Associated Event

Ground Support 2023
10–12 October 2023 | Perth, Western Australia
Hyatt Regency Perth

The Role of Numerical Modelling in Ground Support Design Workshop

9 October 2023 | South Ballroom, Hyatt Regency Hotel, Perth, Western Australia

From pre-feasibility studies to rehabilitation

About the workshop

Mine-wide and detailed local-scale numerical modelling has become a standard tool for geotechnical decision-making throughout the mine cycle. The use of empirical methods, kinematic analysis and an evolutionary process of incremental support system improvements appear to dominate the ground support design and selection process during the mining cycle.

This workshop will explore the role of numerical methods in ground support design, and its strengths and limitations, as well as examine areas where value can be added with numerical modelling informing decision-making. 

Several experts will present on different topics followed by a panel discussion to further explore some of the presented ideas. 


The role and the strength and limitation of numerical modelling through the mine life cycle:

  • Pre-feasibility studies
  • Feasibility study
  • Detail design 
  • Maintenance/rehabilitation design, e.g. planning pro-active scheduled maintenance
  • Efficiency improvements

The role of numerical modelling at different scales of evaluation, i.e. mine/block-scale, local area, drive-scale.

What is the role and the strength and limitation of different numerical modelling approaches?

  • Continuum/discontinuum
  • Implicit and explicit modelling of ground support elements
  • Comparative assessment versus predictive modelling

The role of numerical modelling for dynamic support design compared to static conditions

Workshop facilitator:

Associate Professor Johan Wesseloo
Australian Centre for Geomechanics

Since obtaining a BEng (civil) and MEng (geotechnical) from The University of Pretoria, Johan has been involved in geotechnical engineering in open pit and underground environments throughout 14 countries. He commenced his career in 1998 as a geotechnical engineer at SRK Consulting, Johannesburg where he was involved in open pit and underground projects in varying geotechnical conditions. In 2005 he was awarded a PhD (geotechnical) from The University of Pretoria. Johan joined the Australian Centre for Geomechanics (ACG) in 2007 as a research fellow. During his time at the ACG, Johan has been involved in research, the supervision of postgraduate students and geotechnical training. He also performs geotechnical and mining-induced seismicity reviews providing him with the valuable opportunity to visit numerous operations worldwide. Johan was instrumental in the development of the mXrap software and many of the software routines and apps available in that platform. Johan is a fellow of The Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM). He was awarded the SAIMM Gold Medal in 2006 and 2016, and the SAIMM Silver Medal in 2014. In 2019, Johan was appointed director of the ACG.

Workshop presenters:

Frans Basson
Director Geotechnical Underground
Newmont Australia

Frans began his geotechnical journey in 1996 and filled various operational roles for the next eight years. After that, he joined two consultancies and accepted a position at Newmont in December 2007, where he served in different geotechnical capacities within the company. His first degree was in physics and chemistry, but he worked through the South African Chamber of Mines Competency Tickets and obtained the Advanced Rock Engineering Ticket in 2001 and a Master’s of Engineering (geotechnical) in 2005. He has been involved in many project studies involving various forms of stoping under waste fill. Frans is a hobby programmer who makes geotechnical software available under the BasRock banner.


Miguel Fuenzalida
Principal Geomechanics Engineer
Itasca Consulting Group, Inc., USA

Miguel (MASc, BEng) is a principal mining and geomechanics engineer at Itasca Consulting Group. He holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s of science in mining engineering from the University of Chile. Based in Minneapolis, USA, Miguel provides consulting services in underground mining by applying numerical modelling to sequencing, stability, ground support and mining-induced seismicity. Miguel has extensive experience in sublevel, block and panel caving projects – from concept to feasibility level – and cave mines where he has specialised in undercut and extraction level design, draw scheduling, forecasting of caveability, fragmentation, recovery, infrastructure stability and surface subsidence. He has participated in several mining and rock mechanics conferences and has been part of international collaborative research consortiums such as Mass Mining Technology) and Caving2040. He has received the Juan Bruggen Best Graduate of the Class of 2010 Mining Engineering Award from the Mining Engineering Institute of Chile and is currently a member of the American Rock Mechanics Association and the Society of Mining Engineering.


Dr Ehsan Ghazvinian
Senior Geomechanics Engineer
Itasca Consulting Group, Inc., USA

Ehsan has a background in geomechanics of brittle rocks, with experience in the design and analysis of underground excavations for mining and civil applications. He provides consulting services to underground mining by applying numerical modelling to assess the stability of underground excavations, sequencing life of mine, cave mine simulations and ground support, as well as induced seismicity associated with deep mining.


Gerhard Hofmann
Senior Mine Seismologist, Geotechnical Engineer
AngloGold Ashanti, South Africa

Gerhard obtained an MSc (physics) at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, in 1995. He was employed in the geophysics group by ISS International at the end of 1995, mainly to introduce ground-penetrating radar to underground mines. In 1998, he joined the seismology division where he was involved in mine seismology research and development of seismic hazard assessment techniques. This included using boundary element numerical modelling to assess the stability of geological structures in high-stress environments. In 2009, he joined the South African central rock engineering group at Anglogold Ashanti as senior mine seismologist, where he provided an in-house design and research function. He obtained a graduate diploma in engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand School of Mining in 2013. In 2018, he transferred to the international geotechnical engineering group and contributed to stress damage back-analyses and implemented efficient numerical modelling methodologies at operations in Brazil, Australia and Africa. A keen interest of his is in situ overcoring stress measurements. He has conducted projects in high-stress South African gold mines and in Anglogold Ashanti mines in Tanzania.


