PhD student clinches award for new rock flow research

A University of Queensland alumnus has been awarded a rock mechanics award for discovering many new techniques and methods to better predict rock flow in caving mines.

The mining engineer was awarded the 2013 Manuel Rocha Medal for his 2010 doctoral thesis titled ‘A Model for Gravity Flow of Fragmented Rock in Block Caving Mines’.

During his PhD, Dr Matthew Pierce found ways to improve understanding around the effects of flow of granular materials (caved rock) in block and panel cave mining as well as sublevel caving.

The research allowed industry to optimise production strategies to maximise recovery and minimise dilution through tracking the locations and flow in 3D space of materials within the caved rock column.

“UQ was a great place to do my PhD for a number of reasons including its connection to the mining industry. Regular interaction with the sponsors of the Mass Mining Technology ensured my research outcomes were both practical and innovative,” Pierce said.

“UQ encourages use of a wide range of tools in research, including both physical and numerical modelling, and encourages collaboration among researchers.”

Many cave mining operations and projects have integrated the discoveries into a software package they use worldwide at both feasibility and operational stages.

“Throughout his PhD investigations Matt has shown an exceptional ability to remain focused on developing new knowledge of the fundamental mechanics of flow in masses of fragmented rock,” Pierce’s PhD supervisor Dr Geoff Just said.

“His depth of knowledge in both the complex mechanics of particle interactions involved in fragmented rock flow and the practical design and operation of large scale underground caving mining operations were significant factors in his success in improving ore recovery.”

Pierce is a consultant at Itasca Consulting Group and was previously on the company’s board of directors.

The Rocha Medal is given every year by the International Society for Rock Mechanics as a way to push young researchers in the geomechanics field.

Pierce will receive a bronze medal and a cash price at the ISRM International Symposium in Wroclaw, Poland in September.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.