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Geological Modeling of Layer Type Deposits in Mine Design Software


Conference Paper · October 2011


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2 authors, including:

Ömer Erdem
Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, Turkey


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Middle East Technical University, Dept. of Mining Engineering, Ankara, Turkey,
Middle East Technical University, Dept. of Mining Engineering, Ankara, Turkey,

Ore reserve estimation has an important role in the evaluation of the feasibility of the mineral
deposits. Estimation includes tonnage, grade, thickness and grade distribution of the deposit. In
mining, economic planning and ore production scheduling are based on the reserve estimation.
Therefore, reserve estimation of mineral deposits should be conducted carefully and
technological developments must be involved. In conventional techniques, reserve estimation is
generally based on simple averaging, weighting or projection of grade, thickness and other
related parameters which may create the estimation problems. Instead of conventional
techniques, recently developed software packages should be used. These packages provide
estimation, simulation, modeling and optimization capabilities beyond the reach of the
conventional methods. Software packages are used for many stages of mining such as storage,
retrieval, analysis of geologic data, design, planning and scheduling. The most important
feature of them is their ability to convert raw data into usable information. In this paper,
reserve estimation of a coal deposit in Turkey is conducted by mine planning software,
Micromine 11. As known, polygonal method as a conventional technique is applied for
estimation. This method cannot supply reliable output if drillholes are not close to each other.
In this study, the coal deposit is modeled by gridded seam model then it is converted to 3D
block model. After modeling of two coal seams and an interbed of the deposit, production
planning and scheduling of mining was conducted in the mine planning software environment.
Besides modeling, also some other coal deposit characteristics can be detected. For instance, a
fault which cannot be detected by drillholes can be realized by using the related software.

Geological modeling, Layer type deposit, Mine planning software, Reserve estimation


Mining has higher risks than any other business. The main source of the related mining risks is
the error made in reserve estimation. Accurate estimation of the location, size, shape and
properties of mineral deposit and interbed rock to be extracted during operation is the basics
for reliable economical, technical and financial planning. This can be provided through
geological modeling of the mineral deposit as 3D shape and properties of materials present in
the deposit [8]. As known, capital and operating costs of mining industry is very high and all
equipment and other important infrastructures are planned on the reserve estimation. Because
of these facts over the last ten years, mining enterprises were considering geoscience,
information technologies and improving three dimensional understanding of mineral deposits.
The main aim of these mining enterprises are reducing the development and operational costs
and creating a safer mining environment. Nowadays, the most popular one is developing a 3D
virtual reality or 3D visualization of the mineral deposits.
Visualization technology and the developed related software packages provide a new vision for
the engineers to understand the most complex mineral deposits. 3D visualization technology
will convert a large number of complex data into better understandable visual information such
as graphic images which illustrate color, shape, texture, density, transparency and so on.
Therefore, the planning engineers accept and understand fully the data contained in the useful
information easily in a short time [7]. In other words, 3D modeling of the mineral deposit can
be thought as the basic of digital mine. Mineralogical, lithological structure and external space
morphology of mineral deposits can be estimated after applying 3D modeling to the deposits by
using the related software packages. This process is helpful to realize the dynamic mining
production management and the rational production of the natural sources. Therefore, there
will be an improvement in the economic efficiency of mining enterprises [3]. Moreover, the
applications of interactive graphic hardware and software have greatly enhanced available
options for estimation of boundary limits and characteristics of mineral deposits. The capabilities
of the packages range from data import to mine planning. The most important feature of
software packages is their ability to convert raw data into usable information. If user inputs
some irrelevant and not valuable data, this problem will be solved by the software
packages with using their data validation and processing tools.
The main concern in mining business as in any other business is ensuring a profitable cash flow
on existing operations. This concern can be met by technical and financial planning. The base
point of these plans is answering any question about the characteristics of the deposit. These
questions can be answered by determining and interpreting of the characteristics of a deposit in
3D. A geological model, which represents 3D spatial locations of ore deposit and surrounding
waste rocks, is developed together with the 3D spatial variations in the physical and chemical
characteristics. Besides the estimation of volume, tonnage, average deposit grade, dimensions
and orientation of mineral deposit are also predicted by developing 3D geological model in the
software environment [8].


The main purpose of the geological modeling is to develop a 3D picture of the geological
properties of mineral deposit. The modeling procedure combines the power of imagination and
mathematical formulations. Depending on the characteristics of the mineral deposits and
modeling objectives, there are various geological modeling methods. Among them the most
common applies ones are block model, gridded seam model and cross-sectional model [6].

