Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Publication Details

This conference paper was originally published as Hanson, C, Thomas, D and Gallagher, B, The Value of Early Geotechnical Assessment in Mine Planning, in Aziz, N (ed), Coal 2005: Coal Operators' Conference, University of Wollongong & the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, 2005, 17-30.


Valuable data for geotechnical interpretation and integration into effective Australian underground mine planning may often be available, yet is not always fully appreciated or utilised, particularly in the early stages of mine planning or in due diligence studies. There may be considerable benefits associated with early prioritisation of geotechnical evaluation and impact on mine planning. Unidentified, misinterpreted, or ill-defined adverse geological and related geotechnical resource characteristics can pose significant business risk to underground coal projects and operations. Preliminary resource definition in the early conceptual mine planning stages attributes significant focus (entirely warranted) on resource quality and structural geology constraints. Yet detailed geotechnical data analysis and interpretation, which may have a substantial down stream impact and sensitivity with respect to future mine planning strategies, at times is given lower priority, or scoped and resourced in the later stages of a bankable feasibility study. Through extensive mine planning experience and observation of downstream process impacts, it has been found there is often data available for geotechnical analysis that does not readily stand out or is not adequately understood or utilised, available at the early (conceptual) stages of mine planning. Part of the issue may be that exploration geologists are not necessarily experienced geotechnical engineers and do not necessarily recognise or understand all important parameters. Subject to appropriate application of experienced professionals data can be manipulated to provide key geotechnical hazard assessment at minimal cost, and provide a framework for understanding and optimising the mine planning process. Although there is no single prescribed strategy for resource evaluation from a geotechnical perspective, potential business risks and mitigation approaches can and should be adopted at the conceptual mine planning stage. There has been a recent focus in the metals industry to provide a reporting framework for geotechnical classification of mining projects. This paper outlines the strategies and gives examples of key analyses adopted in mine planning and discusses the relative merits of adopting a reporting framework as a tool for geotechnical classification in mine planning.