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Proyecto minero de oro y plata Angostura, Santander, Colombia

diseo geotcnico del tajo (etapa pre-factibilidad)

Angostura gold-silver mining project, Santander, Colombia
geotechnical open pit design (pre-feasibility study)
Johannes Horner
iC consulenten ZT GmbH, Salzburg-Bergheim, Austria
Alex Caldern
GeoBlast S.A., Santiago, Chile
Ella Castro, Giovanny Ortz, Toms Nolasco, Wilmar Castro, Alfonso Silva, Javier
Gonzales, Frederick Felder
Greystar Resources Ltd., Bucaramanga, Colombia

El proyecto de oro-plata Angostura, localizado en Santander, Colombia, se encuentra actualmente en la etapa
de factibilidad. Como parte de los estudios a este nivel, ha sido elaborado el diseo geotcnico del pit, el cual
sirve como base para el desarrollo del plan minero. Con el fin de establecer un modelo geolgico, geotcnico y
estructural consistente del rea del pit, se realiz una campaa de investigacin detallada compuesta por mapeo
geolgico-geotcnico en superficie y en el subsuelo, anlisis en el sitio y en laboratorio y la evaluacin de ms de
300,000 metros de ncleo de perforacin. Posteriormente, fueron definidos los criterios de aceptabilidad para las
geometras del banco, interrampa y pendiente global. De acuerdo con estos criterios fueron realizados los anlisis
de estabilidad a escala de banco e interrampa evaluando las posibles fallas controladas por discontinuidades y la
estabilidad global evaluando la probabilidad de falla del macizo rocoso. Se determin para cada sector del pit,
una configuracin especial de banco e interrampa. Fueron reconocidas y evaluadas las limitaciones de cada paso
en el proceso del diseo geotcnico del pit. Basado en el conocimiento de estas limitaciones, el prximo paso a
seguir en el diseo geotcnico del pit (estudio de factibilidad definitivo) es continuar mejorando el modelo

The Angostura gold-silver project, Santander, Colombia, is currently in the feasibility stage. As part of this study a
geotechnical pit design had to be elaborated, which serves as basis for the subsequent mine plan. A detailed
investigation campaign, consisting of surface and underground geological-geotechnical mapping, laboratory and
in-situ testing and evaluation of more than 300.000 m of diamond drilling, was conducted, in order to establish a
consistent geological-geotechnical and structural model of the planned pit area. For subsequent geotechnical pit
design acceptability criteria were defined for bench, interramp and global slope geometries. According to these
criteria, stability analyses were performed evaluating discontinuity-controlled failure at bench and interramp scale
and failure of the entire rock mass at global scale. For each sector of the open pit, a particular bench and
interramp configuration could be determined. Limitations of each step within the process of geotechnical pit design
were recognized and evaluated. Based on the knowledge of these limitations, the next step in geotechnical pit
design (definitive feasibility study) is organized for further improvement of the geotechnical model.

The project is wholly owned and developed by

1 INTRODUCTION Greystar Resources Ltd. (Canada), who has been
exploring the area since 1995. From September
The Angostura gold-silver mining project is 2008 to March 2009 the pre-feasibility study
located in the Eastern Cordillera of Colombia, (PFS) was conducted; in May 2009 the definitive
approximately 65 km NNE of the City of feasibility study (DFS) was launched, which will
Bucaramanga, Department of Santander, and 370 be completed by the fourth quarter of 2010.
km N of Bogot, at an elevation between 2,600
and 3,500 m above sea level (Fig. 1, 2).
The pre-feasibility study states a resource 2 GEOLOGY OF THE ANGOSTURA AREA
volume of more than 11.5 million ounzes of gold
(measured and indicated resources). The Angostura gold-silver deposit is
For the feasibility studies a geological- predominantly hosted by poly-deformed and poly-
geotechnical study is required. This study focuses metamorphic Precambrian gneiss of the Santander
on rock mass characterization, kinematic analysis massif. Younger intrusive rocks of Mesozoic and
of discontinuity data and stability analysis at Tertiary age occur in the area, forming elongated
bench-scale, interramp-scale and for the global or irregular shaped bodies. In the Perezosa area
slope of the open pit, which will reach more than where gneisses occur as isolated roof pendents,
800 m of height. the gneiss blocks have a very chaotic distribution.
Schists of the Palaeozoic Silgara Formation occur
only as remnants in the northern part of the
deposit (Ward et al., 1973).
Due to extensive ductile deformation in the
gneiss, a pervasive foliation is developed.
Orientation of foliation planes varies, but shows a
predominance of NE-SW to N-S strikes; minor
orientation is NE-SW striking (Fig. 3).The dips
are moderate to steep towards the NW and SE.
The varying orientation of foliation planes as well
as alignment of small-scale folds suggests the
existence of an isoclinal E to SE vergent fold.
Brittle structures are present as faults and veins.
The most prominent structural features are the
NE-SW trending regional faults La Baja-
Angostura and Romeral-Cucutilla (Fig. 1). Both
regional faults are arranged parallel and are
characterized by right-lateral strike-slip
Figure 1: Location map of the Angostura mining movement. At the step-over of both faults a fault
project and major strike-slip faults bounding the jog developed and secondary extensional
deposit. structures (veins) were formed. These extensional
structures have NW-SE, E-W and NE-SW trends
and are generally steeply dipping.

