The Relationship between Rock Mass Conditions and Alteration and Weathering of the Lower Hamersley Group Iron Formations, Western Australia
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science (Hons)
The Pilbara region of Western Australia hosts the Hamersley Province, an area of abundant iron ore resources located in the lower Hamersley Groups, Brockman and Marra Mamba Iron Formations. This study consists of a geotechnical and a geochemical and mineralogical investigation into the Banded Iron Formation (BIF) and shale deposits of the lower Hamersley Group that reside in the pit walls of RTIO mines in Western Australia. Areas throughout Tom Price, Paraburdoo, Marandoo and West Angelas iron ore mines are geotechnically investigated for rock mass conditions through the use of the Slope Mass Rating (SMR) classification system and through point load and slake durability testing. Selected samples from these areas were then geochemically and mineralogically tested by X-ray Fluorescence (XRF), X-ray Diffraction (XRD) and microscopic analysis, to determine the geochemical and mineralogical changes of BIF and shale as they alter and weather through hypogene and supergene alteration and Recent weathering. It was found that the most efficient method for determining the alteration and/or weathering of lower Hamersley Group BIF and shale deposits was by the use of a chemical alteration index, calculated from enriched and depleted major elements in the BIF and shale as they alter and weather. It has been suggested here that this Pilbara Iron alteration index can be calculated efficiently and effectively from geochemical testing in intervals down boreholes throughout future or developing open pit mines to assist in estimating slope stability conditions. It is also suggested that many boreholes should be analysed in section or in 3D space to create cross sections or block models showing the varying extent of alteration and weathering throughout the area being studied. From the geotechnical investigation, it was found that the weakest region, in terms of pit slope stability, were the highly and extremely altered and/or weathered regions with Pilbara Iron alteration indices of between 61 and 80, and 81 and 100, respectively. If these zones are identified, slope stability analysis can be focused on these geotechnically vulnerable areas. Slope stability analysis should be completed by using a suitable technique, such as by the use of SMR, which, along with other risk identification measures, will identify potentially unstable areas and suggest the required course of action. Further hazard and risk analysis should be undertaken in potentially unstable areas and remedial measures undertaken as appropriate. Thereby, the Pilbara Iron alteration index can be used in the Hamersley Province as a predictive tool for pit slope stability.