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Mining Geotechnical Benchmarking
Vincent A. Scovazzo, Senior Geomechanics Specialist Russell P. Moran, Vice President John T. Boyd Company Pittsburgh, PA

ABSTRACT Benchmarking is a business management process that seeks improvement through the study and reapplication of practices conducted by industry leaders. This discussion presents objectives and organization of benchmarking applied to mining geomechanics. Similar procedures have been successfully applied to mining companies, laboratories, and research organizations involved in mining geomechanics throughout the world. Benchmarking is a structured process that allows an organization to learn from the ''best'' in the field. The objectives of benchmarking vary depending on the company's targeted areas for improvements. Typical goals include ground control cost reduction, enhanced safety, optimization of geotechnical staffing, development of state-of-the-art design procedures, or the adoption of the "best in the field" geotechnical data management. Once the objective of the study is established and the practices and procedures to be benchmarked are s formed from identified, a benchmarking team 1 internal and outside specialists. Benchmarking in geomechanics is fundamentally different than in most other fields because of the effects of local geologic conditions and regulations, both of which must be understood by all on the benchmarking team, before a comparative analysis can be made. INTRODUCTION Benchmarking is an established procedure used to compare a process within an organization to the same, but the best-in-the-field, process in another organization. Basically, it is learning from the best and applying standards to achieve or surpass the best.

As applied to rock mechanics, benchmarking is a procedure that establishes the existing level of effort and technology a nation, company, or mine applies in the various fields of rock mechanics. Benchmarking looks at how rock (and soil) mechanics techniques and management are undertaken and compares this to either world practice, national practice, accepted engineering practice, and/or recommended practice for a particular mine type in a particular geologic setting. Mining geotechnical benchmarking should be performed by a geotechnical engineer that is an expert in the field of mining rock mechanics heading a team of other geologic and mining professionals. The objective of such a study is to critique geotechnical programs and procedures and to develop recommendations applicable to site-specific conditions to raise the standard of engineering, safety, and productivity. The process conforms to company needs and site conditions, but typical programs and procedures investigated include: Rock mechanics testing, data gathering, information management. Staffing levels and qualifications. Organizational hierarchy. Geotechnical software availability and usage. Qualification of outside contractors and consultants. Design standards, codes of practice, and risk management programs. Interdepartmental(geotechnical, geology, engineering, administration, etc.) communications. Procurement, ~nstallation, and cost control of support systems.


In the past the process was typically completed as part of an overall and more encompassing benchmarking study, but recently it has become common to complete a mining geotechnical benchmarking as a stand-alone exercise.

However. Benchmarking may be the most efficient and indeed the fastest way to improve a company's rock mechanics program because it directs one to processes that work and reduces the learning and implementation time for these processes. slope failures. practice. Design methods . Selected practices and procedures outside the organization that could be adopted to improve operations and designs. Information Management Including data collection methods. its coverage and density. and material volume included in incidents). Typical team makeup is: One to four technical staff are assigned from the outside independent organization with the geotechnical engineer as benchmarking team leader. . For example. It is at this point that the extent of client buy-in is established along with commitment of resources. final). Geotechnical Staffing . and continuing education and training. the benchmarking is to improve engineering procedures. and how this data is managed after collection. codes of Geotechnicalengineer(s). if this undertaking is part of a larger benchmarking process to improve overall underground mine economics of an entire company. preliminary. while internal client team members may also vary." The client should be queried to determine the client's objectives and how the results will be applied. The size of the team depends on the number and complexity of the activities being benchmarked. adequacy of the data being collected. design procedures. effectiveness of present designs. study site geology and its influence on benchmarking factors. - - The Team The benchmarking team should be carefully selected and tailored to the client and benchmarking objectives. After these points are established. In the end. and regulatory settings vary greatly among mining companies. and roof support systems. Outside reviewers may be one to four individuals. If. - All members of the outside team will visit the mine operation at least once. a set of standard steps are foiiowed with input of the sponsor mining company's geotechnical and management staffs. the client is made aware of what can realistically be accomplished. so sufficient time is needed to understand the constraints of these factors before comparisons and recommendations are made. Whether the costs in support systems are justified and are being controlled. What to Benchmark Identifying topics to benchmark depends on project objectives and whether mining geotechnical benchmarking is part of a larger benchmarking process. The Client The first step in any benchmarking study is to establish who will use the resultsin benchmarking terms. four technical staff from the mining wmpany will participate as the wmpany benchmarking team members and may include the following specialists: . The impact of local regulations on ground control and thus cost of regulation on mine economics. The outside organization's members of the benchmarking team may include the following senior specialists: To accomplish these many goals. level of education. then the rock mechanics portion of the evaluation may concentrate on the geotechnical staff size. the emphases may be on data gathering and management.Mining geologist . and supplies) and overhead costs compared to results as measured by stability factors and frequency of incidents (roof falls. to relate findings and -Mining engineer conclusions to operational considerations and production costs. One or two of these specialists will return for additional meetings. on the other hand.Including appropriate methodology that considers data availability and stage of mine planning (i. The main goal is to learn from the best by worldwide comparison. specialists in the staff. Benchmarking is often undertaken with an outside organization to provide objectivity. material. Effectiveness Including operating costs (labor. geologic.. The impact of geology on ground control and how much can be reasonably accomplished with a given set of ground conditions. Generally. this individual is referred to as the "client. the study should provide a clearer understanding of: How the mining company staffs and manages ground control programs.Including number of department personnel. their job types.19th CONFERENCE ON GROUND CONTROL IN MINING Benchmarking can move a mining company from making geotechnical decisions based solely on poorly substantiated experience to fact-based decision-making.e. The following are benchmarking subjects: commonly considered . and measurement of performance such as in a surface mine by number of slides and slide volume per ton of waste removed.