Figure 3: (a) stereogram of foliation planes (69

data), (b) stereogram of vein structures (257 data).
Figure 2: Angostura project site and proposed
pit outline (view to NE).
Ore formation at Angostura is considered to be
This paper describes the various steps that had associated with hydrothermal processes related to
to be undertaken, in order to establish a sound magmatic events that occurred during the Andean
rock mass model and consistent geotechnical open tectonic phase (Late Miocene; Ortz et al., 2010).
pit design. At that time a hydrothermal system developed,
. which favoured the deposition of precious metals
together with quartz within the extensional
structures (veins).
Due to circulation of hydrothermal fluids within - RM1: silicified rock with high rock and
the rock mass, several of the original mineral rock mass strength, no sign of deformation
components were altered and/or destroyed. Major - RM2: fresh or weakly altered rock, no sign
hydrothermal alteration minerals are quartz, of deformation
sericite, kaolinite, and alunite, amongst others, - RM3: moderately altered rock, no sign of
and chlorite, magnetite and biotite in the mafic deformation
gneisses. The intensity of hydrothermal alteration - RM4: any type of rock with high alteration
varies and usually increases towards the vein and/or deformation features
structures. - RM5: fault material
This matrix was converted into a formula and
3 ROCK MASS CHARACTERIZATION implemented into the geological data base.
Consequently, running the formula in the data
In order to develop a geological-geotechnical base, these rock mass types can be determined for
model for the subsequent stability analysis and each drill hole.
design, rock mass types had to be defined. Field
data, drilling data as well as results from 3.3Laboratory data
laboratory and in-situ testing were integrated in For laboratory testing, drill core was selected
the rock mass model. from ongoing drillings. UCS testing was carried
out on drill core. In addition, acoustic velocity
3.1Field data testing was conducted at several uniaxial samples
The entire area of the Angostura deposit was during strength testing. Point load tests were
mapped geologically-geotechnically. At more than carried out, in order to obtain correlation factors
90 data points information was collected including with UCS results.
lithology, type and intensity of alteration, rock Furthermore, triaxial testing on core samples
strength properties, GSI, fracture frequency, and was performed; additional samples were taken
discontinuities and their properties according to from fault material within the exploration tunnels
ISRM suggested methods (ISRM, 1987) and and were remolded for triaxial testing to obtain
common standardized rock mass characterization data on cohesion and friction angle.
methods (e.g. Bieniawsky, 1984; Hoek and
Marinos, 2000). 3.4In-situ testing
Due to the proposed pit outline, defined in In-situ testing (down-hole seismic velocity
previous stages of the project (Fig. 1 and 2), a logging) was performed at four selected drill
thorough evaluation of the discontinuity systems holes. In order to obtain velocity data for the rock
was of prime importance. mass types, the geology logged in these drill holes
was subject to evaluation by the correlation
3.2Drill core data analysis. Subsequently, the velocity data at each
When the geotechnical study was launched in depth interval were compared with the defined
mid 2007, more than 250,000 m of exploration rock mass type. Hence, for each rock mass type a
drilling had already been carried out. By the end range of seismic velocities could be assigned.
of the pre-feasibility study more than 300.000 m Based on the velocity data the dynamic
of diamond drilling were executed. Due to the fact modulus for each rock mass type could be
that all drill core was split for geochemical determined.
analysis it was not possible to review previously
obtained drill core for geotechnical purposes. 3.5Results of laboratory and in-situ testing
To overcome this technical and logistical Data analysis of laboratory and in-situ testing
problem of reviewing drill core data (visually by has shown that there is an overlap, in particular in
use of photos or manually by reviewing the the strength properties of RM2 and RM3. Review
remnants of drill core in the boxes), a tailor-made of samples and the correlation matrix as the basic
solution was found by establishing a correlation tool for rock mass characterization shows that the
