Probabilistic Pit Slope Design In The Limpopo Metamorphic Rocks At Venetia Mine

Barnett, W.
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 12
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2001
The Limpopo Metamorphic Belt is a complex geological terrane with at least three major deformational events. Tectonically juxtaposed lithology, open to isoclinal folding, crosscutting and re-activated shear zones and metamorphic gneisses and schists make pit slope design and maintenance a risky business. Venetia diamond mine?s Cut 3 is planned to reach 360 m by 2011. The difficult rockmass created problems in the original pit and a new more comprehensive slope design was necessary. Nearly 9 km of geotechnical drilling were undertaken to produce a new geological model and provide geotechnical information near the final Cut 3 face. All existing data from the pit were brought together into a database. SRK Consulting were brought into the project to audit the process and provide most of the manpower for the data analysis. Existing failures were back-analysed and the geotechnical domains identified. Analyses of only the southern domains are discussed in this paper. Geotechnical engineers can design slopes at any angle, but it is up to the managers at the mine to decide what risk they are willing to accept in a slope design. Once the issue of risk was discussed and settled in respect of the consequences of failure, each of the main geotechnical domains were analysed to produce a slope design at5% probability of failure with 15% above the first ramp. A risk assessment of the design was then undertaken to determine what risk the design placed on the equipment, personnel and the profitability of the overall mining operation. The risk assessment indicated minimal risk to the operation. One of the main assumptions of the final design is that the pit slopes will be dewatered. A project was immediately put in place to determine a groundwater model for the mine and to thereby determine the best dewatering procedure. However, it should be obvious that it is practically impossible to prevent benches from getting briefly saturated with water during storm conditions. It was therefore necessary to look specifically at supporting the crests of the ramps in the problematic southern domains to guard against the possibility of crest failure during heavy rains. The data available were re-analysed toward this objective. Spiles were recommended as the most cost-effective support system, and a probabilistic approach was used in the design. The final design has a 5% probability of failure, and the analyses indicate a strong sensitivity of the required spile spacing to the strength of the reinforcement material that will eventually be used. The pit slope parameters derived as per the discussion in this paper have just begun to be implemented at Venetia Mine.
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