School of Civil Engineering

An impressive $4-million cash injection from industry marked the beginning of the next phase of research for a large-scale geotechnical project headed up by UQ experts.

Professor David Williams and Dr Mehdi Serati have managed the Large Open Pit Project (LOP) from UQ’s civil engineering home base, since 2017, and they recently secured the management of further funding to begin phase three of the project, which will run until 2022.

 “The LOP links innovative mining geomechanics and geotechnical engineering research with best practice in open pit mining,” Professor Williams said.

“Australia is a leader in open-pit mining, driven by a forward-thinking industry.

“The LOP has provided a focus for research for the past 15 years and, since 2017, allowing us to collaborate and advance the safety and risk components of open pit mines.

“The Project also ensures that the industry can maintain its immensely valuable contribution to the Australian economy into the future, with mining generating around AUD 250 billion annually and employing about 15 per-cent of the Australian workforce,” Professor Williams said.

The primary focus for researchers during this three-year term will be to create a roadmap for ‘The Open Pit of the Future’.

Together with international industry partners and research colleagues, the team will bring together cutting-edge knowledge around large open pit design, operation and closure, supporting future trends, including the interaction with underground mines, and deeper and even more technology-driven unmanned and automated operations.

Dr Serati said the team aimed to produce a new generation of pit slope design guidelines that incorporated everything from the fundamentals of slope design and rock mass characterisation, through to 3D geotechnical modelling, slope monitoring techniques, controlled blasting and open pit closure.

“In open pit mining, the design of the slopes is one of the major challenges at every stage of planning, through operation to closure, and requires specialised knowledge of the geology and material geotechnical parameters, which is often complex,” said Dr Serati.

“Good open pit design also requires an understanding of the practical aspects of design implementation, so we need to work collaboratively to cover all of these elements and produce industry-wide best practice guidelines.

“Australia has some of the largest open pit mines in the world, which are reaching ever greater depths, and the LOP Guidelines are vital in ensuring coverage of all of the important design aspects.”

The LOP is recognised as the premier international research and technology transfer body representing the technical disciplines contributing to large open pits and supporting future trends.

The LOP fosters close collaboration between industry and researchers, which is essential to meeting industry’s need to continuously innovate.

A key aim of the LOP is to ensure that the mining industry is a safe, prosperous and environmentally friendly contributor to society.

The industry sponsors for LOP III (third phase) include Anglo American, Anglo Gold Ashanti, BHP, Debswana, Fortescue Metals Group, McArthur River Mining, Newcrest Mining, Rio Tinto and Vale, with other companies being encouraged to join.

See the Guidelines for Open Pit Slope Design and other authoritative guides for current practitioners or learn more about the LOP Project’s research areas and findings.