rock mechanics benchmarking headed by an outside organization could be perceived as criticism of the company. effectiveness of geotechnical designs. the company team specialists may vary from mine to mine. and following the site visits. The mine geologist. - For a benchmarkingstudy involving multiple mines. etc. Analvsis of the Initial Data Data Collection Data collection in benchmarking is vital in order to understand the geologic and regulatory settings of the mine. or technician responsible for maintainingthe geologic model. the company team members should assemble all applicable governmental regulations. 2) to understand the level of effort required for geotechnical design. it is necessary to further discuss. have a direct impact on geotechnical design. To obtain a clear understanding of these various limits. 2. training manuals. It is important that these questions are formulated as "how" and not as "how much" since benchmarking is aimed more toward process evaluation. Study the approval process and the effects of regulations on geotechnical design.19th CONFERENCE ON GROUND CONTROL IN MINING . At this initial stage. Preparation of open-ended questions helps in understanding the limitations of the outside team's knowledge of the site that will need to be addressed. the impact of local geology Outside team members should not assume they fully understand the geologic and regulatory settings until after the mine visit. For example: The better question is. or the company's procedures resulting in an adversarial relationship among benchmarking team members. hydrogeologist. and risk management programs. It is management's responsibility to inform employees and promote the benefits of how it will advance the company and its geotechnical staff. The team is notified of the deficiencies so that additions and clarifications can be developed by the mine staff. many countries dictate a specific pillar equation to be used. The initial data collected and sent to the benchmarking team well before the first site visit will be general in nature regarding geology. Data is collected before. This comparison allows for the identification of low performance areas that are then targeted for specific attention during the benchmarking visit. Prepare questions for the internal members of the benchmarkingteam. and 3) the importance of rock mechanics within the organization. Without buy-in by all involved. codes of practice. Review and understand the general mine geotechnical data and collection methods. "How do you design roof support?" and not "How many rock bolts are installed across an entry?" Knowing that the number of bolts is less or more than normally installed in similar conditions throughout the world is less important than knowing how this number was determined. Study the geologic setting. 4. during. - - benchmarking process commences is imperative. etc. The forwarded information is reviewed by the outside team members to develop 1) a general understanding of the geologic and regulatory setting. it is far more effective to adjust the procedure. permit conditions. Open-ended questions for mine personnel are developed to determine the background behind identified problem areas or low performance. 3. Regulations. regulations. the company team members. The mine level geotechnical engineer (if such a position exists). mine geotechnical needs.T h e senior level geotechnical engineer or individual presently responsible for these duties. etc. during the site visit. The team needs to obtain an understanding of the local geology so that the applied rock mechanics n benchmarked against companies in sim~lar geologic conditions or relative degree of structural complexity. the outside geotechnical engineer leading the benchmarking team will communicate with the mine's staff and will prepare a data request to characterize the geologic setting. a review of the geology before the . If the design procedure is below world standards. The mine production engineer. The information sent should be sufficient to allow the outside team members to: 1. minimum bolting requirements. Thus. the minimum rock thickness between the mine and bottom of a large body of water. the safety factors applied to slopes. approved plans. The type of data collected depends on the project stage. Preparation of Open-ended Questions Open-ended questions are a benchmarking technique that allows the mine staff to respond with clarifying remarks and supporting data. The general mine geotechnical data is compared to other mine data in similar geologic and regulatory environments.. For instance. authorizations. A thorough understanding of the mine's geology and hydmgeology is needed for the geotechnical engineer to understand what rock mechanics principles will need to be applied. Com~anv and Mine Site Visits Although the geology has already been reviewed by the outside team members. and geomechanics.

