through formalised management plans. The Joint Ore Reserves Committee (JORC) Code requires the consideration of modifying factors more than ever before. The benefit to be realised through improved geotechnical understanding by geologists on the ground leads to improved occupational health and safety, optimised reporting compliance, and improved financial and social outcomes for the exploration property and ultimately for the mine that follows.


Hills, P B, 2017. The necessary role of the geologist in geotechnical data gathering, in Proceedings Tenth International Mining Geology Conference 2017, pp 347–354 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).