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Bayram Ercikdi
, Ayhan Kesimal
, Erol Yilmaz
, Recep Kaya

Department of Mining Engineering, Karadeniz Technical University, Trabzon, Turkey


This paper provides an overview of the various issues influencing ore dilution in an underground
mining. The paper reviews the dilution problem throughout the entire mining process, and provides a
rational approach to underground mine design in order to minimize dilution. The stages contributing to
dilution include orebody delineation, design and sequencing, stope development, drilling and blasting,
and production stages. Vibrations generated by the drilling-blasting operations during the ore production
could accelerate the opening of existing natural joints and cracks probably leading to the ore dilution.
The effects of drilling-blasting on stability can be determined via measurements of blast vibrations, hole
deviation, hole angle and distance of the holes to the exposed stope walls to develop controlled blasting
procedures and hence to minimize the ore dilution. Vibration measurements done have shown that
overbreaks is increasing with the high vibrations generated by the drilling-blasting operations during the
ore production.

Keywords: Ore Dilution, Drilling-Blasting, Orebody Delineation


Ore dilution is the addition of waste rock, non-
ore material and the material which is below the
cut-off grade to the ore during the mining process.
In the other words, dilution is defined as the low
grade (waste or backfill) material which comes
into an ore stream, reducing its value (Diakite,
1999). The addition of waste rock decreases ore
grade and increases the mined tonnage for a given
geological reserve. The detrimental impact of
dilution to the economics of the mining industry
has been well documented elsewhere.
Dilution is a source of direct cost as waste or
backfill material is blasted, mucked, transported,
crushed, hoisted, processed and stored as a
tailings. Dilution is also a source of indirect cost
as the dilution material may adversely affect the
metal recoveries and concentrate grades (Elbrond,
A survey of underground mines in 1988 reported
that a major factor for mine closures has been due
to uncontrolled dilution. It has been reported that
40% of open slope operations were experiencing
dilution in excess of 20%. In most cases, mining
and milling capacity is limited; this capacity is
affected by the displacement of ore by waste
within the overall mining, and processing
facilities. Dilution is always defined and
quantified with respect to a planned stope
boundary. In order to quantify dilution, an ore
body must be properly delineated and the
extracted volumes must be effectively measured
Puhakka, 1991).
Many attempts at quantification of ore losses
and rock dilution have been made and some
examples are shown in Table 1. Although they
differ widely from each other, it is obvious from
these figures that ore losses and rock dilution are
significant and have considerable effects on the
economical results of a mining operation. Life
length, cost of producing metal and the loss of
metal are all affected.
Due to a variety of uncertainties, to inevitable
lack of precision in deposit estimation and in mine
planning, and due to production constraints, ore
losses and rock dilution occur throughout the
many phases of a mining process. In this study,
the phases affecting ore dilution in underground
are explained.

Table 1. Rock dilution and ore losses (Ingler,1984; Wright, 1983; Arioglu, 1994)
Rock Dilution (%) Ore Losses (%)
Mining Method
Ingler Wright Arolu Ingler Wright Arolu
Stoping 5-30 5-10 10-15 5-15 3-5 5-10
Room and Pillar 0-10 - 15-35 5-30 - 10-15
Cut and Fill 5-10 15-30 3-7 5-10 5-7 5-10
Shrinkage - 10-15 10-15 - 5-7 10-15
Sublevel Caving 10-30 10-15 10-20 10-30 12-15 10-20
Block Caving 10-30 15-20 10-20 0-30 15-20 13-15


Dilution can be divided into three general
categories, namely; internal, external and ore loses
(see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Classification of dilution
Internal dilution (planned) usually refers to the
low-grade material contained within the
boundaries of an extracted stope. It can be caused
by insufficient internal delineation of waste
pockets within an orebody. It is also occur in
situations where the mining method dictates a
minimum width of extraction.
External dilution (unplanned) refers to the waste
material that comes into the ore stream from
sources located outside the planned stope
boundaries (Villaescusa, 1995). Low grade
material from stope wall overbreak,
contamination from backfill, and mucking of
waste from stope floors are typical examples of
external dilution.
Ore loss refers to the economical material that
is left in place within the boundaries of a planned
stope. Planned ore diaphragms (ore skins),
unbroken stope areas due to unsufficient blast
breakage, non recoverable pillars left to arrest
stope wall instability and insufficient mucking of
broken ore within stope floors are typical
examples of ore loss.
Geological dilution refers to the waste rock or
ore-losses incurred during the exploration and
orebody delineation stages, where only an
estimated model of the orebody can be made. A
geological model is based on limited information,
and is unlikely to coincide exactly with the real
orebody, therefore the delineated orebody
boundaries are likely to exclude ore and also to
include waste. The magnitude of this problem is a
function of the sampling pattern for the
mineralization type under study. Geological
dilution may comprise up to 1/3 of the total
dilution depending upon orebody complexity
(Lappalainen and Pitkajarvi, 1996).