matrix (Horner et al., 2008). This matrix assignation of the intensity of alteration, which is
correlates geological logged features, such as the prime difference between RM 2 and RM 3,
lithology, alteration type and intensity, and during the drill core logging process is a difficult
deformational features (fracturing, shearing) and and, very likely, ambiguous task. Due to the fact
results in the definition of distinct rock mass (RM) that a clear distinction between weak and
types. In general, these types are: moderate altered rock is not always possible, both
rock mass types were grouped into one single rock 4.4Limitations of structural characterization
mass type RM23. Limitations of structural characterization were
recognized during data evaluation. In particular
the properties of discontinuities which show a
4 DISCONTINUITY SYSTEMS wide variation in surface conditions and with
different infillings causes difficulties in the
4.1Data acquisition estimation of cohesion and friction angle on the
Within the pit area more than 1,250 discontinuity plane.
discontinuity data were collected at the To overcome this problem, a series of direct
geotechnical outcrop points. Data acquisition was shear tests as well as the use of manually
spatially restricted to road cuts and drilling performed tilt test on drill core was proposed for
platforms as only a few natural outcrops occur the subsequent stage of the project (DFS).
within the pit area.
According to the structural elements defined Table 1
and used internally in the project, discontinuities Shear
were grouped into foliation planes (s), shear Foliation
Fractures Planes /
planes (sh) and fractures (f). Planes
Orientation highly predom. Highly
4.2Data analysis
variable NE-SW, variable
Table (1) presents the summary of discontinuity NW-SE,
properties for each system. It must be noted that N-S
due to the restriction of outcrop size the Aperture < 5 mm < 5 mm < 5 mm
persistence and the JRC show rather low values Surface smooth, often Slicken-
and thus had to be corrected during the subsequent
condition minor slicken- sided,
investigation phase, in order to not receive too
conservative values for further evaluation and rough; sided, minor
analysis. stepped, minor smooth:
undu- smooth; generally
4.3Structural domains lating generally undu-
Based on the distribution of discontinuities undulating lating
within the entire pit area, four structural domains
Persistence 1 10 m 1 3 m, Up to 10
could be defined (Fig. 4). Each domain is limited
by a major fault towards the other domain. For locally up m, locally
each domain all discontinuity properties were to 10 m even
evaluated separately. larger
Spacing 6 60 6 20 cm up to 6m;
cm, within
locally shear
wider zones 6
60 cm
JRC 26 26 06
Infilling oxide oxide stain, Silty or
stain, narrow silty clayey
narrow infill infilling,
silty infill gauge
Seepage dry dry dry
Rock mechanical properties of discontinuities measured
at outcrops.

Figure 4: Structural domains (Los Laches, Veta

de Barro, Perezosa South and North) identified
within the proposed pit area.
5 HYDROGEOLOGY - Interramp slope: the probability of failure
in operation should not exceed 10%
5.1Data acquisition - Global slope: the probability of failure
No particular hydrogeological data were should not exceed 5%; the FOS in
available before the ongoing geotechnical study. operational conditions (without considering
As most of the drill holes were inclined with seismic loading; with anticipated level of
about 50 to 70 degrees and were left without ground water, and with controlled blasting)
casing or inside protection, only 120 drill holes should be equal of higher than 1.30; the
out of more than 600 could be used to measure the FOS under extreme conditions (with
water level by use of a water level meter. seismic loading; with anticipated level of
ground water, and low quality of blasting)
5.2Modeling should be equal or higher than 1.10.
The obtained data were evaluated and those
data with unrealistic high water levels were 6.2Bench and interramp geometry
omitted for further analysis. According to the resource model and the
Modeling results show a water table following preliminary mine design, a wedge and slide
generally surface topography and minor analysis was performed on two bench heights
deviations along major fault zones. The water (6.25 m and 8.75 m).
table is encountered at depths between about 75 Bench and interramp geometry are intimately
and more than 120 m. related as shown in Figure (5).

