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A probabilistic assessment of open-pit slope failures in the post-closure phase

Paper from the Proceedings of Mine Closure Solutions 2014 conference held in Ouro Preto, Brazil, April 26-30, 2014. (downloadable PDF).

Authors: Aloysio P. M. Saliba, Fernando P. M. Saliba and Jhoan S. P. Panitz, TEC3 Geotecnia e Recursos Hídricos, Brazil; Rodrigo P. de Figueiredo, Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto, Brazil; Fernanda B. S. Duarte, TEC3 Geotecnia e Recursos Hídricos, Brazil

Published by InfoMine Inc. 2014.
ISBN: 978-0-9917905-4-8


In the mining sector, open-pit slopes are designed according to the factor of safety values calculated for the operational and closure phases using a deterministic approach. In this methodology, assuming a failure mode (e.g., planar, circular) and a set of input parameter values (e.g., friction angle, cohesion, phreatic surface level), the factor of safety is calculated in line with the proposed pit geometry (bench heights and widths, slope angles). The open pit is divided into pit sectors of homogeneous geotechnical properties, the geometry of which is then optimized to reach the suggested minimum factor of safety values per engineering standards. This methodology is applied to each geometric layout of the pit during its lifetime and closure phases; during the latter, a conservative geometry is usually adopted to allow for the elimination of maintenance. However, this conservative geometry generally means a smaller pit slope angle, which will lead to higher closure costs. The purpose of this paper is to examine the factor of safety in the post-closure phase in light of a probabilistic assessment, in which each input parameter is considered as a probability function derived from field and laboratory measurements using the Monte Carlo method. According to this stochastic method, the probability distribution of each input parameter is sampled 100,000 times and randomly combined with other input parameters to evaluate the slope’s factor of safety. As the function of a random variable is also a random variable, this method results in the factor of safety probability distribution. After taking into account the minimum factor of safety values for the post-closure phase as proposed by engineering standards, and allowing for failure risks, which are defined as factor of safety values lower than engineering standard thresholds, the post-closure open-pit geometry can be optimized using the probability distribution obtained for the slope’s factor of safety.

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