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©2007 – minor modifications 2009 and 2010 Dr. B. C. Paul

The concepts indicated in these slides are considered common knowledge to

those familiar with the field. Many of these ideas have been published in a

variety of different texts and papers over time – no one of which was

specifically used as an outline for this work.

Classic Open Pits Characterized by Oval

Shape, Benches, spiraling roads

Moving and generally

Target a vein or steeply

Dipping stock on ore

The Slope Effect

What happens if we

Change the slope

Angle?

Implications for Slope Effect

In long area strip mines where things broke

down to 2 dimensions slope did not impact

stripping ratio

Here in this static 3D pit geometry the

impact is huge

Obviously having a steeper slope improves

economics

Limiting Slopes

One limit is geologic – having the pit slide in on

you is bad for investment (and possibly your

health if you are at the bottom)

One exercise commonly taught in rock mechanics

courses is plotting fractures on stereo net

– Illustrates how many fractures are opened up by

benches

Daylighted fracture

Offers an opportunity Non-Daylighted fracture offers little

To slide off. Risk

Probability of Failure

Not all daylighted fractures will slip

Not every non-daylighted fracture will hold

More major extensive daylighted fractures

more likely a major failure is

– One New Mexico mine lost entire pit as slide

slipped in over several months

Significance of Failure

Some small failures will take a few hours to

clean up – can risk these to save money

Larger regional failures are fatal, probably

cannot endure much risk

Fractures on benches Daylighted fractures on over-all

Pit slope are another matter

A Lesson in Open Pit Terminology

Berm

Crest Crest slope is much

Steeper than the over-all

Bench

Toe

Localized single bench failures from a steep toe to crest slope are much more

Tolerable than an over-all pit slope failure over the entire side of a pit.

Pit Slopes

Quarries in strong rock can sustain about 80

to 85 degree toe to crest slopes

Geology determines limits but about 58 to

72 degrees is a common range for toe to

crest in open pit metal.

Over-all slopes often more conservative

– Frequently less than 45 degrees

Cannanea Mexico is nearly 60

The Equipment Considerations

Why benches?

– Benches stop rolling rocks (a rock rolling down

600 ft and hitting you in the head will split your

scull – even if there are no brains)

Benches act as rock catchers – they need to be wide

enough for this – with the aid of a berm (around 10-

15 feet)

– Benches match equipment digging height

Woops!

Bigger shovels allow bigger bench

Height – but require bigger trucks

Why Benches Continued

Flat area on benches provides room for

equipment to move

– Bigger trucks have bigger turning radius

Truck

Shovel

Grade Control and Limits on Bench

Heights

Usually have to dig whole bench toe to crest

– Cannot select ore

Some Mining Depends on selecting only

best ore for processing

– Can loose selectivity as bench height increases

Economics and Advantages of

Bench Height

Maintaining bench area involves a cost

– Less bench area = less cost

– Higher benches are cheaper (usually)

In drilling for blasting it takes time to set up

for every hole drilled

– Higher benches allow larger more accurate

holes

– Allow greater spacing – uses drill time more

effectively

Example

The Much Dough Deposit is a large vertical cylinder of ore.

It is to be mined by open pit. The company will use

Kittenpillar 997s for digging. The hydraulic shovel has a

digging height of 47 feet and will be teamed with

Kittenpillar 440 trucks with a full turn radius of 75 feet with

each truck being 37 feet in over-all length and about 16

feet in width. Your rock mechanics calculations indicate

you could sustain an over-all slope of about 47 degrees

with toe to crest slopes on benches of about 67 degrees for

benches up to 60 feet in height. Your grade control team

indicates they can maintain good selectivity with benches

as high as 40 feet.

Q- What is a realistic bench height and over-all slope for

this pit?

Determining a Bench Height

Grade Control Wise the limit is 40 feet

Rock Mechanic Wise the limit is 60 feet

Loading Machine Limitation Height is 47 feet

– We need to keep bench height at 40 feet

Determining a Bench Width

To stop rocks from rolling need at least 10

feet

At least 20 ft

75 ft Turning Radius

Shovel

5 ft wall clearance

5 + 75 ft turn radius + 37 feet length + 5 foot from edge = 122

(say about 125 foot bench width for working.)

