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Journal of Mining Science, Vol. 45, No.

2, 2009



Roussos Dimitrakopoulos and Nikki Grieco

UDC 622.013

This paper adopts risk-based concepts developed in open pit mining to the underground stoping environment and shows examples using data from Kidd Creek Mine, Ontario, Canada. Risk is quantified in terms of the uncertainty a conventional stope design has in expected: contained ore tones, grade and economic potential. In addition, a new probabilistic mathematical formulation optimizing the size, location and number of stopes in the presence of grade uncertainty is outlined and applied, to demonstrate the advantages of a user-defined level of acceptable risk. Stope design, risk analysis, optimization, stochastic simulation, economic evaluation INTRODUCTION

Risk is present in all facets of mining be it technical, financial or environmental [1]. When determining the feasibility of a project the uncertainty associated with all sources must be considered and contingences are made. Geological uncertainty is a major component of technical uncertainty along with mining, and has been isolated as a primary source of a risk affecting the viability of projects, and is recognized as the key factor responsible for many mining failures [2, 3]. Hence, the necessity to quantify a geological risk is well appreciated. Modeling of geological uncertainty in a mineral resource can be achieved through conditional simulation technologies. The last few years in open pit mining these technologies have been coupled with methods for mine design optimization to assess a risk in conventionally generated mine designs and production schedules. The approach allows planners to anticipate fluctuations in key project parameters that would otherwise be impossible [4 6]. These studies have also documented that conventional methods may be misleading in their forecasts as they assume certainty. Recent developments in open pit mining show that direct integration and management of inherent grade risk in mine design and planning have begun [7 9] and provides the opportunity to generate substantially more profitable mine designs; for example, researchers in [10] report a 28 percent higher NPV from managing a geological risk. It is logical to consider how to develop concepts and similar risk-based technologies for underground mining methods. Optimization in underground mine design has had a less routine application than for open pit
McGill University, E-mail:, Montreal, Canada. Translated from FizikoTekhnicheskie Problemy Razrabotki Poleznykh Iskopaemykh, No. 2, pp. 63-74, March-April, 2009. Original article submitted June 20, 2008. 1062-7391/09/4502-0152 2009 Springer Science + Business Media, Inc.

mines. This is attributed to the diversity of underground mining methods that does not allow the production of general optimization tools. In [11] authors considered the economic optimization of stope geometry, a topic directly linked to the present study; and work on conventional stope optimizers can also be found in [12, 13]. All these approaches do not consider risk and, hence, assume the inputs are certain. Limited initial work reported combines simulated orebodies and grade risk models with conventional optimizers [14]; these however are limited in their assessment as optimization formulations are, in general, a non-linear process. Geological risk-based approaches to stope optimization that directly integrate a risk have been recently introduced [15, 16] and open the possibility to develop a risk-based underground mine design. Current efforts, however, focus on the issue of grade uncertainty. In the future these developments will be fused with geotechnical issues critical to underground mining (e.g. [17]). This paper stems from the need to explore the contribution of geological uncertainty quantification and the direct integration to stope optimization through a new, risk based approach to stope design. In the following sections a conventional stope design in a part of Kidd Creek base metal mine, Ontario, Canada, is assessed in terms of copper grade risk, to explore uncertainty in terms of upside potential as well as downside risk. Subsequently, a probabilistic mathematical programming optimization formulation is outlined and applied.

Grade risk quantification in a given underground stoping design is similar to that used in the design and production schedule of an open pit mine (e.g. [7]). The quantification process requires two main components: the design of a stoping outline generated using a conventionally estimated orebody model; a series of simulated realizations of the orebody, quantifying the uncertainty and in situ variability. By putting each realization through the stoping outline, as if the realization is the actual orebody being mined, and accounting for potential production from the design, distributions or risk profiles for the pertinent project indicators are generated, thus allowing the quantification of geological uncertainty and risk assessment for the design being considered. The Deposit and Study Area Applying the concepts outlined for quantifying the grade risk in a conventional stope design is presented with a case study involving data from Falconbridge Ltds Kidd Creek Mine. Kidd Creek is a volcanic massive sulphide deposit located in Ontario, Canada and produces about 7 000 tonnes per day [18] from two major orebodies containing silver, copper, zinc and lead, the main commodities. Production began in 1966 via an open pit mine and has extended into three underground mines reaching depths of over 2 000 m and employing various mining methods including sublevel caving, open stoping and sublevel stoping. The focus of this study is a densely drilled area located in the copper concentrated stringer ore 1 400 m below the surface in Phase I of Mine No. 3. The drillhole configuration consists of 37 drillholes with 1.5 m copper composites in nine vertical fans that are spaced approximately four meters apart. The resulting samples show a high grade zone in the central region. Statistics of 2723

