UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Numerical Modelling Challenges in Rock Engineering with Special Consideration of Open Pit to Underground Mine Interaction Shapka-Fels, Tia; Elmo, Davide


This paper raises important questions about the way we approach numerical analysis in rock engineering design. The application of advanced numerical models is essential to adequately analyze and design different geotechnical aspects of pit-to-cave transitions. We present a critical review of numerical methods centered around the hypothesis that a model is not, and cannot be, a perfect imitation of reality; therefore, numerical modelling of large-scale mining projects requires the real problem to be idealized and simplified. The discussion highlights the dichotomy of continuum vs. discontinuum modelling and the important question of whether continuum models can effectively capture dynamic continuum-to-discontinuum processes typical of cave mining. The discussion is complemented by examples of hybrid continuum-discontinuum models to analyze the important problem of transitioning from surface (open pit) mining to underground mass mining (caving). The results demonstrate the hypothesis that forward modelling should be performed in the context of a risk-based approach, with numerical models becoming investigative tools to assess risk and evaluate the impact of different unknowns, thus classifying modelling outputs in terms of expected consequences.

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