2.1 Cross-Sectional Model

Cross-sectional method involves the preparation of set of sections crossing the major axis of the
mineral deposit (Figure 1). Boundary of the deposit is estimated by considering the thickness
and assay of ore [4]. It is stated that the defined cross-sections are linked to each other by
linear interpolation and it is assumed that there is a gradual change from one section to the
next one. Grade of the deposit is estimated in two ways. The first one is using drillholes’ area of
influence and the second one is using gridded model. This technique is generally most suitable
for massive type deposits [1].

Figure 1: Cross-Sectional Model (Mirabediny, 1998)

2.2 3D Block Model

Block modeling technique is more suitable for vein, irregular massive and disseminated type
deposits. This modeling technique can also be applied to steeply dipping strata type deposits
and to very thick coal seams. In general identification, block modeling technique is the
collection of three dimensional set of blocks. X, Y and Z dimensions of the blocks are decided
primarily depended on mineral deposit geometry, objectives of the model and available data
(Figure 2). Each block can be specified by the X, Y, and Z coordinate at the center of the block
and includes the percentage values for each item of interest. For instance, in a porphyry copper
deposit, the blocks may contain, in addition to the percentage copper, the percentage of zinc,
lead, waste, totaling 100%. Density of each block can also be included in the blocks [1], [6].

Figure 2: Block Model Application (Mirabediny, 1998)

2.3 Gridded Seam Model

A gridded seam model (GSM) is more convenient for estimating grade in seam or tabular type
deposits. A GSM working principle is similar to a standard block model, with two exceptions.
The first one is that, each block in GSM may have a variable height, unlike block model.
Therefore, the crated blocks in a layer describe the thickness and extent of a mineral deposit
such as a lignite seam. The second one is that GSM supports sparse model concept. In this
concept, only the layers of interest are modeled. Layers between the seams (interburden) are
excluded from the model. The input data must be split into material files, where each file
contains the assay data corresponding to a particular seam. The individual files are then
interpolated separately using a standard Inverse Distance Weighted (IDW) model. This method

allows interpolation to proceed for each seam and interburden without having the adjoining
seams affect the final grade estimate [5].
Gridded Seam Model (GSM) is based on the set of two-dimensional grids (matrices) and each
grid represents a surface or a value. As presented in Figure 3, these surfaces or values are
estimated by interpolation using a set of irregularity spaced data to a fixed dimension grid. GSM
is extensively used to develop geological modeling of multiple seams and other layer type
mineral deposits, because using and manipulation of data is very easy by using the developed
grids. This is the major advantage of the GSM. Therefore, characteristics of mineral deposit
such as thickness, grades can be easily added, subtracted, multiplied, divided or can be
compared to arrive to other sets of data. Also some logical operations such as “AND” and “OR”,
can be conducted in GSM. For instance, the thickness of ore deposit can be estimated by
subtracting the lowest structure from the top structure. The other important advantage of GSM
needs lower disk space because after defining the reference point, locations of the others can
be calculated easily by the software. In other words, there is no need to store all easting and
northing coordinates. In addition, drawing contour lines and volumetric calculations of map
modifications are much faster using gridded seam model. Working principle of GSM is presented
in Figure 4 [1], [6].

Figure 3: Gridded Seam Model (Badiozamani, 1992)

Figure 4: Grid Modeling (Mirabediny, 1998)


Interpolation is the estimation of block (grid) grades from a mathematical algorithm that
populates the block model (gridded seam model). This requires the setup of project dimensions,
definition of block (grid) size and the search neighborhoods. The interpolation method is
dependent upon a number of factors including the number of domains and the exploration grid.
Both classical statistical and geostatistical analyses will indicate the interpolation method to be
applied, which could be Inverse Distance Weighting or Ordinary Kriging. The initial data file will
be composite to equal length to avoid bias and to fit the geometry of the geological contacts
The first stage of interpretation is collecting the related data about mineral deposit. This data
type can be various such as drillhole logs, topographical and survey maps, cross-sections,
digital maps, etc. Then a database should be constructed to make possible use of different data
type. The mine planning software packages have a database construction module. Therefore,
huge amount of data can be validated to check the possible errors conducted by users.
Topographic and survey maps can be used to develop 3D visualization of the topography and
estimation of overburden amount. On the other hand, the drillhole log data is used to develop
drillhole database and 3D visualization of drillholes. When this type of database is constructed,
mainly two types of files are built. The first is the collar file which contains coordinate data,
collar elevation and depth of each drillhole. The second one is attribute file, which contains
sample grades, density and lithology. The connection between these files is done by a key
variable. Generally drillhole name is used as a key variable. This means that drillhole name is
used in each file.
In geological modeling, the most important process is collection and editing of the related data.
If an error is made in data collection stage and if it is not detected, it may result in inaccurate
interpretation and improper results about the mineral deposit. The improper decision may lead
to the wrong decisions. Therefore, after entering the data to database, it should be validated
and edited. The other important point for proper interpretation is deciding the most suitable
interpretation technique. The popular techniques are kriging and inverse distance weighted
methods (IDW). If the collected data is suitable, kriging may be selected because it has some
advantages when compared with IDW.


