Queensland Chapter

The Manefay Failure at Bingham Canyon Mine:
investigation outcomes and lessons

Martyn Robotham, Chief Geotechnical Advisor Rio Tinto

Presented by:
AusIMM QLD Branch with the AGS QLD Chapter

On 10 April 2013 Rio Tinto’s Bingham Canyon open-pit copper mine experienced what we understand is the world’s largest ever in-pit slope failure.  With slope monitoring data, the failure was identified some months prior to failure and mining operations ceased in the area of concern.  Once the likelihood of failure had been recognised and evaluated, the mine communicated the issue to staff and the local community, whilst preparing the mine for the slope failure as well as options for remediation and continued operation post-failure.  When failure occurred it manifested as some 145M tonnes of material which flowed from the north-eastern pit slope and into the pit bottom.  The failed mass behaved differently to that expected leading to loss of equipment, but no safety impacts.

This lecture tells the story of failure identification, the failure itself and the Bingham Canyon Mine team’s incredible achievement to recover and continue mine production.

About Martyn Robotham

Martyn is Chief Advisor Geotechnical with Rio Tinto’s Technology and Innovation Group in Brisbane and assists with geotechnical risk management across Rio Tinto’s global properties.  He has 30 years of experience in engineering geology, open pit mine slope design and mine operations since gaining his BSc. Geology (Mining) from the Royal School of Mines (RSM) in 1985.  He spent 3 years as an underground mine geologist with Anglo American in South Africa before returning to RSM for his MSc. Engineering Geology.  After 7 years of UK based consulting in a broad range of mine geotechnical and hydrogeological projects, including major large open cut coal feasibility studies in Indonesia and South America, Martyn moved to Australia.  Following mine geotechnical consulting and management roles with Dames & Moore, Coffey Geosciences and Golder Associates, he joined Rio Tinto’s Technical Services team in 2001.  In the subsequent years he was involved in mining and geotechnical work at all of Rio Tinto’s commodity groups in many different countries.  In 2007, he took the role of Technical Manager Geological Services at Rio Tinto’s Bingham Canyon Mine in Utah, USA, before his return to Australia in 2010.

Martyn leads the Rio Tinto global geotechnical discipline and leads geotechnical risk management and assurance processes across the group.  He represents Rio Tinto on a number of major technical committees and conferences, including the Large Open Pit (LOP) slope stability research project.  Martyn is a lead in Rio Tinto’s relationship with the University of Queensland (UQ) and is Chair of the Advisory Board to the UQ Geotechnical Engineering Centre, which he helped create.  In 2014, Martyn was awarded the title of Adjunct Professor by UQ’s School of Civil Engineering.

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