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Researchers from the University of Western Australia’s Australian Centre for Geomechanics have released a new method that will analyse rock properties in 3D to predict areas vulnerable to failure and keep workers safer.

The new 3D method aims to challenge the way people understand rock behaviour in underground mines and offer new insights into the potential for ground support failure in underground mining.

The researchers focused on unpredictable rockburst and strainburst events, which create significant hazards to underground miners and are often poorly understood.

In a world-first approach, researchers analysed rock properties in three dimensions, identifying attributes that indicate a greater proneness to bursting and improving understanding of the response of traditional ground support to bursting events.

“This research has significant potential for improved mine safety, hazard awareness and greater understanding of ground support behaviour,” WA Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said.

“The safety of our mining personnel is of paramount importance, and predictive capabilities that enable more effective design solutions are critical to ensure our Western Australian mining industry remains a safe and attractive place to work.

“Through the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia, the Western Australian Government continues to invest in research and development to support innovative solutions that benefit the Western Australian community as a whole.”

The 3D measurements can be taken from oriented drillcore obtained during exploration and integrated with regular 3D numerical modelling software to inform better targeted ground support and preventative solutions.

The approach will enable mining personnel to develop new safety strategies in a cost-effective way.