Figure 2. Illustration of planned and
unplanned ore dilution

Underground mine design is an engineering
process in which the key performance indicators
are: safety, dilution, recovery, productivity and
cost criteria. A safe and economical design may
require a combination of physical, analytical,
numerical, probabilistic or empirical excavation
design tools that must be appropriately calibrated
with field observations. (Potvin et al., 1989;
Laubscher, 1991).
Figure 2, presents a rational methodology for
underground mine design in which three key
stages are identified. An initial orebody
delineation and rock mass characterization stage,
followed by a global and a detailed design stages
respectively. Global design issues are relevant and
applicable within entire areas of a mine, such an
extension of an existing orebody, while detailed
design issues are applicable to the extraction of
individual stopes.
The methodology proposed involves an integral
approach to excavation design (from orebody
delineation to stope extraction) in which the
interaction among geology, mine planning, rock
mechanics and operating personnel is required
throughout the entire excavation process. The
geometric configuration of an orebody and its
spatial grade distribution play a significant role
during the selection of a mining method and
subsequently influences the amount of dilution
experienced during the stoping operations.
The orebody delineation and rock mass
characterization stages provide the input for the
entire design process. The suggested approach is
to obtain representative (mine-wide) rock mass
properties likely to be used in the global
excavation design and stability analysis. In most
cases, this information is obtained from diamond
drill holes (core logging) and direct mapping of
underground openings. Geophysical tools can also
used for orebody delineation and rock mass
Global design issues are related to the design
and stability of large sections of a mine, such a
new extension at depth or at an orebody abutment.
Global design involves several issues including
mine access, infrastructure, pillar and stope span
Detailed design is related to the extraction of
individual stopes within a global area. The mine
planning engineer uses geological sections from a
mine design package to do a preliminary stope
design, while the rock mechanics engineer
completes a rock mass characterization program,
provides guidelines for dilution control,
reinforcement and blast sequencing.
At this stage extraction factors are taken into
account. Drill and blast design is undertaken
considering the equipment capabilities, to ensure
that the designed stope shape is achievable. This is
then followed by an economic analysis and finally
a stope design document that include plans of
sublevel development, sections showing blasthole
design concepts and drilling and blasting
parameters, ventilation, rock mechanics and
overall firing sequence.
Geotechnical measurements are required to
assess the response of the rock mass to the
excavation process and are a key component of
the mine design optimization process required to
achieve safe and most economical extractions.
The measurements can be classified into three
phases: Prior, during and after excavation
(Windsor, 1993; Ercikdi et al., 2003).
Measurements prior to an excavation are usually
concerned with the characterization of the
geotechnical environment as an input to the
excavation design. Such measurements include
borehole/core logging data to determine rock type,
structure, rock material properties and hydrology
Measurements during excavation are used to
provide warning of hazards such as excessive rock
stress, deformation and extent of damage envelope
around the underground openings. The
measurements suggest the type and timing of
remedial measures such as modification to
extraction rate and sequencing of excavations and
to optimize rock support and reinforcement
Measurements following an excavation are
undertaken to obtain data required for
optimization of future excavation designs. These
measurements are required for dilution control
and to minimize ore loses. They are also needed to
provide data on long term stability, safety and
environmental effects.




Figure 3. Underground mine design process


The most common parameters influencing
dilution and ore losses in underground mining are
listed in Table 2. Five key stages ranging from the
initial orebody delineation program to the final
extraction stages have been identified within the
mine design process. Management issues were
also included, given that in some cases they
represent the most critical factor controlling
dilution (Ashcroft, 1991).

4.1 Orebody Delineation

Ore body delineation is the processes which
establish the size, shape, grades, tonnage and
mineral inventory for the ensuing mining process.
Efficient, effective, and accurate delineation of a
deposit is required to design a mine in a manner
that maximizes recovery, minimizes dilution and
increases safety. Dilution can not be planned or
minimized if detailed geological and geotechnical
information is not available. Experience indicates
that increasing the information density is likely to
decrease dilution and ore losses (Braun, 1991). In
cases where the stope geology is not well
delineated, the presence of waste inclusions is then
likely to remain unknown.