In this study, a lignite reserve in Orta (Çankırı, Turkey) is evaluated. This reserve has two main
seams and one main interbed. Although lignites of Pliocene Orta formation show a regular
extent, they are occurred in a specified part of the basin. Lignite formations within Miocene
deposits have no regular and continuous extent [9].
Kaolinite-rich clay layers interbeded with low quality lignite seams are found within a
depositional basin surrounded by volcanic and pyroclastic rocks in Orta area. Limestones of
Early Mesozoic age, andesitic pyroclastics, and, andesitic basaltic lavas and tuffs of Miocene age
constitute the basement rocks for the formations involving lignite seams [10].

4.1 Applying GSM to the Case Study

In this study, data from 60 drillholes is used to evaluate the Orta lignite reserve. A database is
constituted and loaded to the software, Micromine 11. This database includes data namely
coordinate of the drillholes, lithology and calorie of in-situ lignite and washed lignite, depth and
z value of drillholes. Locations of the drillholes and reserve outline are shown in Figure 5.


Figure 5: Location of Drillholes and Boundary of the Reserve

Each drillhole log is investigated carefully and lignite seams are detected for each drillhole. This
deposit contains two coal seams and one interbed. Understanding and presentation of the
geological model is a critical factor prior to resource estimation because different estimation
model is applied for different type of deposit. Gridded Seam Model (GSM) is most suitable for
the estimation of tonnage and average calorific value. In Micromine 11 environment, GSM is
applied for this deposit.
At first, reserve outline (boundary) is defined by using the location of drillholes. An assay and a
coordinate file are prepared by using the drillhole logs and these files are used to create
drillhole database, which compatible with GSM working principle, in the software environment.
The zone from-to depths, valuable lignite and interbed thickness and their designated codes
(ex. Seam1, Seam2, Inter) are loaded to the software drillhole database.
The next important point is selecting the proper grade estimation technique. IDW method is
applied to interpretation because the calorific data for samples are not suitable for application
of kriging. Radius of search ellipsoid is selected as 250 m and circle form. This ellipsoid is
divided four equal quarters. A constraint is also defined as that during the interpretation two
drillhole which are nearest to the target (center of search ellipsoid) for each quarter. This
means that maximum eight data is used to estimate calorific value of a grid.

4.2 Tonnage and Average Calorific Value of Lignite in Place

As mentioned above, the reserve is composed of two seams and each seam is evaluated
independently from each other. Therefore, detailed information about average calorific value,
calorific distribution map, amount of lignite of each seam is defined in the mine planning
software environment. Grid size is selected as 5x5 m in X and Y directions. Size is selected as
small as possible to fit well to the lignite seams. Thickness of each grid is defined by the
software to fit the seams thickness. The detailed descriptive statistics information about
constructed grids’ thickness is given in Figure 6.

Figure 6: Descriptive Statistics about Constructed Grid Thickness

As seen in Figure 6, 501,033 grids are constructed. Inverse Distance Weighted Method (IDW) is
selected as interpolation technique to estimate average calorific value of each constructed grid.
During the interpolation process, 2D Index Number and Material Number are also written for
each grid. After the interpolation method is applied, the GSM file is converted to Block Model file
by using the related Micromine 11 module. After the conversion, number of obtained block
number is increased to 4,667,725. This means that the seams and interbed are divided into
4,667,725 pieces (blocks) and the software estimated calorific value of each block. After that,
each seam’s average calorific value, amount and calorific distribution are estimated. Beside
lignite seams, amount of interbed is also defined. In the drillhole database, calorific value of
washed lignite is also supplied. Therefore, grade distribution of washed lignite is also estimated
by using the same method. The calorific value distribution for in-situ and washed lignite for
upper seam and lower seam are given in Figure 7 and Figure 8 respectively.


In-Place Lignite Washed Lignite

Figure 7. Calorific Value Distribution for In-Situ Lignite and Washed Lignite for Upper Seam


In-Place Lignite Washed Lignite

Figure 8. Calorific Value Distribution for In-Place Lignite and Washed Lignite for Lower Seam

Lower seam’s extend is smaller than upper seam. There are some gaps in the defined reserve
boundary for lower seam and they are shown white in Figure 8. After applying block model to
GSM, detailed information about the calorific value of each seam is obtained. Block model
report for in-situ and washed lignite calorific values are given in Table 1 (upper seam) and
Table 2 (lower seam).

