Stope Design and Reconciliation (Phase 2)


The Australian Centre for Geomechanics (ACG) has been working on a Probabilistic Stope Design research project since late 2017 looking at new ways of performing stope reconciliation and optimising open stope design. This project was funded by the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia (MRIWA) and the following Australian and Canadian mines: BHP Olympic Dam; MMG Dugald River; Gold Fields Granny Smith; Glencore Mount Isa Copper Operations; Agnico Eagle LaRonde Mine; IamGold Westwood Mine; and Hecla Casa Berardi Mine.

The first phase of the project was completed in December 2019 (refer to past projects) and the ACG has extended this research into a second phase called Stope Design and Reconciliation (Phase 2). A number of new powerful tools have been developed during Phase 1 to make stope reconciliation more efficient and significantly enhance mine capabilities to conduct in-depth root cause analyses of overbreak and underbreak. A very comprehensive database of stope design parameters and reconciliation performance from all sponsors’ sites has been collected.

Phase 2 of this small but focused research project is sponsored by:

  • BHP Olympic Dam
  • Glencore Mount Isa Mines
  • IAMGOLD Canada
  • MMG Limited


Stope design and reconciliation benchmarking study

The ACG conducted a benchmarking study, sponsored by BHP Olympic Dam, between June and August 2019. The objective of the study was:

  1. to define and document industry processes for stope design and reconciliation,
  2. to identify standard and advanced practices within these processes, and
  3. to identify gaps to inform the focus of future research.

The data for the benchmarking was collected during two workshops, one in Perth Australia and the other in Rouyn-Noranda, Canada. A total of 19 mines provided data for the benchmarking study, 17 of them were represented at these workshops. The other two mines provided data via individual interviews.

The main stope design and reconciliation processes, with relevant input and output parameters, have been mapped and are summarised in Figure 1. It is interesting to note that stope reconciliation can be performed in several technical areas, by different departments. As such, the “ownership” of the overall stope reconciliation process is not always well defined.


Figure 1. generic stope design and reconciliation processes

In addition to developing the process mapping, the main findings from the study included the following observations:

  1. The industry collects a lot of stope data (Figure 1)
  • Data for planning and design purposes
  • Data from operations and executions
  • Data for reconciliation
  1. Mining operations do not have efficient means of transforming the data into usable information
  • Data manipulation is time consuming, mines have a lack of resources
  • The reconciliation is made via many different pieces of software – and it is not integrated with stope design
  • Most mines limit their analysis to whole stope (overbreak and underbreak) instead of analysing individual stope surfaces or even finer resolution (stope surface points (octree))
  • Most mines only focus on overbreak
  • None of the software packages used have efficient tools to perform root cause analysis
  1. The industry is not transforming information into knowledge
  • There is no methods for forecasting underbreak
  • Industry still uses generic empirical stope design charts from the 80s – 90s
  • Blasting and major faults are not included as design parameters with the current methods used, but can severely affect overbreak and underbreak outcomes


Objectives of Phase 2

The overall objective of Phase 2 is to improve the transformation of stope design and reconciliation data into better information and ultimately into knowledge that can improve stope design and profitability. The focus will be to enable this transformation from data to knowledge while streamlining the processes, saving time and gaining efficiency into the stope design and reconciliation processes currently used at mine sites.

Specifically, the following objectives will be pursued:

  1. Expand the current stope design and reconciliation database. Currently the performance of between 1000 and 2000 stopes from seven mines will be analysed. Relevant parameters have been collected for all the stopes.
  2. Develop new stope design tools to forecast overbreak based on expanded databases. Include new factors that may have significant influence on overbreak, such as drill and blast, major structures, complicated stope shapes, etc.
  3. Develop new stope design tools to forecast underbreak based on expanded databases. Drill and blast as well as stope shapes will be the main factors considered influencing underbreak. There are currently no methods to forecast underbreak.
  4. Develop an interactive stope design App in mXrap. Investigate the possibility of adding probabilistic capability to the design process.
  5. Integrate all steps of the stope design and reconciliation process into mXrap, to enable efficient data manipulation and analyses and semi-automated reporting (i.e. produce significant time savings for personnel involved in the design and reconciliation processes).
  6. Roll out the stope design and reconciliation App to project sponsors.
  7. Investigate the possibility of including economic analyses to the design process.


Project Team

Yves Potvin, ACG (Project Lead)

Benoit McFadyen, Université Laval (PhD Student)

Kyle Woodward, ACG (Research Fellow)

Johan Wesseloo (Technical Advisor)

Software engineering support will be provided by the ACG mXrap team.



Capes, GW 2009, Open stope hangingwall design based on general detailed data collection in rock masses with unfavourable hangingwall conditions, PhD thesis, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada, 300 pages.

Clark, L & Pakalnis, R 1997, An empirical design approach for estimating unplanned dilution from open stope hangingwalls and footwalls. CIM AGM, Vancouver.

Nickson, SD 1992, Cable support guidelines for underground hard rock mine operations. MSc Thesis, University of British Columbia, Canada.

Potvin, Y 1988, Empirical open stope design in Canada, PhD Thesis, University of British Columbia, Canada, 350p.

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