5.3Limitations of hydrogeological modeling

In particular the reliability of acquired data as
well as the shortage of data covering a longer
period of time (rainy season dry season) was the
major restriction to hydrogeological modeling.


Slope design had to account for discontinuity

controlled failure as well as for failure of the
entire rock mass.
For discontinuity controlled failure at bench and
interramp scale each structural domain had to be Figure 5: Relationship of bench and interramp
evaluated separately; in addition, for evaluating geometry.
special scenarios, in particular at interramp scale,
only discontinuities with persistence greater than At first stage a kinematic analysis was carried
5 m were considered as significant. out for each individual structural domain, in order
Based on the distribution of discontinuities and to assign a likelihood of certain failure modes for
the intersections with the proposed pit wedge the slope orientation occurring in the structural
failure and planar sliding are considered to be the domain.
most important failure modes. Subsequently, wedge failure sensitivity analysis
was performed by evaluating all possible
6.1Acceptability criteria intersections of discontinuity planes with the
Geotechnical acceptability criteria for the pit proposed bench geometries at each structural
slope design were proposed by the engineering domain.
consultant on behalf of the client, based on For the interramp geometry (height 150 m) only
available information from national and discontinuity data sets with persistence > 5m were
international regulations, as well based on used for the sensitivity analysis.
empirical observations. Planar failure was evaluated by using the
These criteria included: maxima of the distribution of discontinuity data
- Bench geometry: in cross section, the sets applying a probabilistic analysis for each
extent of the cone of failed material of the bench geometry. The most probable failure
bench face slope should not exceed 80% of scenario was picked and evaluated, if it complied
the entire bench width with the given criteria.
The results of the discontinuity controlled mechanical properties was determined by use of
failure analysis are summarized in Table (2). The roclab (rocscience).
previously discussed analysis it was shown that an For the existing hill slopes, the results, using
interramp angle of 47.5 was too steep due to a minimum rock mass parameters, are considered to
resultant FOS of < 1.2 for most of the slope represent a conservative lower-bound back-
orientations. calibration, as evidence of incipient large-scale
slope instability (as may be expected with such
Table 2 low FOS values) has not been documented based
Bench Inter- on the field work performed at the pit area. The
Bench Bench minimum static FOS values for each of these
Structural face ramp
width height slopes, with the water table condition, range from
domain angle angle
1.93 to 2.11.
[] [m] [m] []
For the planned pit slopes, the lowest FOS
Los Laches values (based on minimum rock mass parameter
- East 70 4 6,25 45,0 values), with a water table and pseudostatic
Los Laches acceleration of 0.30 times gravity, range from
- West 70 4,4 6,25 43,1 0.69 to 1.01, or about 8% to 33% lower than the
Veta de values estimated for the corresponding existing
Barro - North 70 4,4 6,25 43,1 hill slopes. These results are also considered to
Veta de represent a conservative lower-bound for the
Barro - South 70 4 6,25 45,0 planned pit slopes. The minimum static FOS
Perezosa values for each of these slopes, with the water
N1 70 4,4 6,25 43,1 table condition, range from 1.49 to 1.76, or about
Perezosa 8% to 29% lower than the values estimated for the
N2 70 4 6,25 45,0 corresponding existing hill slopes.
Perezosa As a comparison, the maximum pseudostatic
S1 70 4,4 6,25 43,1 FOS values (based on maximum rock mass
Perezosa parameter values) with a water table condition, are
S2 70 4 6,25 45,0 in the range of 1.05 to 1.47 (about 9% to 27%
Bench interramp configuration of the Angostura pit lower than the values estimated for the
after the first run of evaluating discontinuity controlled corresponding existing hill slopes). The maximum
failure. static FOS values, with the water table condition,
range from 2.13 to 2.6 (about 4% to 27% lower
6.3Global slope stability than the values estimated for the corresponding
Stability of the overall (global) pit slopes was existing hill slopes).
evaluated with the two-dimensional FLAC
computer code (Itasca). 6.4Optimization
In order to calibrate and constrain the results of Major objective of the optimization of the
performance predictions for the planned pit geotechnical pit design was the increase of the
slopes, the natural hillsides through which the pit interramp angle. Such an increase has significant
