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Numerical Analysis of Block Caving-Induced Instability in Large Open Pit Slopes WEB

Numerical Analysis of Block Caving-Induced Instability in Large Open Pit Slopes WEB

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This paper addresses one of the most challenging problems in mining rock engineering - the interaction between block cave mining and a large overlying open pit. The FEM/DEM modelling approach was utilized in the analysis of block caving-induced step-path failure development in a large open pit slope. Analysis indicated that there is a threshold percentage of critical intact rock bridges along a step-path failure plane that may ensure stability of an open pit throughout caving operations. Transition from open pit to underground mining at Palabora mine presents an important example of a pit wall instability triggered by caving. Using combined FEM/DEM-DFN modelling it was possible to investigate the formation of a basal failure surface within an open pit slope as a direct result of cave mining. The modelling of Palabora highlighted the importance of rock mass tensile strength and its influence on caving-induced slope response.
This paper addresses one of the most challenging problems in mining rock engineering - the interaction between block cave mining and a large overlying open pit. The FEM/DEM modelling approach was utilized in the analysis of block caving-induced step-path failure development in a large open pit slope. Analysis indicated that there is a threshold percentage of critical intact rock bridges along a step-path failure plane that may ensure stability of an open pit throughout caving operations. Transition from open pit to underground mining at Palabora mine presents an important example of a pit wall instability triggered by caving. Using combined FEM/DEM-DFN modelling it was possible to investigate the formation of a basal failure surface within an open pit slope as a direct result of cave mining. The modelling of Palabora highlighted the importance of rock mass tensile strength and its influence on caving-induced slope response.

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Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering Journal. Volume 43, Number 1 / February(2010), 21 - 39. TOP 5 - 2011/2012.1
Numerical Analysis of Block Caving-InducedInstability in Large Open Pit Slopes: A FiniteElement / Discrete Element Approach
Vyazmensky A.
1
, Stead D.
2
, Elmo D.
3
, Moss A.
4
(1) Senior Geotechnical Engineer, Copper Projects Group. Rio Tinto Ltd., Vancouver,Canada
Mailing address: Dr. Alex Vyazmensky. Rio Tinto Ltd. Copper Projects. 354-200 Granville St., Vancouver,BC, Canada, V6C 1S4E-mail:alex.vyazmensky@riotinto.com(alt.alex.vyazmensky@gmail.com) 
(2) Professor, Department of Earth Science, Simon Fraser University. Vancouver,Canada(3) Rock Mechanics Specialist, Mining Group. Golder Associates Ltd., Vancouver,Canada(4) General Manager - Technology and Innovation, Copper Projects Group. Rio Tinto Ltd., Vancouver, Canada
Abstract:
This paper addresses one of the most challenging problems in mining rock engineering -the interaction between block cave mining and a large overlying open pit. TheFEM/DEM modelling approach was utilized in the analysis of block caving-induced step- path failure development in a large open pit slope. Analysis indicated that there is athreshold percentage of critical intact rock bridges along a step-path failure plane thatmay ensure stability of an open pit throughout caving operations. Transition from open pit to underground mining at Palabora mine presents an important example of a pit wallinstability triggered by caving. Using combined FEM/DEM-DFN modelling it was possible to investigate the formation of a basal failure surface within an open pit slope asa direct result of cave mining. The modelling of Palabora highlighted the importance of rock mass tensile strength and its influence on caving-induced slope response.
Keywords:
block caving; open pit 
 – 
block cave mining interaction; slope stability; numerical modelling; FEM/DEM; DFN 
 
Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering Journal. Volume 43, Number 1 / February(2010), 21 - 39. TOP 5 - 2011/2012.2
1. Introduction
Low cost and high efficiency are making block caving an attractive option for thecontinuation of mining activities at large open pit operations that otherwise areapproaching their economic limits. A few such projects have been implementedand many more are being planned, including, but not limited to, the world largestopen pit mines, Bingham Canyon (USA) and Chuiquicamata (Chile). Recentimplementation of block caving at a large open pit mine at Palabora (South Africa) illustrates that transition projects can be successfully carried out andachieve targeted ore output. At the same time however, this mine encountered aseries of geotechnical issues, including cave induced subsidence that triggered afailure of the North pit wall. This development highlighted the need for a better understanding of the complex response of pit slopes to caving. This paper examines the mechanisms leading to block caving-induced failure of large openpit slopes, using the FEM/DEM modelling technique, focusing on step-pathdriven failure and presenting preliminary FEM/DEM-DFN analysis of thePalabora mine failure.
2. Transition from Open Pit to Block Cave Mining
For an optimum open pit operation, pit slopes will have been designed close tothe limit of their stability (Stacey and Terbrugge 2000). Potential slope instabilityinduced by caving operation may have an adverse impact on the mininginfrastructure and affect reserve recovery. Caving operations require highupfront investments and are inflexible once commenced. Considering thesecircumstances a reliable assessment of the interaction between the developingcave and the existing open pit is of particular importance for the successfuladaptation of block cave mining. Open pit - underground block cave transitionprojects should be designed with full consideration of the high sensitivity of largeopen pit slopes to caving-induced deformation.
 
Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering Journal. Volume 43, Number 1 / February(2010), 21 - 39. TOP 5 - 2011/2012.3
 According to Eberhardt et al. (2007) rock engineering interactions involved withtransition projects are complex. On surface, pit wall slopes frequently exceedheights of several hundred metres and the potential for deep-seated, stress-controlled rock slope failures is becoming more of an issue compared to bench-scale, structurally-controlled wedge failures. Block caving by its very designresults in an almost immediate response of the rock mass leading to deformationand surface subsidence. Beck and Pfitzner (2008) emphasized the forecastingand characterization of underground - slope interaction as one of the mostchallenging tasks in rock mechanics. Unfortunately, to the
authors’ knowledge,
slope stability issues related to open pit - caving interaction have to date receivedrelatively limited attention in the published literature.Flores and Karzulovic (2004) performed a detailed analysis of the subsidenceassociated with open pit/cave interaction, using the continuum code FLAC2D anda limit equilibrium technique. Eberhardt et al. (2007) compared application of FLAC2D and UDEC in the analysis of cave induced slope deformations. Their results demonstrated that both the magnitude and shape of the subsidenceprofile modelled can vary as a function of modelling approach (continuum
vs
.discontinuum), constitutive model (elastic
vs.
elasto-plastic), and geometry of thediscontinuity network. The authors indicated that one significant limitation of conventional continuum and discontinuum numerical analyses is their inability toexplicitly account for brittle fracture processes, and their subsequent role inunderground-surface mine interactions.Beck and Pfitzner (2008) provide example applications of the three dimensionalcontinuum code ABAQUS (Simulia 2007) to the analysis of interaction betweenan open pit and block cave and two neighbouring block caves. They proposed aset of milestones to assess caving-induced interaction and employed dissipatedplastic energy and plastic strain as interaction indicators.Elmo et al. (2007b, 2008) adopted a FEM/DEM-DFN methodology for modellingopen pit - block cave interaction. A series of conceptual models were runinvestigating the effect of joint orientation, stress ratio and rock mass strength on

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