Geotechnical and financial risk assessment and management strategies form an integral part of the mining process and these strategies need to be improved as knowledge and technology advances, he said.
Wesseloo said the Australian Centre for Geomechanics is contributing to finding better solutions for deep mining by hosting the Eighth International Conference on Deep and High Stress Mining in Perth in March 2017.
The conference will provide a forum for sharing experiences, discovering and discussing both new technologies and old technologies applied in new ways.
Mineral reserves previously considered unmineable are now considered favourable. In Australia, the deepest mines are currently reaching operating depths of about 1600 m with high stress.
In Canada, depths of about 3000 m are reached while in South Africa operating levels are now nearing 4000m.
Wesseloo, who is the conference chairman, said that, in spite of the increasing difficulties posed by the deep and high stress environments, the industry is able to maintain and improve its safety record.
This is testimony to the fact that the industry uses events like these to improve itself and rise to the challenges posed by deep and high stress mining.
“Increasing mining depths brings with it, its own set of unique challenges which need to be addressed in order to supply the world with necessary and desired commodities,” Wessleloo said.
“At depth, the ambient temperature of the rock is high and ventilation and refrigeration alone pose a significant challenge to engineers. The rock mass’ response to mining is complex and provides many challenges to mining operations at depth. Some of those challenges are in the form of seismicity and rockburst where sudden and violent rock failure may put personnel and the operation at risk.
“Other rock masses experience squeezing ground conditions where weak rock under high stress undergoes considerable deformation, to the extent where access to the excavations is not possible. In these varying conditions, the design, installation and monitoring of appropriate and sufficient ground support is important.”