will be excavated were first analyzed. Since the impact on the economics of a mine project.
field work performed to date does not indicate the In order to optimize the previously defined
presence of large-scale slope failures, or geometry for bench and interramp scale, material
conditions of incipient large-scale slope failures, properties (cohesion, internal angle of friction)
the existing static factor of safety (FOS) for were assigned to the discontinuities.
natural slopes is reasoned to exceed unity. Subsequent stability analysis including material
At the time of analysis, only the planned pit properties (cohesion, friction angle) of large-scale
geometry (pit slopes) of the scoping study were discontinuities (major faults) showed that an
available. As a consequence, this geometry was increase of the interramp angle of up to 5 is
used for numerical stability analysis. possible at certain domains, given that the FS can
Representative geotechnical sections of the pit be kept at 1.3 according the acceptability criteria.
area were prepared showing the distribution of the However, in order to clearly define material
identified rock mass types. According to the parameters of the different types of discontinuities
results of rock mass characterization (field data, it is necessary to conduct detailed laboratory
laboratory and in-situ tests), for each rock mass a studies. These results can then be integrated into
minimum and a maximum value for rock the existing model for further stability analysis.
Bieniawsky, Z.T. (1984) Rock mechanics design in
mining and tunneling Balkeema, Rotterdam, 272 p.
For the Angostura gold-silver deposit a Hoek, E., Marinos, P. (2000) Predicting tunnel
consistent tailor-made rock mass characterization squeezing problems in weak heterogeneous rock
concept was established, which served as basis for masses Tunnels and Tunneling International,
the geotechnical model of the pit slope design. November/December 2000.
Rock mass types were defined by use of a Horner, J., Castro, E., Campos, C., Felder F., Ortiz, G.
correlation matrix, which combines information (2007) Rock mass classification for open pit design
at the Au-Ag project Angostura, Colombia ISSAER,
on lithology, alteration type and intensity, and September 2007, Bogot.
deformational features. ISRM (1987) Suggested Methods for the quantitative
Laboratory testing (UCS, PLT, triaxial) and in- description of discontinuities in rock masses. Int. J.
situ testing (down-hole velocity logging) provided Rock Mech. Min. Sci. and Geomech., Abstr. Vol. 15:
strength data for each of the defined rock mass 319-368.
Ortz, G., Felder, F., Silva, A., Horner, J. (2010) The
type. Angostura high-sulfidation epithermal gold and silver
Discontinuities were mapped covering the deposit, California-Vetas mining district, Santander,
entire area of the planned open pit. All important Colombia Economic Geology (in preparation).
geological-geotechnical parameters of the Read, J. and Stacey, P., Eds. (2009) Guidelines for
discontinuities were logged, according to ISRM open pit slope design CSIRO Publishing.
suggested methods. The result was the Ward, D., Goldsmith, R., Cruz, J., Restrepo, H. (1973)
Geologa de los Cuadrngulos H12 Bucaramanga y
establishment of a structural model of the pit area. H13 Pamplona, Departamento de Santander USGS
Based on the distribution of discontinuities, four and Ingeominas, Boletn Geolgico, 21(1-3): 1-132.
structural domains could be established.
Concurrently with surface mapping, a first
hydrogeological investigation campaign was
started, in order to define the water table within
the rock mass.
As was mentioned in the previous sections,
each method of investigation had certain
limitations. The existence of such limitations and
the consequences for any further stability analysis
had and has to be kept in mind.
For the subsequent geotechnical pit design
acceptability criteria were defined for bench scale,
interramp scale and for the global slope.
In a first step a general configuration for the
bench and interramp geometry was defined,
according to the structural model. In a second step
the previously determined geometry could be
optimized by assigning distinct rock mechanical
properties to the discontinuities.
For the next step of the Angostura (DFS),
additional investigations and analysis are
foreseen, including amongst others:
- Direct shear test on discontinuities to
define cohesion and friction angle
- Additional triaxial tests, combined with
mineralogical analysis of fault material
- Detailed hydrogeological investigation
program to establish a detailed
hydrogeological model of the pit area and
- Numerical analysis including new data on
hydrogeology and discontinuity properties

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