TABLE 1. Declustered Data Statistics of Copper Statistic Declustered data set, % Average 2.43 Standard deviation 3.17 Maximum 27.59 75th percentile 3.00 Median 1.34 25th percentile 0.54 Minimum 0.0 declustered copper samples is given in Table 1. Mining in this region is via open stoping methods with stope sizes typically 15 m wide by 20 m long by 40 m high. Blast rings are spaced generally every three meters and have a copper cut-off of three percent. Generating Estimated and Simulated Orebody Models Conditional simulation methods aim at modeling the in situ spatial variability of a given attribute and, unlike the equivalent estimation approaches, reproduce the data histogram and spatial continuity. At Kidd Creek, the study area is first geostatistically estimated, producing 16 236 blocks within the orebody model. Blocks are estimated with a block size of 3.0 m by 3.0 m by 4.5 m, spanning 123 m in the East, extending 51 m in the North and reaching 99 m in the vertical direction. A horizontal section of this estimated model is shown in Fig. 1a. The same area of the deposit is then geostatistically simulated using the well established sequential Gaussian simulation method or SGS [19, 20]. Forty realizations of the deposit are generated on a 1.5 m by 1.5 m by 1.5 m grid of 19 880 nodes. Figure 1b shows a simulated realization of copper grades of the same horizontal section as in Fig. 1a. Both the estimated and simulated models reproduce the regions of high grade mineralization in the drillhole configuration. The figures also show the typically smooth representation of reality by the estimated model whilst the simulated realization reflects the likely in situ copper variability.

Fig. 1. Horizontal section of the (a) estimated orebody model and (b) simulated orebody model

Fig. 2. Vertical section of the stoping layout indicating two stoping levels

Risk Quantification In establishing a conventional stope design, a conceptual stoping layout recognizing potential development and stoping levels must be first determined. Due to the vertical extent of the orebody models, two potential stoping levels are configured accounting for required drilling and hauling levels (Fig. 2). It is assumed that the lower level will be mined and backfilled before the upper level is extracted. Accounting for this stoping layout, a stope outline is produced given the estimated copper grade model using DATAMINETM floating stope facility [21], hence providing a conventional design for which a risk quantification and analysis can be performed. Figure 3 shows a three-dimensional view of the conventional outline generated here incorporating both stoping levels. For the quantification of copper grade risk in this conventionally generated stope design, first, the simulated copper realizations are re-blocked into mineable rings by averaging the nodes contained within consecutive ring dimensions (15 m by 3 m by 40 m). Then, the conventional design outline is put through each of the orebody realizations and values pertaining to copper grades are recorded. It is subsequently simple to calculate for a set of realizations, such as the 40 here, the ore tonnage, metal, average grade, and revenues or any other project indicator, the corresponding histogram of possible outcomes and from that histogram statistics of interest such as the various percentiles and so on. The following discussion refers to the risk profiles of some project indicators.