One to two days is normally required to complete a single mine site visit. and oversight.. Review the mine's geotechnical staffing.g. A large staff may be compartmentalized making quick response to problems sometimes impractical. discussions on the impact of regulatory requirements on geotechnical designs are held. education. Observe mine conditions and equipment operation in these conditions (e.). mine groups. Subsequent calculations and analyses may be performed. The outside team will provide opinion of the appropriate benchmark. If the objective is to determine what is "best" within the corporation. Review any rock mechanics research underway at the mine. a large geotechnical stafl may be considered by some as the "best. After these sessions. etc. cutting rates. and the procedures followed. monitoring. results and tabulations. parts of the benchmarking may need to be repeated. then the comparison is made between mines.. floor. findings. time is allotted to discuss procedures. clearance. and recommendations. core storage procedures. If the objective is to compare to 'korld's best. This portion of the visit is led by a geologist most familiar with the mine conditions and local geology. other products of benchmarking may include design and training manuals. thus presenting safety as well as economic concerns.19th CONFERENCE ON GROUND CONTROL IN MINING on geotechnical design and mining. An example of corrective action could be development of a new code of practice for secondary support at a mine suffering from frequent roof falls. This is a continuation of the comparisons made before the site visits where specific low performance items or problem areas were targeted for benchmarking. or divisions. For instance. highwall management. and risk management programs. Each mine to be benchmarked should be visited to observe conditions." then this case has to be established from an existing or developed database. From this the corporation can select the "best" and adopt this procedure corporatewide. and experience and the responsibility of the staff. He can have an immediate impact on geotechnical procedures and staffing both of which directlv relate to increasina safetv and rehucing cost. and develop and ask new questions for mine site staff. roof bolting. roof. Review ongoing rock mechanics programs in the areas of designs." but a large staff may be inappropriate. Drilling. and engineering procedures throughout the world. or further research undertaken to establish the underlying reasons for performance problems and to recommend corrective action. A short meeting with the mine planner and mine superintendent to determine the Interaction between the geotechnical personnel and engineering and management is helpful. It is an efficient way to make improvements as it measures performance and compares it to processes that others have already proved effective. An individual experienced in mining geotechnical benchmarking understands the impact the local geologic and regulatory settings on mining rock mechanics. etc. If the study is part of a more general operational underground benchmarking. rib. organization. In addition to a report. sampling. Tasks and areas addressed during the mine site visit typically include: Clarify geology by direct observation of outcrops. codes of practice. slope walls. Discussions are held with the mine level geotechnical and geologic personnel (if so staffed) or personnel assigned to complete these tasks. trafficability. Analysis of Data and DeveloDment of Recommendations Tabulation of collected data and analysis depends on the objectives of the benchmarking and comparisons to be made. The outside team members should undertake the first analysis and preparation of the draft report. The internal members of the team should review and report is issued. Similarly. Conclusion Benchmarking is a widely accepted business tool that has improved business practices. and manning level. research. A followup mine visit and meeting for revlew and discussion before the final report is recommended. subsidence. manufacturing processes. and retained core. . Establish the mine's geotechnical engineer's position within the organization. This report should present the benchmarking procedures. bump control. time study on bolting may be warranted. plan the mine site visits. comment on these finding before a f~nal If the team members are in disagreement on any of the recommendations. Determine the level of support by corporate and government rock mechanics programs to the mine in the way of design.