Dr Ayako Kusui
Principal Engineer
Beck Engineering Pty Ltd

Ayako Kusui is a principal mining and rock mechanics engineer with Beck Consulting where she works on various projects to manage complex geotechnical hazards and risks in deep mining both domestically and internationally.

Both her bachelors and masters degrees are in civil engineering and she completed her PhD in rock ,mechanics at the Western Australia School of Mines in 2016. Her PhD, using a physical scaled model, investigated hard rock mass behaviour under high stress and surface ground support response subject to violent ejection. On completion of her PhD, Ayako worked in the area of seismically active underground mines and block cave mine around Australia until she joined Beck Consulting in 2022.


Robert Lowther
Principal Geotechnical Engineer
Itasca Australia Pty Ltd

Robert is a principal geotechnical engineer with over 22 years’ experience in the mining industry. He spent over 21 years with Newcrest Mining Limited in operations and project roles encompassing sub-level caving, block caving, large open pits, hydraulic fracturing, and feasibility studies in both Australia and Papua New Guinea. His areas of interest include cave mining geomechanics, rock slope geomechanics, hydraulic fracturing for cave propagation and seismic hazard reduction, numerical modelling, ground support design for seismically active and strain bursting conditions, surface and underground based deformation monitoring, cave monitoring, and understanding the evolution of damage to mine excavations. In 2022 he joined Itasca Australia as a principal geotechnical engineer with a strong focus on using FLAC3D software to simulate the stability of underground workings for a variety of projects and mining methods. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree in mining engineering, a Master of Engineering Science degree in mining geomechanics, and a Master of Engineering Research degree in rock mechanics from the University of New South Wales. He has authored and co-authored several peer reviewed technical papers.


Cristián Orrego
Principal Geotechnical Engineer
Newcrest Mining Limited

Cristian is a mining engineer with more than 14 years’ experience in rock mechanics in mining companies and as a consultant. He has worked on multiple mines and projects throughout South America, Australasia and Africa with a strong focus on numerical modelling as a tool for geohazard management and mine design optimisation in caving and open pit environments. He is currently working at Newcrest Mining as principal geotechnical engineer within the mining group in Melbourne, Australia, providing technical support, assurance, design and leadership on geotechnical numerical modelling across Newcrest studies, projects and operations.


Dr Abouzar Vakili
Principal Geotechnical Engineer
Mining One and Cavroc

Abouzar is a principal geotechnical engineer and numerical modelling specialist with over 18 years’ experience in operations, geotechnical analysis, design and research. His main expertise is in applying modern geomechanical tools for geotechnical engineering and design in extreme ground conditions. He has consulted several mine sites with deep and high-stress conditions. He has authored more than 30 technical papers and articles.
His ongoing consulting and operational work for several deep underground mines assisted with fine tuning and calibrating a comprehensive constitutive model called the Improve Unified Constitutive Model (IUCM) which was released in 2016 and commercialised in 2017.
Abouzar is also a founder of Cavroc, a software company which facilitates cutting edge geotechnical numerical modelling.


Dr Will Bawden
Chief Executive Officer
Mine Design Technologies, Canada

Dr Bawden received his BSc and MS in engineering geology in 1970 and 1972 respectively and his PhD in rock mechanics in 1980. His career has been focused on hard rock mining geomechanics with a special interest in underground geomechanical mine design. After working for the Noranda mining corporation, Dr Bawden joined academia and is a professor emeritus in the Lassonde Mineral Engineering program at the University of Toronto. Along with maintaining a personal consulting practice, he is co-founding partner for two companies – Mine Design Technologies and Mine Design Engineering (now RocEng Inc). Dr Bawden received the rock mechanics award from the strata control committee of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum. He is a registered professional engineer in Ontario and British Columbia, a fellow and life member of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering, and an American Rock Mechanics Association fellow.


Dr John Player
Director and Principal Geotechnical Engineer
MineGeoTech Pty Ltd

John has many years’ of experience in mining and geotechnical engineering. His specialties include: ground support response and design in a seismic and non-seismic environment; and, assessment of ground conditions and their expected response to mining.
John spent seven years, from 2003, undertaking his PhD then continued as a Senior Research Fellow to undertake further data analysis and continue to develop the WASM Dynamic Testing Facility and associated equipment for determining the performance of reinforcement and support systems. During this time he has also undertaken consulting work to open-pit and underground mines in Western Australia. John currently works for MineGeoTech.


Sami Talu
Principal Caving/Geotechnical Engineer
Rio Tinto

Sami has 34 years of experience as a qualified rock mechanics and mining engineer. Sami has worked mostly on deep tabular hard rock mining and caving operations that are subject to high levels of stress and seismicity risk. Sami has hands-on experience working on a variety of underground and open pit mines and projects in South Africa, Australia, North America, and Asia with a particular emphasis on geohazard management and mine design optimisation in tabular deep level mining, caving, and open pit contexts. Sami has had experience working in mines for coal, uranium, diamonds, gold and copper.
Sami’s education includes a master’s in mining/geotechnical engineering and a mining engineering bachelor’s degree. Sami has held management, senior geotechnical engineer, geotechnical superintendent, and principal geotechnical engineer jobs throughout his career, each with varying degrees of site and head office responsibilities.


Owen Watson
Principal Geotechnical Engineer
Newmont Australia