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|In Morwell Open Cut brown coal mine, the overburden 'firehole' materials which have resulted from ancient coal fires vary-from hard baked clays to firm laminated lacustrine clays. The need to pre-strip designated areas to reduce the slope height and attain safe digging conditions for the bucket wheel excavator operation is now accepted practice at the open cut mine. In this study, the inherent spatial variability of undrained shear strength of the clay materials has been incorporated in a visco plastic, finite element based, probabilistic slope stability analysis. Data on the costs of initial pre-stripping, excavation and slope failure are collected to provide an economic basis for the optimisation of the design of the overburden batters in Morwell Open Cut. This improved stability modelling is enabling costly pre-stripping to be minimised while ensuring acceptable slope stability conditions and minimising the risk to personnel and plant.|