Table 1: Block Model Report for Upper Seam



0 500 3925653 417.9 3925653 417.9
500 1000 39826195 739.4 43751848 710.6
1000 1500 2700900 1148.2 46452748 736.0
1500 2000 0 0 46452748 736.0
2000 5000 0 0 46452748 736.0


0 500 26482 261.6 26482 261.6
500 1000 1338035 856.3 1364517 844.8
1000 1500 9638939 1291.1 11003456 1235.8
1500 2000 27881351 1744.8 38884807 1600.7
2000 5000 7567941 2300.9 46452748 1714.8

Table 2. Block Model Report for Lower Seam



0 500 5762449 324.85 5762449 324.85
500 1000 23584495 735.14 29346944 654.58
1000 1500 1570900 1119.72 30917844 678.21
1500 2000 38100 1564.39 30955944 679.3
2000 5000 0 0 30955944 679.3


0 500 1366854 298.44 1366854 298.44
500 1000 3002009 765.36 4368863 619.27
1000 1500 8365305 1295.47 12734168 1063.48
1500 2000 13969533 1731.06 26703701 1412.71
2000 5000 4252243 2219.51 30955944 1523.54

As shown in Table 1 and Table 2, in-situ average calorific values of upper and lower seams are
about 736 kcal/kg and 679 kcal/kg respectively. Average washed lignite calorific value of upper
and lower seams are 1714 kcal/kg and 1523 kcal/kg respectively. Lignite amount of the upper
seam is 46,452,748 m3 and 30,955,944 m3 for the lower one. Beside this information about the
reserve, amount of overburden is estimated as 65,564,465 m3 by GSM and 3D BM techniques.
Density of lignite is taken as 1 gr/cm3.
To get more information about the reserve and detect possible faults that cross the lignite
seams, some cross-sections are taken in the software environment. They are presented in
Figure 9a and 9b.

E to W

N to S

Figure 9a. Cross-Sections Taken from the Lignite Reserve

NW to SE

NE to SW

Figure 10b. Cross-Sections Taken from the Lignite Reserve

As may be detected in the Figure 9a and 9b, some faults are revealed by applying GSM and 3D
BM methods. They are not detected during the drillhole stage of the project. These faults can
be seen in Figure 9a and Figure 9b. They also are listed in detail in Figure 10. During
development and production stages, these faults should be considered to prevent any accidents
in the mine.

E to W NW to SE

Figure 11. Detected Faults that Cross the Seams


Application of mine planning software to reserve estimation of mineral deposits has noticeable
advantages when compared with classical techniques. Organizing, validating and editing
process of related data is very simple in the software environment. Therefore, possible errors
made by the user or planning engineer can be detected and edited easily. Moreover, speed and
efficiency of the interpretation is satisfactory. The success of commercial 3D modeling and
visualization software packages which are used for geological modeling and reserve estimation,
is denoted by their widespread acceptance in mining industry. As a result of the success of the
mine planning software packages in virtual reality and geological predictions, large mining
enterprises regularly borrow millions of dollars of capital since developing or expanding mining
operations based on such predictions. The improvements in the capabilities of the software
packages will increase the precision in reserve estimation. Therefore, optimum technical and
economic planning can be conducted by the planning engineers with the help of the software
packages. It is essential that accurate estimation of ore and waste volumes be conducted in
order to support financial investments and to ensure profitable returns by having sufficient
reserves to supply the processing plant for the scheduled project life. Overestimation will cripple
the investment while underestimation will result in incorrect determination of the dump
destinations while financial return will be reduced [8].

In this study, a lignite reserve is evaluated by using Gridded Seam Model (GSM) which is most
suitable one for layer type deposits which has multiple seams. Geological modeling of the two
seams, one interbed and overburden is developed in Micromine 11 environment. After applying
GSM, the output file of GSM is converted to 3D block model file to get more information in
three-dimension. Therefore, reserve amount and calorific distribution of each seam is predicted.
In the drillhole logs, there are in-situ and washed lignite calorific value samples. Amount of
waste material, overburden and interburden is also estimated by the help the modeling. Besides
the reserve amount and calorific value distribution, some faults crossway the beds are also
detected. In the development and production stages of mining, these faults should be
In the upper seam, taking the density of coal as 1 g/cm3 the amount of lignite is 46,452,748
tons. In-situ and washed lignite average calorific values of upper seam are 736 kcal/kg and
1,715 kcal/kg respectively. On the other hand, in the lower seam, the amount of lignite is
30,955,944 tons. In-situ and washed lignite average calorific values of lower seam are 679
kcal/kg and 1,524 kcal/kg respectively. When the calorific values are considered, this lignite
cannot be used for house heating. Instead of that this reserve can be used in the thermal
power plant.


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