Fig. 3. Conventional stope envelope


Fig. 4. Quantifying the conventional stope envelopes uncertainty in copper grade

Figure 4 depicts the risk profiles for the upper and lower stoping outlines providing a means of quantifying copper grade risk in terms of the potential average copper grade the conventional design could contain. The conventional design and approach tend to underestimate the likely contained grade in the lower stoping level, while in the upper level tends to overestimate copper grade. For analysis purposes only, the rings within the design outline that are less than three percent copper are removed to uncover how the grade uncertainty within the orebody model effects the amount of ore tonnes, metal and economic potential that could, in reality be realized. Figures 5 7 illustrate the resulting risk profiles of these parameters respectively. Figure 5 also highlights the amount of material within the original design outline before any waste rings are removed (black diamonds). This demonstrates a potential for the conventional outline (both levels) to contain up to 32 percent waste, significantly affecting the tonnes expected to reach the mill. Both Figs. 5 and 6 illustrate a generally small risk the conventional outline presents in the amount of ore and metal tonnes expected from the upper level, as the extreme grade values present a tight distribution in which the expected values fall. Figure 7 shows the results of an economic evaluation of the stoping levels using values representing the present value before tax. The figure illustrates significant risk in the conventional outlines ability to predict its potential economic value in each level. In addition, the single estimate in the lower level is 17 percent less than the average predicted economic potential expected, while the estimate in the upper level is 33 percent above this equivalent average value. Since each level will likely be mined in separate periods, the profit made in the upper level cannot compensate for the potential loss of 7 % in the lower level. This potential to incur monetary losses on production could, for example, affect monthly profits expected from this part of the mine.

Fig. 5. Quantifying the conventional stope envelopes uncertainty


Fig. 6. Quantifying the conventional stope envelopes uncertainty in contained metal

The conventional stoping design in this specific example is generally straightforward and is found to provide a reasonable assessment of the average economic value of the design. However, several points can be made, including the following: (a) the size of the study area is small and at the same time uncommonly well drilled (nearly 3 times the density of fans normally expected), thus results are not surprising; (b) if the ability to quantify risk was not available, the assessment would not be possible; and most importantly, (c) conventionally, one is unable to foresee the significant upside potential and/or downside risk the conventional design may actually produce (e.g., Table 2). In the example presented here, quantifying the risk in terms of economic potential recognizes the potential to earn 62 percent more and the risk of earning 38 percent less than expected. In dollar terms, this conventional design could be worth as little as 1.8 million dollars or as much as 5.9 million dollars. The above leads to considerations such as: (a) can grade uncertainty be, not only quantified for a design, but also employed during the design process to capture the upside economic potential of the deposit, or (b) can designs be based on a minimum acceptable risk? And, generally, can the design process manage grade risk directly and generate benefits? In the last decades, major improvements have been made to the time consuming manual approach to stope design; however, these computer-aided tools are limited in their ability to mathematically optimize the location of designs under uncertainty similarly to the optimization methods in open pit mine design. With a methodology in place for quantifying grade risk in conventional mine design, the limitations of existing computer planning and optimization tools force the development of a new optimization approach based on and integrating grade uncertainty directly into the optimization process, essentially creating a more versatile computer-aided tool.

Fig. 7. Quantifying the conventional stope envelopes uncertainty in economic potential


TABLE 2. Project Indicators Based on the Conventional Stope Design

Model Reserves, t ore metal Cu, % Economic potential, $ Economic potential difference, % 33 46 + 73 + 41

Estimate Realization 3 Realization 18 Realization 31 Realization 35

196 830 191 909 167 306 216 513 211 592

9 490 8 769 8 228 11 187 10 492

4.82 4.57 4.92 5.17 4.96

3 412 999 2 285 625 1 858 484 5 905 110 4 820 407


Mathematical programming methods provide the means of optimizing an objective function subject to a set of constraints through a mathematical formulation. Such methods allow the development of formulations that integrate grade uncertainty directly into the optimization process, as well as allow the consideration of a user selected minimum acceptable risk. In this section, a mathematical programming formulation considering the above to optimize the location of stopes in the presence of grade uncertainty is presented and used at Kidd Creek to produce a risk based design for comparisons and analysis. Optimization Formulation A mixed integer programming (MIP) formulation with the aim of locating an optimal stope layout is presented here. This optimal layout is defined by the size, location and number of stopes within an orebody model. Such a model is described as consisting of a series of layers for which each is composed of a number of rows referred to as panels, where the panels are made up of a series of rings. With multiple simulated orebodies available, each ring can be identified by a probability to be above any cut-off grade and have an average grade, hence introducing grade risk into the process. The objective function of the formulation focuses on maximizing the grade content within a layout in the presence of grade uncertainty. Maximize

gij pij Bij , where m is the number of panels within the orebody model; n is the
j =1 i =1

number of rings within a panel; pij is the probability of ring ij being above a specified cut-off; g ij is the expected grade of ring ij above the cut-off; and Bij is a binary variable representing every ring within the model and identifies whether it has been selected ( Bij = 1 ) or not ( Bij = 0 ) in the optimal layout.