Looking at Geometry

125 ft

Slope indicated by 40 ft

This dotted line

40 ft

67º

X

Calculating Along

(mines maintain working slopes when an area is still being

Mined)

40 ft

17+125 = 142 ft

Tan (?) = 40/142 so ? = arctan(40/142) = 15.73º

Final Pit Slope

(not considering a road and

Based only on 10 ft catch

Benches)

Arctan(40/27) = ? = 56º

40 ft

17 ft + 10 ft = 27 ft

Pit Slope Limits

Geological Over-All Pit Slope Limit = 47º

Geometry based final pit slope = 56º

Geometry based working slope = 15.73º

dictate the pit slope at 15.73º

At the end of pit life as slopes are steepened

to final geology limits slopes to 47º

Example Continued

Finding the economic limit of the pit

– The Much Dough Deposit can sustain stripping

ratios of 5:1 before reaching break-even

– How deep can the pit go?

We will use a little computer program in Xcel

I’ll Enter Some Geometry Info

Cone Pit

Diameter Ore

Pit Slope

Enter Your Information in the

Present Depth

yellow fields below

Waste

Ore My slope

We will Increase in Depth

Diameter Ore 2100 ft

Other data Pit Slope 15.73 degrees Portion of Cone not Mined

Pit Slope in radians 0.27454

Such as Density of ore 4700 lbs/yd^3

Our ore Density of Overburden 4100 lbs/yd^3 Incremental Stripping Ratio for Pit One Going to Pit Two

Number of Existing Benches 1 Total Volume Pit 2 13289007 yd3

And waste Present Depth 40 ft Total Volume Pit 1 5856595 yd3

Increase in Depth 40 ft Incremental Volume 7432412 yd3

Density andNew Depth 80 Ore Volume Cylinder 2 10262536 yd3

Diameter Origional Pit 2384.038 Ore Volume Cylinder 1 5131268 yd3

The diameter

Of the ore body

Are case specific My Bench Height

Checking the Output

lbs/yd^3

lbs/yd^3 Incremental Stripping Ratio for Pit One Going to Pit Two

Total Volume Pit 2 13289007 yd3

ft Total Volume Pit 1 5856595 yd3

ft Incremental Volume 7432412 yd3

Ore Volume Cylinder 2 10262536 yd3

Ore Volume Cylinder 1 5131268 yd3

Incremental Ore Vol. 5131268 yd3

Incremental Waste Vol 2301144 yd3

Incremental Vol. SR 0.448455265

Weight of Increm Ore 12058480 tons

Weight of Increm Waste 4717346 tons

Weight Based SR 0.391205656

Is 0.39 to 1 which is well below the 5 to 1 limit.

Over-All Look at Spreadsheet

Geometry Calculations

Input Area

Incremental

Stripping ratio

area

Average Stripping

Ratio

Advancing the Pit Downward Cone Pit

Diameter Ore

Pit Slope

Enter Your Information in the

Present Depth

yellow fields below

Increase number Waste

Of existing benches

Ore

To 2 Increase in Depth

Input Control

Diameter Ore 2100 ft

Pit Slope 15.73 degrees Portion of Cone not Mined

Pit Slope in radians 0.27454

Density of ore 4700 lbs/yd^3

Density of Overburden 4100 lbs/yd^3 Incremental Stripping Ratio for Pit One Going to

Number of Existing Benches 2 Total Volume Pit 2 22484982 yd3

Present Depth 80 ft Total Volume Pit 1 13289007 yd3

Incremental Increase in Depth 40 ft Incremental Volume 9195975 yd3

New Depth 120 Ore Volume Cylinder 2 15393804 yd3

Stripping ratio for Diameter Origional Pit 2668.076 Ore Volume Cylinder 1 10262536 yd3

3rd bench is Height of total cone (origional) 375.735 Incremental Ore Vol. 5131268 yd3

Diameter Incremental Pit 2952.114 Incremental Waste Vol 4064707 yd3

0.69 to 1 Height of total cone (incremental) 415.735 Incremental Vol. SR 0.792144713