4.2 Design and Sequencing

At this stage, several extraction strategies to
minimize dilution/ore loss can be studied in
advance to choose the best design alternative.
Engineering, geology and operating personnel
should have a direct input into this stage of the
design. Extraction factors that account for
dilution, should be applied at this stage. Back
analysis from adjacent stopes based on laser
(Miller et al., 1992) surveys, drill and blast design
and general experience in the area should be used.
Proper design means that the planning engineer
receives an optimised block thus leaving more
time for drilling, blasting and ground support
optimization, schedule modifications and other
At this stage, the stable stope and ore outlines
are superimposed in order to detect volumes of
waste rock inside and ore outside the stope limits.
Wall instability and any relevant remedial
measures are also identified. A stope shape must
be drillable and stable, and the walls must insure
proper flow of broken ore to the stope draw point.
Economical studies in conjunction with stability
analysis can be performed to evaluate different
design options (e.g. stope sequencing,
dimensioning, etc.).

Table 2. Parameters influencing dilution
Orebody delineation
Under sampling of orebody boundaries
Errors in decisions regarding cut-off grades
Down hole survey errors
Lack of geotechnical characterization
Access &
Stope & Pillar
size and location
Stress analysis
Drill & blast design
Economical analysis
Rock reinforcement
Extraction monitoring




Design and Sequencing
Poorly designed infrastructure
Poor stope design (dimensions)
Lack of proper stope sequencing
Lack of economical assessment

Stope development
Non alignment of sill horizons
Poor geological control during mining
Mining not following geological mark-ups
Inappropriate reinforcement schemes

Drilling and Blasting
Poor initial mark-up of holes
Set-up, collaring and deviation of blast holes
Incorrect choice of blasting patterns,
sequences and explosive types

Production stages
Mucking of backfill floors
Mucking of fall offs and stope wall failures
Contamination of broken ore by backfill
Leaving broken ore inside the stopes
Poor management of waste rock
(tipped into the ore stream)

4.3 Stope Development

Drive location has been shown to be critical for
dilution control. Undercut of stope walls by the
access drill drives is likely to control the
mechanical behaviour at the stope boundaries.
Drive shape and size also influence stope wall
undercut. Incorrect positioning of sill drive
turnouts off access crosscuts may also create stope
wall undercut leading to dilution. Cross cuts need
to be mapped, sampled and interpreted prior to
developing the sill drives along an orebody. In
cases where assay information is required prior to
sill turnout, a prompt assay turnaround is critical
to maintain development productivity. Quality
(and quantity) geological face mapping of
development is critical to minimize stope wall
undercuts. Geologists should highlight any over
break beyond an established mining width. Prompt
feedback to the operating personnel undertaking
the development mining is required. Routine
geotechnical mapping of development faces must
be also undertaken. Perimeter blasting techniques
can be used to reduce wall damage in development
access in order to minimize stope wall undercut.

4.4 Drilling and Blasting

If dilution and ore losses can be minimized
during the block design stages, drilling and
blasting can be done without problems and
focused on better fragmentation and damage
control within the stope boundaries. Nevertheless,
dilution and ore loss can also planned and
evaluated during the drilling and blasting stages,
where the blasting outlines can be designed to
optimize extraction.
The blasting process involves the interaction of
the rock mass, the explosives, the initiation
sequences and the drill hole patterns.
Consequently, a blast design should account for
the interaction of the existing development,
equipment, ore body boundary and stope outline.
Geological, geotechnical, operational and
extraction design issues must be considered.
Blasting performance is also affected by the ore
body geometry and drilling limitations (hole
length and accuracy).
The effects of blasting on stability can be
determined based on measurements of blast
vibrations, hole deviation, hole angle and distance
of the holes to the exposed stope walls. A
consideration of the most suitable drilling
technology for a range of hole sizes and drilling
patterns in order to minimize damage and hole
deviation is needed. Suggested drilling and
blasting patterns for long-hole stoping are
presented in Table 3.

Table 3. Drilling-blasting patterns for sublevel stoping

51 1.0 - 1.5 0.4 rods 10-15
63 1.3 1.8 0.6 rods 10-15
73 2.0 - 2.5 0.8 Rods + stabilizers 12-20
76 2.0 2.5 1.0 Rods + tubes 20-25
89 2.5-2.8 1.1 Tubes top
102 3.0 1.2 Tubes top
115 3.0-3.5 1.3 In the hole
140 3.5-4.0 1.5 In the hole

