Currently, mining operations are progressing to deeper and more complex deposits with more challenging geological conditions, while the demand for minerals and metals continuous to grow rapidly. Ore grades are diminishing, and the valuable metals will more likely occur as refractory or trace minerals. Sustainable mining operations will require new approaches that will help to improve the ore recovery so that less ore is left behind and the ore dilution is reduced. In addition, more challenging geological environment can also result in a more hazardous working environment, if not appropriately considered in the mine planning stage. Therefore, this proposed research project will develop geophysical and geochemical characterisation of rock for the assessment and prediction of the geotechnical conditions so that safe and profitable mining operations can be maintained in the more demanding condition facing the mining industry in the future.
One of the most common methods used to extract ore in underground mines is stoping, in which the ore is mined selectively by blasting the rock and creating large open spaces known as stopes. The stopes should be designed as large as possible to minimise the unit production cost. However, large stopes often lead to problems with stability, especially if unfavourable geological features such as faults or fracture zones are present in the rock mass, which can result in ore loss and dilution. Typically, the stopes are designed with empirical methods. Evidently, to support efficient extraction in the geologically increasingly demanding conditions, we aim to develop stope design to a proactive process by introducing new characterisation and modelling methods and fast data acquisition. The key scientifically novel idea to be studied in this project is the integrated geochemical, geophysical and rock mechanical data compilation approach. The integrated stope design approach can simultaneously serve the geometallurgical optimisation of the subsequent beneficiation processes.