International slope stability research

The never-ending quest to go further, faster and higher not only applies to professional sports and space science, but is also a trend reflected in the mining industry.

As rich, near-surface mineral deposits are depleted and environmental and social awareness grows, mining operators move to greater depths, pit slopes are getting higher, and modern technologies are used to excavate rocks at a much faster pace than ever before.

Similarly, the safety and economic consequences of potential failure are becoming more significant and the demand on design reliability is increasing. It is not enough to defer the solution to the production stage and hope to “fix” the problem on the run.

The Large Open Pit (LOP) project was one of several international research projects that were formed to address the mining industry’s need for more reliable design in new, challenging environments. The LOP was spearheaded by CSIRO, an Australian scientific and research organisation, with several sponsors from the mining industry. The project was supported by leading industry experts and consulting houses, and SRK was proud to participate. As stated by the LOP, the focus was “on the relationships between rock mass strength and deformability. Innovative geomechanics research is examining potential new definitions of rock mass strength criteria, the effects of pore pressures on slope failure mechanisms, and how slope failures may develop and propagate through the jointed rock mass.” 

After a number of years of international collaboration, the LOP produced Guidelines for Open Pit Slope Design, which were formally presented to the mining and geotechnical community at the Slope Stability 2009 Conference in Santiago Chile, and have become an important tool within the modern geotechnical engineer’s toolbox.

Jarek Jakubec:

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