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Back Analysis Techniques for Assessing Open Stope

Performance
1

P Cepuritis and E Villaescusa

ABSTRACT
A methodology and a number of software tools have been developed to assess the
operational and geotechnical factors affecting the performance of open stoping
operations. Open stope performance is generally measured by the ability to achieve
maximum extraction with minimal dilution. The paper describes the tools and techniques
for collecting and analysing common factors affecting performance, such as drill and
blast, development undercutting, stress induced damage, rock mass quality and largescale geological features. Common back analysis techniques, such as empirical stability
graph methods, are limited in their ability to identify and quantify the relative
contributions of the various factors that influence excavation performance. The paper
proposes a methodology that enables the evaluation of a variety of contributing factors
simultaneously. The proposed methodology also enables the evaluation of spatial
variability in various parameters under consideration. Example data has been collected
and analysed with some results presented.

INTRODUCTION
The Western Australian School of Mines (WASM) is currently conducting research into optimising the
design and extraction sequence of open stoping excavations in highly stresses rock masses. A large
component of this study will involve back analysis of stoping activities from a number of participating
mines. In this regard, the project initially aims to identify and assess the contributing factors on large
excavation performance. As part of this research, a number of techniques and software tools have been
used to assist in the back analysis of stoping performance at a number of open stoping operations in
Australia. Open stope performance is generally measured by the ability to achieve maximum extraction
with minimal dilution. Hence, the success of the open stoping method relies on the stability of large
(mainly un-reinforced) stope walls and crowns as well as the stability of any exposed fill masses
(Villaescusa, 2004). The success or performance of an open stope can therefore be judged on the actual
outcome versus the planned outcome, in terms of the final volume, tonnage and grade of material
extracted, and the timeliness of extraction, compared to the planned design and schedule.

OVER-BREAK AND UNDER-BREAK


The two main physical criteria for assessing stope performance are:

the over-break volume, and


the under-break volume.
Over-break refers to the volume of material excavated in excess of the planned stoping volume (or
reference volume), and under-break refers to the volume of intact rock material left unexcavated
relative to the planned stoping volume.
1.

Western Australian School of Mines, PMB 22, Kalgoorlie WA 6430.

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Reference volume
The reference volume usually consists of the stope design and in-place development; however, this
may need to be modified if any changes were implemented during excavation. For example, additional
holes may have been drilled and fired that were not on the production plan or, conversely, drilled holes
were not fired due to bridging/blockages or due to a decision to leave a pillar. The reference volume is
typically represented by a primitive triangulated irregular network (TIN) wireframe model in mine
planning software.

Cavity monitoring surveys


To obtain a quantitative measure stope performance, final excavated volumes need to be obtained and
compared to the stope design boundaries. Cavity monitoring system (CMS) surveys have been a well
established method for surveying inaccessible open cavities in underground mining operations for well
over ten years. The CMS was developed jointly by Noranda Technology Centre (NTC) and OPTECH
Systems, Canada (Miller et al, 1992). This system is widely used in Australias underground
operations, especially in Western Australia (Jarosz and Shepherd, 2000).

Final stope void volume


A typical CMS stope survey can generate in the order of 30 000 - 60 000 data points. This is an
extremely large amount of data to process, and in most cases contains a significant amount of redundant
data. This is especially apparent in close proximity to the CMS set-up, where excavations are typically
over-sampled. In addition, some regular surface features, such as relatively uniform flat planes,
which may only required to be represented by a few points, can also be over-sampled. In order to
conduct meaningful post-processing volume calculations, this data needs to be filtered down to a
practical level, without unduly misrepresenting the final void geometry. The general process for
developing a final stope void volume generally consists of the following:

data acquisition utilising CMS survey techniques;


data filtering of redundant points, including CMS outlier/spike identification and removal;
CMS amalgamation (where required), involving merging/combining a number of CMS surveys
taken from a variety of sites; and

final void modelling of CMS data.