The presence of simulated orebody models allows risk based designs to be generated for a given minimum level of acceptable risk specified by the planner or decision maker. The following constraint restricts the total average probability of selected rings within a panel to be greater than or equal to an assigned value representing the minimum acceptable level of risk (PL):

( pij PL)Bij 0 .
i =1

By changing the value of the minimum acceptable level of risk, PL, a number of different risk based designs can be generated, compared and assessed. Risk profiles can then be generated for the key project indicators by putting each outline through all simulated realizations, in the same procedure that was used to quantify risk in the conventional design of the previous section. A design that best suits the operational requirements can be selected with the risk being quantifiably assessed [15].

The formulation above is also constrained by limitations on the stope size; both minimum and maximum, which are a direct reflection of the geotechnical restrictions and production requirements of the area. These stope size constraints are based on the number of consecutive rings allowed to form a single stope. The size of the pillars between two primary stopes is also considered. This algorithm determines the minimum number of rings to be left un-mined between stopes and is directly related to the size of the stopes surrounding them. The larger a stope, the larger the pillar is.
Case Study at Kidd Creek

The MIP formulation for optimizing a stope as above is applied to the study area at Kidd Creek mine. Geotechnical requirements in the region restrict a given stope to consist of a minimum of two rings and a maximum of seven. Applying a cut-off grade of three percent, each ring within the reblocked orebody model (same configuration as the one used in simulation) is represented by the probability of being above three percent copper and the average copper grade above this cut-off. A risk based design with a minimum acceptable level of risk at 80 percent is generated. Figure 8 illustrates a three dimensional aspect of the resulting design layout using the simulated model with dark grey rings representing primary stopes and light grey rings the recoverable pillars. In comparing the size and shape of the conventional design outline (Fig. 3) with the new, risk based design, a notable difference in size is recognized. Introducing the minimum acceptable level of risk has limited the amount of waste (tonnes) contained within the new design as it forces the stopes within a given panel to have an average probability above 80 percent. This approach grants the planner control over the level of risk permissible within a given design. The conventional approach produces an envelope of rings for which some combination satisfies the minimum grade and size requirements and further development of a mineable stope layout is needed. The fluctuation in copper grade within the risk based design can be predicted by putting the outline through all simulated realizations generated with the SGS method, similarly to the conventional design in a previous section. Figure 9 illustrates the amount of contained material within the primary stopes and recoverable pillars, and the potential grade variation within each. Although grade uncertainty has been accounted for within these designs, the simulated realizations reflect the variability in grade within this area. The additional information shown in Fig. 9 is discussed in the next section.