Weight of Increm Ore 12058480 tons

Weight of Increm Waste 8332649 tons

Weight Based SR 0.691019856

Continuing Our Activity

Cone Pit

Diameter Ore

Pit Slope

Enter Your Information in the

Bench #12 is the yellow fields below

Present Depth

(continuing to #13 Increase in Depth

Input Control

Will get a 5.44:1 ratio) Diameter Ore 2100 ft

Pit Slope 15.73 degrees Portion of Cone not Mined

Pit Slope in radians 0.27454

Density of ore 4700 lbs/yd^3

Density of Overburden 4100 lbs/yd^3 Incremental Stripping Ratio for Pit One Going to P

Note that we can Number of Existing Benches 11 Total Volume Pit 2 215587062 yd3

Reach a limiting depth Present Depth

Increase in Depth

440

40

ft

ft

Total Volume Pit 1

Incremental Volume

182070481 yd3

33516581 yd3

Of 480 ft. New Depth 480 Ore Volume Cylinder 2 61575216 yd3

Diameter Origional Pit 5224.419 Ore Volume Cylinder 1 56443948 yd3

Height of total cone (origional) 735.735 Incremental Ore Vol. 5131268 yd3

Diameter Incremental Pit 5508.457 Incremental Waste Vol 28385313 yd3

Height of total cone (incremental) 775.735 Incremental Vol. SR 5.531832019

Weight of Increm Ore 12058480 tons

Weight of Increm Waste 58189891 tons

Weight Based SR 4.825640697

The Depth Effect

Note that as a pit goes deeper the stripping

ratio increases until it reaches an economic

limit

Rule 1 – as slope decreases S.R. increases

Rule 2 – as depth increases S.R. increases

Damages from our 15.73 Degree

Slope Cone Pit

Diameter Ore

Had I been able to mine

At the Geologic Limit Enter Your Information in the

Pit Slope

Present Depth

Of 47º instead of the yellow fields below

Equipment limit at 15.73º Waste

Increase in Depth

1800 feet depth Input Control

(roughly 4 times more Diameter Ore 2100 ft

Pit Slope 47 degrees Portion of Cone not Mined

Ore would be Pit Slope in radians 0.820305

Economic) Density of ore 4700 lbs/yd^3

Density of Overburden 4100 lbs/yd^3 Incremental Stripping Ratio for Pit One Going to P

Number of Existing Benches 44 Total Volume Pit 2 796729815 yd3

Present Depth 1760 ft Total Volume Pit 1 762551388 yd3

Increase in Depth 40 ft Incremental Volume 34178427 yd3

New Depth 1800 Ore Volume Cylinder 2 230907060 yd3

Diameter Origional Pit 5382.453 Ore Volume Cylinder 1 225775792 yd3

Height of total cone (origional) 2885.987 Incremental Ore Vol. 5131268 yd3

Diameter Incremental Pit 5457.054 Incremental Waste Vol 29047159 yd3

Height of total cone (incremental) 2925.987 Incremental Vol. SR 5.66081497

Weight of Increm Ore 12058480 tons

Weight of Increm Waste 59546675 tons

Weight Based SR 4.93815774

Practical Steepening Considerations

The slope limiting factor was the need to have working

room for the equipment

But do I need to be able to work on every bench at the

same time?

– There are usually practical limits to the number of loaders and

trucks you can run without going nuts

– Most mines will have about 2 to 5 loaders.

– Usually they will have some extra work places to move the loaders

to so they can prepare ahead

Trick #2 – Does the pit have to expand in all directions at

the same time.

– Can use “Push Backs” – have a full working slope only in certain

directions at any one time.

Suppose We Only have Full Working

Room on Every 4th bench

Atan(160/283) = 29.48º

Working slopes in the 30 to 35

Degree range. 160 ft

?

Working Pits

Pits usually go in at working slope

– Often initial pit is mined top down to open the deposit

Mine then picks a direction and distance to push-

back

– Push back is worked at the working slope

– Slope is steepened as limit of the push back is reached

Mine then picks the next push-back direction

– They have to open a number of working benches

– As these benches are opened the slope declines to the

working slope

Cycle Repeats until the final pit slope is reached.

How Big is My Push-Back Distance

To push back the mine must open a certain

number of shovel positions

– Usually more than the actual number of shovels

Suppose I open 7 benches for 3 shovels

– Suppose I need at least 25 meters of width for working

bench

– Suppose my regular bench width is 10 meters

– Every active bench needs an extra 15 meters

– 7 of them need 105 meters so my minimum pushback

size would be 105 meters.