The final void volume generally consists of generating a TIN wireframe model in mine planning
software, based on the CMS survey data. Common practice is to generate slices through the raw CMS
data, filter the slices to reduce redundant points and re-generate the volume. In some circumstances,
this process can severely affect the precision and accuracy of final void model. In addition, the
treatment of blind-spots or shadow areas, as well as presence of broken material or rill in the stope
will significantly impact on the accuracy of the final void shape.

Calculation and reporting of over-break and under-break


Over-break and under-break volumes are generally calculated by intersecting the reference volume
with the final stope void volume utilising mine planning software, typically using triangulation
intersections of the relevant TIN wireframes. Depending on the relative configuration and aspect ratios
of individual triangles within the wireframe models, errors may occur during triangulation intersection
process (principally due to floating point precision), resulting in an unsolvable volume intersection.

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BACK ANALYSIS TECHNIQUES FOR ASSESSING OPEN STOPE PERFORMANCE

Tonnage and grade values of dilution and ore loss can also be calculated utilising the reference
and final stope void volumes in conjunction with a block model of reserve grades and densities,
including backfill materials. These data can then be stored in a database for further reconciliation
reporting and presentation (Morin, 2006).

FACTORS AFFECTING STOPE PERFORMANCE


A brief summary of major factors controlling open stope performance are provided below (after Clark
and Pakalnis, 1997):
stope geometry (size, shape, orientation),

location of existing development (ie under-cutting),


rock mass characteristics,
stress conditions,
large-scale geological structures,
rock reinforcement,
drill and blast processes, and
time dependency.

In order to assess the influence of each of these factors on stope performance, it is necessary to be
able to adequately characterise and/or quantify the factors both prior to and during excavation process.
This requires all personnel involved in the design and production stages to record relevant information,
such that it can be reviewed on completion of the excavation (Villaescusa, 1998).

Stope performance reviews


Stope performance reviews act as a technical audit to the stope design process (Villaescusa, 2004).
Aside from being an historical record of the achieved physicals (ie volume, tones and grade), an
important purpose of these reviews is to understand and assess the factors that affect final stope
performance. These findings can then be used to develop improved design and engineering tools for
optimising stope and pillar design, layout and sequencing, as well as implementation practices. In this
regard, it would be beneficial to develop a database of these major factors, in conjunction with the
physicals obtained from CMS analyses.

BACK ANALYSIS TECHNIQUES


Interest has been shown in trying to understand the relative influence of each of the factors mentioned
above for use in optimising the planning and design of open stopes. A variety of back analysis
techniques have been explored. For example, Wiles (2006) uses back analysis results from linear
elastic numerical modelling to indicate the reliability of stress-related damage and failure criteria,
Suorineni et al (1999) investigated the influence of the location and orientation of fault structures on
open stope over-break using 2D hybrid boundary-finite element studies, statistical and empirical
stability graph techniques have been used by Stewart (2005) who attempts to relate blast hole design,
stress damage and relaxation to the amount of over-break in narrow vein stopes, and Wang (2004)
looks at the effect of undercutting on over-break. These approaches may be appropriate if the dominate
mechanism can be identified; however, they may not be considered comprehensive as each factor is
investigated separately, with the influence of other contributing factors not readily accounted for. A
methodology, therefore, is required to account for and assess the relative influence of each individual
factor on stope performance.

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PROPOSED METHODOLOGIES
A methodology is proposed to assist in the confirming, or otherwise, of hypotheses intimating the
relative contribution of various factors and their influence on open stope performance. This
methodology can utilise, for example, the results of:

candidate criteria developed from numerical modelling,


over-break and under-break analysis,
modelling of large-scale geological structures, and
rock mass quality modelling.
The methodology relies on the ability to query the volume of rock around the excavation under
analysis to select regions fitting various candidate criteria thought to contribute to over-break. The
advantage of this system to other empirical approaches lies in the ability to test various candidate
criteria simultaneously and also account for spatial variability of component parameters.

