Assessing the Geometry of Defect Waviness from Borehole Data

Duncan Noble

Within the large, open cut, iron ore mines of the Pilbara region of Western Australia, defect shear strengths often control the slope design where bedding dips shallowly to moderately out of the pit slope. The presence of metre to decametre scale open folding or waviness in these units can contribute to the friction angle of bedding shear strengths, potentially allowing for steeper slope angles and improved economics for the deposit.

Traditionally, waviness affecting defect shear strength is assessed from surface mapping, bench mapping or qualitatively from observations in core. Surface mapping of bedrock is often not possible due to detrital cover or a lack of suitable outcrop, while bench mapping is inherently conducted perpendicular to the direction of sliding risk. The use of downhole data from boreholes drilled into the slopes circumvents these issues.

The method presented here involves assessing characteristic downhole wavelength, inter-limb angle and amplitude of folding from defect orientation data interpreted from borehole televiewer imaging. The downhole wavelength and defect orientations are transformed to a true down-dip wavelength, dilation angle, and estimated amplitude in the direction of sliding risk. The calculation of down-dip wavelength is critical for assessing the applicability of the associated dilation angle to the scale of the slope and failure mechanism in question. The adoption of defect shear strengths that include a waviness contribution to the friction angle allows for implementation of steeper slope angles in structurally controlled slopes.