Blasting process needs to be performed in a
more efficient way to minimize ground and
induced structural vibration. Minimization of blast
vibration is restricted by the production
requirements, such as good fragmentation and
muck pile size. A good option in dipper veins
blasting is the stabilization (by pre-installation of
cable bolts) of the hanging wall and footwall and
then increase the blast vibration energy to obtain
the desired fragment size. The blasting damage
level is linked to both the rock mass physical-
mechanical properties and its structural
components as well as the power of explosive
The interaction between the explosive material
and the geological material creates a peak particle
velocity (PPV) which puts in evidence the
behaviour of the rock mass under given blasting
parameters, and then the blast damage and
induced failure are assessed based on the PPV. In
most cases, the over break causing dilution is
caused by these blast damage and induced
failures. However, it is possible to reduce this
problem by controlled blasting. It involve the
following components (single or combination),
modification of the firing sequence, the use of
different explosives, modification of explosives
placement procedures and the modification of the
geometry of the volume where the explosives are
placed. Also the blasting parameters could be
changed (firing delay, blast hole pattern, the
effective density of the explosive, type of
Vibration measurements was made to evaluate the
over breaks at Bosquet mines in 1997. Vibration
measurements done have shown that over breaks
is increasing with the high vibrations generated by
the drilling-blasting operations during the ore
production (Table 4 and Figure 4).

Primary Stope
0 50 100 150 200
Explosive Charge (kg)

3 m 5 m
10 m
20 m

Secondary Stope
0 50 100 150 200
Explosive Charge (kg)

3 m
5 m

Figure 4. Blast vibration in the hanging wall at Bosquet Mine (Henning et al., 1997)

Table 4. Results of over break measurement in Bosquet Mine hanging wall (Henning et al., 1997)
Maksimum linear Overbreak (m)
Production Place
Hangingwall Footwall
Primary 4.0 0.5
Average 3.1 0.5
Secondary 2.0 1.5
Average 2.2 1.0

As can be seen in Figure 4, about the first five
meters around the blasthole, vibrations higher than
1000 mm/sec have been measured for the primary
stope. Vibrations measured for the second stope
are relatively lowest. This is certainly one of
reasons of higher ore dilution in primary stope. As
can be noticed from Table 4, the primary stope is
affected by more overbreak volume than the
secondary stope.
Therefore, a good approach for reducing ore
dilution is to understand the explosive/rock mass
interaction. This means good knowledge of both
rock mass and explosive characteristics, and the
design of optimal fragmentation blast hole pattern.
The challence of successful controlled blasting
remains still to minimize damages associated with
the explosive/rock mass interaction while to
optimize the fragmentation produced by explosive

4.5 Production stages

Even at this relatively late stage, dilution and ore
losses can still be minimised. Information from
percussion blast holes can be used to locate zones
of waste within an orebody, thus enhancing
orebody delineation. The blast design could be
revised based on detailed information regarding
zones of ore and waste. Some holes might not be
blasted (i.e. leaving a pillar), or additional holes
may be drilled. Drill-cutting data can be used to
identify the ore-waste contact in production holes.
However, these task-intensive operations
(sampling, bagging, and assaying) are prone to
inaccuracies, and the turn-around time for the data
analysis is often too slow for practical use. In
practice, information about the ore-waste contact
at the production stages is seldom acquired
without the use of properly calibrated geophysical
The potential exists for geophysical logging
(single hole techniques) of production holes to
identify the ore-waste contact for optimal blast
design. An advantage of single-hole geophysics is
that information would be immediately available;
therefore significantly reducing turn-around time.
This is particularly beneficial in situations in
which severe blast hole deviation is occurring, and
the exact location of the ore-waste contact is
Inspection and floor preparation before firing
and mucking commences, minimizes ore
contamination during mucking. Mucking units
may dig holes and dilute ore with fill. Mucking
units may also ramp up and leave broken ore in
the stope floors. A training program on draw point
inspection for grade, ore contamination and stope
status (stability) is required to control dilution.
Any significant falloff, over break or under break
should be recorded, given that variations from
planned designs could affect stability and place at
risk further extraction in adjacent stopes.
Stope performance review must be undertaken
following the completion of production blasting.
These reviews are needed to improve performance
and to determine what lesson can be learnt and
what improvements can be made. Geology, mine
planning and operations personnel must be
involved. The performance review compares the
laser (CMS) surveyed void with the planned void.
The differences can be due to blasting over break,
stope wall failures, pillar failures, insufficient
breakage, etc. The variations from the planned
volumes are used to determine actual tonnage and
to estimate the extraction grade for each stope.
These can be used to undertake the final
economical analysis and to optimize future
extraction in similar conditions.


Each operation must set the design objectives for
dilution control based on the reality of its own
particular mining system and its economics. A
dilution control action plan must include definition
and identification of the dilution sources,
including a strategy for measurements and
implementation of corrective actions. Realistic
targets for dilution reduction over both the short
and long term must be set. The success of the
program will rely on regular communication of the
planned targets and economical importance to all
mining personal.
Management must develop performance
indicators that are a function of quality rather than
quantity. i.e. the focus must be on metal tonnes
and dilution control. Mine managers must
recognize the potential for improvement within
their own mine environment. Most of the
understanding of what comprises dilution and the
tools to quantify it already exists.


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