Implicit surfaces
The proposed methodology involves fitting implicit surfaces, defined by radial basis functions (Carr et
al, 2001), to candidate criteria and other features of the rock mass. The use of mathematical radial basis
functions allow for relatively complex mathematical intersections and/or unions of these implicit
surfaces or volumes. Implicit surfaces can be used in a variety of back analysis processes, for example,
over-break and under-break analysis, where they are superior compared to the known issues associated
with triangulation intersections. For example, Figure 1 shows the highly detailed implicit surface
model, which honours all CMS data points, compared with a traditional filtered triangulation model.
Due to the highly detailed nature of the output, it can also assist in identifying localisation of over-break
or under-break. This information can provide information on the morphology, extent and nature of
over-break. For example, the morphology can indicate whether the over-break was localised and
tetrahedral in shape, possibly indicating a small structurally controlled wedge-type failure, or arciform
and protracted, possibly indicating stress-related failure and/or subsequent arching response.

a)
a)

b)
b)

FIG 1 - Design stope volume (dark grey) and CMS (light grey) for (a) triangulated final void volume and
(b) final void volume based on implicit surfaces.

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Implicit surfaces can be used to model, for example, large-scale geological structures and their control
on rock mass quality and subsequent influence on the levels of over-break. Figure 2 (a) shows two fault
structures modelled from geological data, highlighting the occurrence of major over-break on the stope
wall with its intersection with Fault B. Figure 2 (b) shows the distribution of rock mass quality, in this
case fracture frequency interpolated from borehole data, on the over-break surface. Figure 2 (c) shows
how the intersection of the two fault surfaces locally controls an increase in fracture frequency (isosurface
value of 12 fractures per metre) in the area highlighted by the circle shown in Figure 2 (b).

isosurface
Fault
B

faults

Fault
A

a)

b)

c)

FIG 2 - Results of geological modelling of (a) two faults (b) contours of fracture frequency on over-break surface,
and (c) interaction of faults, rock mass quality and over-break.

Candidate criteria
The results from numerical modelling can also be incorporated into the back analysis methodology.
Candidate surfaces based on say, a maximum shear stress criteria and/or confinement-based criteria,
can be displayed alongside other candidate criteria and over-break data. Figure 3 (a) shows the results
of linear elastic numerical modelling represented as implicit isosurfaces, together with over-break.
Figure 3 (b) shows contours of low confinement on the over-break surface, whilst Figure 3 (c) shows
maximum shear stress, plotted as both contours on the over-break surface and as an isosurface.

Isosurface
(?
MPa)
( 3 =0.75
=0.75MPa)
Isosurface
(?max =20
=20MPa)
MPa)

a)

b)

c)

FIG 3 - Results of numerical modelling showing (a) minor principal stress isosurfaces (b) contours of minor principal
stress on over-break surface, and (c) isosurface of maximum shear stress and contoured on over-break surface.

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Volumetric queries
The implicit surfaces can then be used to generate queries within the rock mass based on intersections
and unions of volumes (similar to Boolean and and or operations, respectively). For example, based
on the data presented above, it is possible to select a volume of the rock mass around the excavation
based on stress-based criteria and/or rock mass quality and/or distance to a prospective geological
structure. In this example, a query was constructed using the following criteria;

maximum shear stresses greater than 15 MPa,


distance less than 10 m from Fault B, and
fracture frequency greater than seven.
The resulting volume is shown in Figure 4 and provides a very good correlation between the query
volume and the location of over-break experienced during mining. Although Fault B transects the
entire stope, Figure 4 (b) also highlights that its presence alone is not an indication that over-break will
occur. Figure 4 shows that intersection and union functions of implicit surfaces can be used as a
valuable tool in determining the relative influence of various candidate criteria on stope performance.

Beyond limit
of rock mass
model

b)

a)

FIG 4 - Results of intersection of multiple candidate criteria for stope AP02 looking (a) north west and (b) south east.

Candidate query reliability


Using an approach described by Wiles (2006), understanding uncertainty in observational back
analyses can assist in determining the reliability of any forward analyses. Wiles (2006) describes the
procedure for determining the reliability of candidate stress-based strength criteria and its use in failure
prediction. This approach can also be incorporated into this methodology by generating implicit
isosurfaces of various prediction criteria, at a number of values, which could be used to represent
probabilities of failure.

