On the monitoring and early-warning of brittle slope failures in hard rock masses: Examples from an open-pit mine

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The management of unstable slopes is one of the most critical issues when dealing with safety in open-pit mines. Suitable notice of impending failure events must be provided, and at the same time the number of false alarms must be kept to a minimum to avoid financial losses deriving from unnecessary outages of the production works. Comprehensive slope monitoring programs and early warning systems are usually implemented to this aim. However, systematic procedures for their tuning are lacking and several key factors are often overlooked. Therefore the mitigation of slope failure risk is still a topic of great concern, especially in open-pit mines excavated through hard rock masses featuring markedly brittle behavior, which supposedly provide little or no measurable precursors to failure. In this paper, 9 instabilities occurred at an undisclosed open-pit mine, and monitored by ground-based radar devices, were reviewed with the goal of characterizing the typical slope deformation behavior and defining the appropriate strategy for the setup of alarms. The estimated mass of the case studies ranged from 1500 t to 750,000 t. 5 instabilities culminated to failure, whereas the other 4, although showing considerable amounts and rates of movement, ultimately did not fail. The analysis provided critical insights into the deformation of hard rock masses of high geomechanical quality, and allowed the identification of “signature” parameters of the failure events. General operative recommendations for effective slope monitoring and early warning were consequently derived.




Carlà, T., Farina, P., Intrieri, E., Botsialas, K., & Casagli, N. (2017). On the monitoring and early-warning of brittle slope failures in hard rock masses: Examples from an open-pit mine. Engineering Geology, 228, 71–81. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enggeo.2017.08.007

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