Davide Elmo

Associate Professor

Relevant Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Mar 2019)
Cave-to-mill : mine and mill integration for block cave mines (2019)

Population growth and economic development are expected to increase future global copper demand. The depletion of significant near-surface deposits and advances in detecting deeply buried ore has led to the mining industry progressively exploring further below the surface to discover new copper deposits. Accordingly, block and panel cave mining methods are being increasingly proposed as they allow massive, deeply situated ore-bodies to be mined economically. To improve the productivity of a mining method that will be used to excavate a growing proportion of global copper supply, an integrated mine and mill approach for planning and operating block cave mines, termed Cave-to-Mill, was developed. Key distinguishing features of cave mining, in comparison to other mining methods, are the uncertainty in the size of rock being fed to the mill and the lack of selectivity. As part of the Cave-to-Mill framework, fragmentation and sensor-based sorting studies were carried out at the New Afton block cave mine to investigate opportunities to improve overall productivity.Cave fragmentation is a key cave-to-mill parameter as it has implications on the productivity of both mining and milling processes. Fragmentation measurements of drawpoint muck, comminution tests and calibrated mill models were used to assess the impact of variations in feed size and hardness on New Afton mill performance. Analysis of historical mine and mill data showed that mill feed size and subsequently mill throughput are sensitive to the areas being mucked within the cave. A sensor-based ore sorting study, incorporating bulk and particle sorting systems, showed that rock from the New Afton copper-gold porphyry deposit is amenable to prompt gamma neutron activation analysis, and to X-Ray fluorescence sensors. A conceptual flowsheet, where both technologies are used as separate unit operations, was evaluated. It was found that the sorting concept demonstrated an improvement in the net smelter return of excavated material. Results from the study were used to develop a method to design and evaluate a block cave for the case where sensor-based sorting systems are included in the flowsheet.

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Experimental investigation of the effect of broken ore properties on secondary fragmentation during block caving (2016)

Block cave mining is experiencing a global growth in importance as new large, lower grade and deeper ore bodies favouring underground mass mining methods are developed. With block caving, the rock mass fragmentation process is decisive in the design and success of the operation. The last stage of this fragmentation process known as secondary fragmentation, plays a major role in the design and success of a caving operation. Despite this, it is the least understood fragmentation stage due in part to the complex mechanisms and the numerous variables involved in this phenomenon. The broken ore density (BOD) and the inter-block friction angle (ϕ') are comprehensively investigated here. A conceptual framework describing the BOD distribution and a procedure to evaluate this parameter under both an isolated movement zone and interactive flow are proposed, and an approach to evaluate ϕ' under different broken ore properties and draw column conditions is developed to be applied to early stage feasibility studies and design. A comprehensive laboratory testing program was carried out using concrete cuboids, controlling their size, shape and compressive strength. These are used as a proxy for broken ore fragments. These results were used to develop empirical design charts for assessing secondary fragmentation and hang-ups potential. Several factors influencing the secondary fragmentation for feasibility and advanced engineering assessments have been investigated including: air gap thickness, BOD, segregation of large blocks due to draw column surface topology, broken ore strength heterogeneity, block strength damage and crushing under high confining stresses, water within draw columns, and cushioning by fines. This new knowledge will contribute to more accurate secondary fragmentation predictions at the drawpoints. Finally, a new empirical approach to predict secondary fragmentation and drawpoint block size distribution (BSD) directed at early-stage conceptual and feasibility engineering design studies is developed. This methodology, built with relevant data from related fields and supplemented by generated data, was tested against field data from the El Teniente mine, Chile, confirming satisfactory predictions for stronger rocks and mixtures of strong and weak broken ore materials. The results were not as reliable for predicting drawpoint BSD for weak rocks.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010-2017)
Linking the fracture intensity of an in situ rock mass to block cave mine fragmentation (2017)

Prediction of cave fragmentation has been one of the biggest concerns for caving operation, since the inadequate assessment can potentially result in loss of project value and safety. The spatial variability of the natural fracture network holds significant implications with respect to block cave mine fragmentation. In this thesis, an in situ fragmentation model is generated, based on Discrete Fracture Network (DFN) models. The volumetric fracture intensity value (P₃₂), derived from the DFN model, is used as an indicator of the rock mass’ structural character, and it provides a direct link to rock mass fragmentation. Major structures were included in the model in a deterministic manner, and the spatial variability of the fracture intensity was analyzed to derive a geostatistical model of rock mass fragmentation. The fragmentation ‘block model’ was then superimposed onto a PCBC draw schedule model, in an attempt to link fragmentation and height of draw.Poor data can potentially compromise DFN analysis, and may result in flawed validation and understanding. At the same time, it is important to define clear and objective methodologies, when analyzing field data, and when deriving input for DFN models. Piecewise Linear Interpolation and recreation of the conceptual DFN model are both used to study the influence of fracture intensity interval length and role of human uncertainty, on the final DFN-derived 3D spatial model. The results show that interval lengths are related to a resolution that can be effectively used in large-scale 3D continuum models, to represent the Representative Elementary Volume (REV) for the rock mass. A digital image processing technique is applied in order to assess caved ore fragmentation. Validation of this method has been gained from the study of lab experiments. Furthermore, a conversion factor for relating 1D image-based measurement to 3D objects is calculated, since the DFN-based in situ fragmentation model yields volumetric size distribution, whereas image processing techniques yield equivalent spherical diameters. Finally, by using the above-mentioned input data analyses, this thesis investigates the possible links between natural fragmentation, secondary fragmentation, height of draw, and observed over-sized material and hang-up.