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Stope performance database


Data generated from the tools above can be linked to a purpose designed stope performance database,
along with CMS derived physicals and qualitative stope performance information. The database
contains relevant fields for quantitative and qualitative information in the following areas:

stope details,
design details,
rock mass and boundary condition data,
drilling and blast,
CMS and performance,
rock reinforcement, and
extraction and filling data.
The qualitative information, mainly derived from the results of stope performance reviews,
provides an important role in confirmation or verification of the impact of the various factors indicated
using the volumetric querying techniques described in preceding sections. A brief overview of the
methodology for incorporating the data in a back analysis is provided in Figure 5.

Rock Mass
Modelling

Rock Mass
Parameter
Volume(s)
Large Scale
Structures

Summary rock mass


parameters

Stope
Performance
Review

e.g. UCS, ff/m


isosurfaces

Statistical
Analysis/
Qualitative
Evidence

e.g. Fault surfaces

Design details

Stope Design
Stope
Design
Volume

Stope Performance Database

Stope
Development, stope
Development reinforcement data
Development
Volume
Stope
Production

Reference
Volume

Hypothesis
testing
testing

CMS data, physicals

Final Void
Volume

Over-break/
Under-break
Volumes

No

Confirm
Criteria?
Yes

Observation and
monitoring

Numerical
Modelling

Develop
Candidate
Criteria

linear/non-linear
continuum/discontinuum

Stress/strain
Criteria
Isosurfaces

Development of
forward analysis
criteria

FIG 5 - Framework for back analysis of stope performance utilising numerical modelling, volumetric queries and
stope performance database.

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Additional software tools


The software tools include existing proprietary tools as well as a number of tools developed by WASM.
The tools developed by WASM consist of a number of database development applications and
scripting tools to existing mine planning software, such as Surpac Vision. Examples include:
tool for quickly ascertaining geometric properties of stope surfaces,
tools to generate the production of the following over-break and under-break data:
depth (ie perpendicular distance to reference volume) of over-break and under-break,
volume of over-break and under-break, and
area of over-break and under-break, and
tools for querying and graphing various stope performance data.

STOPE PERFORMANCE CASE STUDY


The systems developed at WASM have been used to back analyse stope performance data from Barrick
Australias Kanowna Belle Gold Mine (KBGM). Open stoping operations at the KBGM commenced
around January 1998. The mine is divided into four main mining areas, each with distinct open stoping
mining methods and sequencing;

Block A:
large multi-lift stopes, primary/secondary centre-out sequence, and
shallow to medium depth, faulted footwall.
Block B:
bottom-up, downhole benching, central retreat, and
narrow ore widths.
Block C:
bottom-up, pyramidal sequence,
initially double lift primary/secondary 1-3-5 pyramidal sequence with medium sized stopes,
continuous pyramidal sequence (after July 2003), medium single lift stopes, and
faulted hanging wall.
Block D:
bottom-up, continuous pyramidal sequence, small single lift stopes, also mining panels from
hanging wall to footwall, and
depths in excess of 1000 m, faulted hanging wall.
The location of the main mining areas and sequence is summarised in Figure 6. Analyses to date have
concentrated on Block A and Block C. Even simple queries from the stope performance database can be
of benefit to understanding the controls on performance. For example, simple analysis of volumetric data
for both mining blocks, is shown in Figure 7. Figure 7 (a), shows the exposed area of over-break on the
stope wall surface with respect to the entire area of the stope wall surface. Figure 7 (a) indicates that
majority of over-break occurring on stope wall surfaces does not affect the entire surface. Although stope
surfaces are larger in Block A, it shows that there is significant variability in the surface area of over-break
in both mining areas. This figure indicates that, although rock mass and stress conditions are different
between the mining blocks, the observed response of over-break within each mining block, in terms of
surface expression, can be quite varied, ranging from localised over-break (ie small area of over-break) to
over-break occurring almost across the entire stope surface.