Fig. 8. LP stope design layout based on SGS and 80 % acceptable level of risk


Conventional estimation approaches used for orebody modeling differ in their formulations as well as orebody models they generate from the same original dataset. Similarly, different implementations of the same method will result in somewhat different representations of the orebody being modeled. The same is also true for simulation methods and the orebody models generated, including the average ring grades and probabilities above the cut-off considered in the stope optimization approach used here. Thus, it may be of interest to consider how the stope optimization results may differ, if the orebody used was simulated independently and with a different simulation method. For this study, an alternative method is the sequential indicator simulation method or SIS [22] and was implemented independently from this study at Kidd Creek [23]. The latter study provides forty simulated realizations of the same broader domain. Figure 9 compares the two designs (both with at an 80% acceptable level of risk) in terms of the contained tonnage and grade for both the primary stoping and pillar recovery layouts. As expected these design layouts contain the same amount of tonnes with only slight variations in potential copper grade. The wider risk profile in the pillar recovery layout is not unexpected due to the limited selection of rings remaining for the second pass of the optimizer. The limited extent of pillar recovery can be explained using the same rationale. From the observations made from Fig. 10, the difference in simulation method cannot be said to affect the stoping optimizing process. Figures 10 and 11 illustrate, on a given section, the location and size of the relative stoping (dark grey) and pillar (light grey) layouts based on the simulated orebody with the two different methods at 80 % probability above cut-off set as the minimum acceptable risk. The figures reflect how the central high grade zone evident in the drillholes is consistently reproduced by both simulation techniques, as expected, and hence located by the optimization process at the specified probability constraint. The lower level stoping layouts are almost identical. In the upper level, the SGS (Fig. 11a) based layout considers a stope in the north-east part of the study area not included in the layout shown in the figure based on SIS (Fig. 11b) at the same 80 percent probability. However, if the minimum acceptable level of risk governing these designs is lowered to say, 70 %, the same part of the study area is highlighted as the location of a possible stope by the optimization based on the SIS models. The stoping layout in the upper level based on the SIS orebody models, recognizes a larger stope in the sixth panel whose extent is not considered by the layout based on the SGS models.

Fig. 9. Primary stoping layout for LP designs based on SGS and SIS orebodies and 80% acceptable level of risk

Fig. 10. Horizontal section of the risk based stope designs in the upper level from the orebodies generated with (a) SGS and (b) SIS for 80 % acceptable risk level

Fig. 11. Horizontal section of the risk based stope designs in the lower level from the orebodies generated with (a) SGS and (b) SIS for 80 % acceptable risk level

These minor differences between designs are normal and not significant. Similarly to the various conventionally used estimation methods for orebody modeling leading to variations in stope designs, different simulation methods will perform somewhat differently from each other, as their specific technical specifications and characteristics dictate. For example, SGS is based on one grade variogram whilst SIS requires multiple variograms, each for a series of grade cut-offs [22]. The discrepancies arising from different methods are more extensively documented in other areas of application of simulations such as grade control that have long been in practice [23]. Independent implementations provide a source of variance for the results, because the detailed specifications of the simulated orebody models and the parameters for their generation are different; these deviations become apparent in the stoping layouts generated.

This paper adopts and extends concepts and technologies used in managing geological risk in open pit mines to underground mining methods. It shows that geostatistical simulation technologies allow grade risk quantification in a stoping design. The example from the Kidd Creek mine, Ontario, Canada illustrates how conventional technologies cannot quantify risk, thus are unable to foresee a significant upside potential and/or downside risk for the conventionally produced designs. The example shows a conventional design could be valued from as little as 1.8 million dollars to as much as 5.9 million dollars. To provide the means of incorporating risk in stope design, geological uncertainty is integrated into the design process through a new mathematical programming formulation that uses risk grades above a cut-off value for rings within a stope, as well as geometric and other traditional constraints. An additional constraint introduced is the minimum acceptable risk allowed in a design. The application shows that the risk based approach has the ability to generate different designs that meet the pre161

specified minimum acceptable risk with a desired risk profile accommodating the selection of designs with preferred upside/downside profiles. Grade uncertainty quantification may be based on different simulation methods. A comparison of orebody models constructed independently with the sequential Gaussian and indicator simulation methods show stope designs with some variation, which is not significant and considered normal when different methods are used. The work presented here could be further developed. Such developments could include (a) the formulation of a stope optimization formulation that replaces the probability of grades above cut-off with the direct use of all available simulated orebodies, and thus integrate more geological information; (b) consider sequencing and thus accommodate risk management and/or geological risk discounting as part of the stope design process; and (c) extend to integrate geotechnical uncertainties starting from over-breaking and under-breaking.

Thanks are in order to Paul Roos and Arie Moerman from Falconbridge (now Xstrata), Kidd Creek mine who supplied the data and provided support. Mark Noppe and Jrg Benndorf for their constructive comments. Some support from McGills COSMO lab is acknowledged.


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