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Study of scale effects of rock quality designation (RQD) measurements using a discrete fracture network approach (2017)

RQD measurements are performed on the assumption that the drilling cores of the rock mass would be representative of in situ geological conditions. This thesis focuses on the use of Discrete Fracture Network (DFN) modelling to study the influence of core length on RQD measurements for synthetic “homogeneous” rock masses. An homogeneous rock mass is considered to have a measurable global volumetric intensity and representing a single geotechnical domain, without the occurrence of shear zones, fault zones and closely spaced weakness planes. For a given fracture intensity, the results show that the variability of RQD measurements decreases with increasing core length size, which is consistent with the concept of Representative Elementary Volume (REV). Furthermore, an attempt is made to demonstrate the link between DFN based fracture intensity indicators (i.e. Linear Intensity, P₁₀ and Volumetric Joint Count, P30) and RQD measurements. The analysis is repeated using field data collected at two different room-and-pillar mines, and the results further demonstrate the existence of a Representative Elementary Length (REL) for RQD measurements, analogue to the concept of REV. In this research, the REL of geometrical property P₂₁, which is the length of fracture traces per unit area of sampling plane, is compared to that of RQD. Using an implicit block search algorithm, the blockiness character of the synthetic rock masses is also studied with given fracture intensities used to measure RQD values.

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Numerical modelling of rock anchor pullout and the influence of discrete fracture networks on the capacity of foundation tiedown anchors (2016)

Numerous studies presented in this thesis have reported failure of the rock mass surrounding an anchor, as a result of applied external tensile loads (i.e. pullout loads) transferred to rock mass from the anchor and the overlying structure. Resistance to this failure mechanism is provided in design by assuming that the dead weight of a uniformly shaped inverted “cone”, with an assumed initiation point and breakout angle, provides resistance to the design loads. In some cases, a minor contribution of rock mass tensile or shear strength is considered by designers across the area of the assumed pullout cone. Strength estimates for this additional resistance are based primarily on sparse historic testing data, rock mass rating type relationships developed for other applications, and engineering judgement. However, rock mass rating systems assume that the rock mass is homogenous and isotropic, and at the scale of the anchor this assumption may not be valid since individual fractures may influence anchor stability.As an alternative to the current foundation anchor design method, this research presents a new approach to the rock cone pullout problem using Discrete Fracture Networks (DFN) combined with numerical simulations. The simulations presented in the research investigate the influence of fractures in a synthetic rock mass on ultimate anchor strength, with the purpose of developing a method for incorporation of scale effects of jointing in anchor design.By using numerical simulations that allow the load transfer mechanism from the anchor to the rock mass to vary with stiffness, it is contended that the failure mechanism of the rock mass under the applied loading can be considered more appropriately in anchor designs. It is also contended that some aleatory variability associated with fractures can be quantified using a DFN-based approach. Fractures are observed to have an influence on both the load distribution in the anchor as well as the ultimate resistance of the rock mass to pullout. The mapping considerations required to produce a DFN model for anchor pullout are described in this thesis and recommendations for incorporating DFN based models in anchor design are provided herein.

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Numerical analysis of the effects of external blasts on tunnels (2015)

This thesis presents the application of the finite-discrete element method for simulation of the impact of external blast loads on tunnels in rock. An extensive database of field tests of underground explosions above tunnels is used for calibrating and validating the proposed numerical method. The numerical results are shown to be in good agreement with published data for large-scale physical experiments. 1D and 2D model results are compared to analytical spalling equations and to the field test findings. It was found that only the 2D models are suitable for support design. The influence of rock strength on tunnel durability to withstand blast loads is investigated. It was found that higher rock strength will increase the tunnel resistance to the load on one hand, but decrease attenuation on the other hand. Thus, under certain conditions, results for weak and strong rock masses are similar. Finally, a discussion on tunnel support design to withstand blasting is presented. A distinction between heavy spalling and light rockfall is made based on an estimation of the ratio of peak stress of the arriving wave to the rock tensile strength. Accordingly, different design approaches are suggested: for heavy spalling a low impedance isolating layer between the tunnel liner and surrounding rock is recommended. For light rockfall, a simplified static FEM analysis procedure is presented.

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Recent Tri-Agency Grants

The following is a selection of grants for which the faculty member was principal investigator or co-investigator. Currently, the list only covers Canadian Tri-Agency grants from years 2013/14-2016/17 and excludes grants from any other agencies.

  • Mine-to-Mill Integration for Block Cave Mines - Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) - Collaborative Research and Development Grants - Project (2016/2017)
  • Characterization of secondary fragmentation processes using a combination of laboratory experiments and numerical analysis - Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) - Collaborative Research and Development Grants - Project (2015/2016)
  • A discrete fracture network approach to rock mass characterization and assesment of rock fragmentation for cave mining - Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) - Discovery Grants Program - Individual (2013/2014)

Membership Status

Member of G+PS

Program Affiliations


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