How Do I Arrange My Benches in a

Push Back

In the Example I could have 7 different work

spaces

– That would mean 7 benches each with road

access

Suppose I build one very wide bench with

room for 4 shovels (about 100 meters) and

another with room for 3 shovels (about 75

meters).

– Now I only need 2 sets of roads.

How Do I Choose?

Cheaper is better?

For most metals and industrial minerals (things most likely to be mined

by a classic open pit), processing of ore is usually more expensive than

mining the ore.

Processing Plants that have trouble

– See increases in operating costs (that can easily offset any savings in

mining)

– May loose recovery of the mineral (you already have all your mining cost

into the rock and now you flush it away – ouch there goes your profit)

– Both of the above.

Processing Plants like steady grades of ore with similar characteristics

– Mother nature likes to put stuff all over creation and not build anything to a

standard

– One of the ways to get even ore feed is to blend ore from different parts of

the mine

Working faces that are far apart give me more blending options than if

all my shovels are working together.

The Distance Factor

As pits go deeper the roads to the surface

get longer

– Trucks drive further so that ore and waste from

the bottom of the pit is more expensive to move

than that at the top

Sometimes the impact of distance can limit

the pit depth before the stripping ratio does

Checking Our Case Study

Our economic limit appears to be 1800 ft

Generally haul roads must be at least 10 ft long for

every foot of rise (more than that rips up

transmissions – and violates laws in some cases)

– Suggests at the bottom of the pit the road may be

18,000 ft long – lets allow 1000 ft to dump point

19,000 ft – traveled two ways is 38,000 ft or 7.2 miles round trip

– At that distance the truck may only make 2 trips an hour

(it would have made 4 closer to the top)

Impact of Distance

Greater haul cost reduces the earnings on a

ton of ore

Greater haul costs increase the cost of OB

removal

If haulage is about 35% of direct mine cost

– O.B. removal near the bottom would be about

135% of normal (when haul costs doubled)

– 5/1.35 = limit may be about 3.73: 1 at the

bottom

The Haulage Distance Effect

Cone Pit

To about 4:1 Enter Your Information in the

Pit Slope

Present Depth

S.R. then the pit yellow fields below

Waste

Will reach about

1560 ft – not 1800 ft Ore

Increase in Depth

Input Control

(haulage economics Diameter Ore

Pit Slope

2100

47

ft

degrees Portion of Cone not Mined

Controlled the depth Pit Slope in radians 0.820305

Density of ore 4700 lbs/yd^3

Of the pit) Density of Overburden 4100 lbs/yd^3 Incremental Stripping Ratio for Pit One Going to Pit Two

Number of Existing Benches 38 Total Volume Pit 2 605416535 yd3

Present Depth 1520 ft Total Volume Pit 1 576650362 yd3

Increase in Depth 40 ft Incremental Volume 28766173 yd3

New Depth 1560 Ore Volume Cylinder 2 200119452 yd3

Diameter Origional Pit 4934.846 Ore Volume Cylinder 1 194988184 yd3

Height of total cone (origional) 2645.987 Incremental Ore Vol. 5131268 yd3

Diameter Incremental Pit 5009.447 Incremental Waste Vol 23634905 yd3

Height of total cone (incremental) 2685.987 Incremental Vol. SR 4.606055386

Weight of Increm Ore 12058480 tons

Weight of Increm Waste 48451554 tons

Weight Based SR 4.018048315

Industry Responses to the Limit

In-pit crushing and conveying – have the

trucks carry the ore to a point in the pit a

constant distance away – then crush and

convey

– Result – you keep the flexibility of haul trucks

for mining but the increased haul distances in

more mined out upper areas of the pit are

handled by conveyors which have a lower unit

cost for moving material

Radical Ideas

Putting inclined hoists on the pit surface or

just in the wall and hauling the ore straight

up the side with a skip

– Was done at least once in New Mexico

– Has been the object of many studies over time

Now Its Your Turn

You will need to figure a working and final pit

slope.

You will need to determine how deep a pit

can actually become before it is

economically infeasible to go further.

Homework #4 is now assigned.

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