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Surface at 10360mRL

Open Pit

Block A
Primaries
Jan 98 - Dec 99
Secondaries
Jan 00 - Mar 01

BLOCK A
10000mRL

BLOCK B

9800mRL

BLOCK C

9600mRL
Blocks B, C and D
Apr 01 - May 02
May 02 - Jul 03

BLOCK D

May 02 May 03
Jun 03 - Jun 03

9400mRL

Jul 03 - Nov 05
Nov 05 - Present

FIG 6 - Long section of Kanowna Belle underground operations showing main mining areas and stoping sequence.

Figure 7 (b) displays a plot of average depth of over-break (volume of over-break divided by area of
over-break exposed) versus stope wall surface area. Intuitively, given the same rock mass, boundary
and implementation conditions, one would expect the depth of over-break to increase as the stope wall
surface increases, however, the data highlights the potential chaotic or unpredictable yielded
response of over-break, or fall-off. This behaviour, together with the data shown in Figure 7 (a), may
explain why empirical techniques which relate the normalised amount of dilution (to stope surface
area) with rock mass classifications, such as the ELOS stability graph technique (Clark and Pakalnis,
1997), often show poor correlations.
Figure 7 (b) does, however, highlight the different response, in terms of average depth of over-break
with stope wall surface area, between the two mining blocks. In general, Block C stope surfaces exhibited
deeper zones of over-break to Block A stopes. Block C stopes show high variability in average depths of
over-break, with significant amounts of over-break even with relatively small stope wall surface areas.
Conversely, Block A stopes generally show no increase of average depth of over-break with increasing
stope surface area, with depths of over-break generally below 2 m. This would indicate increased stopes
sizes may have been achievable without significantly increasing the amount of dilution.

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6000

10
Block A

Block A
9

Block C

Block C

Average depth of over-break (m)

Exposed area of over-break (m )

5000

4000

3000

2000

8
7
6
5
4
3
2

1000
1
0

0
0

1000

2000

3000

4000

5000

6000

1000

2000

3000

4000

5000

6000

Stope wall surface area (m )

Stope wall surface area (m )

a)

b)

FIG 7 - (a) Plot of exposed area of over-break versus stope wall surface area and (b) average depth of over-break
versus stope wall surface area.

3000
Primary Stopes
Secondary Stopes

Exposed Area of Over-break (m )

2500

2000

1500

1000

500

0
0

500

1000

1500

2000

2500

3000

Stope wall surface area (m )

FIG 8 - Plot of exposed area of over-break versus stope wall surface area for Block C stopes.

Block C data was investigated further and separated into primary and secondary stopes. To provide
consistency end wall data was removed from the primary stope data set, as end walls in the secondary
stopes were not evaluated (being fill). The resulting data is plotted in Figure 8. This figure shows that
over-break in secondary stopes, generally occurs over larger areas of the stope surface, possibly
indicating the effects of stress and/or blast damage.

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CONCLUSIONS
An improved methodology to understand the relative influence of the various factors that influence
open stope performance has been proposed. The method allows for the simultaneous investigation of
various factors, such as rock mass parameters and the results of numerical modelling, the integration of
the spatial variability of parameters, and ability to query the rock mass volume for a variety of
candidate criteria. The methodology is not a replacement for traditional analytical or numerical
techniques, yet provides a framework for integrating and interrogating results from these techniques.
WASM are currently in the process of further refining the interrogative methodology using the
techniques described in this paper. Currently, meta-data derived from the volumetric analysis and stope
performance reviews is kept separate from the geometric entities (ie stopes, faults, over-break, etc) in
the stope performance database. Potential exists to integrate both the geometrical entities and meta-data
in object-oriented databases and possibly explore 3D-GIS capabilities to generate complex queries to
further enhance back analysis techniques.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
We wish to thank Kanowna Belle Gold Mine, Barrick Australia, for kindly providing us with their
CMS data and allowing us to publish this paper. We wish to acknowledge financial assistance of our
other industry partner, BHP Billiton Cannington and the ARC for a Linkage Grant. We would also
like to acknowledge Zaparo Pty Ltd for allowing the use of their software to assist in this work.

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