Software evaluates safety

In a step beyond traditional processes, Abaqus finite element analysis (FEA) software from SIMULIA is being used to enhance mine design and engineering simulation at a number of mines around the world.

In North and South America, Africa and Australia mining companies are applying FEA technology to evaluate safety and improve plan operations.

Beck Arndt Engineering (BAE), a Sydney-based international consultancy, has pioneered the commercial development of engineering solutions using Abaqus in the mining industry.

The consultancy has worked closely with SIMULIA Australia engineers to expand the application of Abaqus FEA software to mining simulation.

Among the early mining industry adopters of mine-ready FEA technology is BHP Billiton.

BHP applied the technology to evaluate mines in Canada and Australia.

At the BHP Billiton Nickel West Perserverance Deeps Project in Western Australia, Abaqus FEA software was used to engineer the safety and productivity of the planned deep mining operations.

To achieve this goal in the deep mining environment requires significant technological innovation. Using measurements of site deformation and seismicity, Abaqus FEA models have been calibrated and, in a single day, can be used to simulate a three-dimensional, inelastic analysis of a mine’s life cycle.

In recent years, similar applications at Debswana’s Jwaneng Mine in Botswana, the Newcrest Mining Ridgeway Deeps Project in New South Wales, Australia, and Rio Tinto’s Argyle Diamond mine in Western Australia hasalso established Abaqus FEA analysis for multi scale, simulation aided mining engineering.

According to FEA pioneer Dr Joop Nagtegaal, Abaqus enables mining engineers to investigate design innovations from the drawing board to full production.

“In the design stage, Abaqus models, which include rockmass volumes spanning several kilometers around the ore body and down to excavations just a few metres across, are used to compare and optimise engineering options. Then, as the mine goes into production, large volumes of data from the field are incorporated with the analysis models to allow them to be calibrated to a precision not previously available to the mining industry,” he said.

Seismic event forecasting has become increasingly important at several sites where mining induced seismicity is a concern. BAE’s Perth based principal engineer Dr. Stephan Arndt said the vast amount of analysis required to create solutions in today’s competitive mining markets requires new technologies and methods.

One new innovation has been the development of Dissipated Plastic Energy (DPE) analysis method. The DPE analysis has been used to develop controls for potential problems, as well as to better understand how rock masses are damaged.

As the size and complexity of mining problems being studied increase, engineers are facing the need to leverage high performance computing solutions.

“The size of the models we now use in mining is unprecedented. Distributed Memory Parallel (DMP) processing, using 32 CPUs with Abaqus FEA software, gives us the capacity to compare a number of different scenarios for mine scale model simulations in a very short time. The level of detail achieved in these models allows us to calibrate deformation and rockmass damage, seismogenic potential and ground support performance. Abaqus has an important role to play in mining and our analysis methods are setting new standards in this industry,” Arndt said.

Another application of nonlinear modelling is the design of ground support.

Similar to applications in tunnelling and civil engineering, mine excavations are subject to high deformation.

Not so typical are the strains and loads involved. In some mining cases, tunnels must survive in very weak rock a very short distance from massive underground excavations at great depth.

“To ensure the safety of people and to achieve productivity objectives on these challenging sites with unique geological characteristics, mining engineers need to think outside the box. This technology enables quick, cost efficient analyses, which in turn facilitates the logical decision making process necessary for the future development of mines in a safe, environmentally sound and cost efficient way,” Arndt said.

“Acceptance of FEA technology in mining is similar to the automotive industry experience, in which Abaqus has been accepted as a part of the vehicle body design process,” Nagtegaal said.

“Auto makers have learned that performing crash simulations of their designs with FEA software is much less costly than real life barrier smashes, and provides a better platform for developing ‘what if’ scenarios.

“Today, we are integrating Abaqus as a tool for Simulation-Aided Mining Engineering in much the same way, with similar achievements in cost saving and improved safety.”

Barry Oosthuizen

SIMULIA Communication Advisor

Dassault Systèmes Australia

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