Applicability of the Mathews Stability Method to Open Stope Stability Assessment at Olympic Dam Mine
Thesis DisciplineEngineering Geology
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Olympic Dam underground mine is located in South Australia approximately 520km north-north-west of Adelaide. The copper-gold-uranium deposit is extracted by open stope mining. The empirical Mathews stability method has been applied to open stope stability forecasting at Olympic Dam for the more than 20 years. This method adjusts the rock tunneling quality index (Q’) to allow for a rock stress factor, the orientation of any discontinuity and the orientation of the geometric surface formed by the excavation. The applicability of the Mathews stability method at Olympic Dam was analysed by assessing the volume of over break outside the stope design profile. It was found that 41% of all stope surface predictions were correct, and that 59% (by difference) of all predictions were therefore incorrect. This was found to be primarily due to the method as applied at Olympic Dam, rather than the inherent errors of the Mathews stability method. However there are a number of weaknesses in the Mathews stability method including the inability to identify structural weaknesses in the rock mass, to allow for different stress concentrations around irregular shaped stopes and to account for stope relaxation. A high resolution non-linear, Hoek Brown, numerical model is capable of providing displacement, velocity and strain rates for points within a rock mass. Velocity is the modelled rate of displacement of the points within the rock mass relative to the stope profile. An existing numerical model of this sort at Olympic Dam was used to investigate the relationship of the velocity of points moving toward a stope, and the probability of them becoming over break. It was found that with increasing rates of velocity the probability of a point becoming over break increased. The identified limitations of the application of the Mathews stability method are not enough to justify removing the method from the stope design process at Olympic Dam. With the implementation of recommended improvements such as, increasing the frequency of window mapping collection, live stress measurements and detailed post-mining assessment of stopes, an increase in the methods reliability can be expected. These improvements should be incorporated in conjunction with the continued trial of velocity as a stope performance indicator at Olympic Dam.