Associated Event

Fifth International Conference on Block and Sublevel Caving

30 August – 1 September 2022 | Hilton Adelaide, South Australia

Panel/Block Caving Workshop: From Data to Design

29 August 2022 | Hilton Adelaide, South Australia

The workshop will be held immediately prior to Caving 2022. The workshop is applicable to block and panel caving methods only.

Cave mining owes its increasing popularity to its low operating cost and high productivity. However, the whole mine infrastructure must be designed and constructed before production begins. Consequently, all the design parameters are locked-in at a very early stage, long before the extraction of the cave column is initiated. As such, cave mining is a very inflexible mining method. The consequences associated with poor design are extreme, as opportunities for recovering once production starts is almost nil. As there could be no good design without high quality and sufficient quantity of data, the pathway from data to design in cave mining is paramount.

Mining methods, other than caving, have an opportunity to continuously gather data and adjust their mine design. In caving, the gathering, interpretation of data and design work must be condensed and completed within a few years, with hardly any opportunities to modify and improve the design during mining.

This emphasises the criticality of efficient and accurate data collection, with the data being fed into design techniques, on a critical path, within a very tight timeframe during scoping and feasibility studies.

This workshop will explore what are the best practices in cave mining data collection, management and interpretation, and the key design techniques currently in use at different stages of caving projects. There will be an emphasis on the timeline from data to design, and the advantages and limitations of different approaches.

Workshop Themes

  • Data for cave mining design
  • Determining caveability
  • Footprint layout design
  • Developing undercutting strategy
  • Drawing strategy and cave performance

Workshop Facilitators

Professor Yves Potvin
Professor of Mining Geomechanics
Australian Centre for Geomechanics

Yves joined the Australian Centre for Geomechanics at The University of Western Australia in 1998 and was Centre Director, 2000-2019. Professor Potvin has published more than 100 articles and is the editor/co-editor of 14 conference proceedings and books. He has 40 years of experience in rock mechanics and mine design and has previously held managerial positions at Mount Isa Mines, the Noranda Technology Centre and worked as a mining engineer at Noranda Mines, Gaspe Division. Yves undertakes numerous collaborative industry-focussed research projects and is presently involved with the ACG’s Ground Support Systems Optimisation Project, and the Stope Reconciliation and Optimisation Project. He currently participates in several geotechnical review boards.

Professor Andre van As
Group Leader – Deep Mining Geoscience
The University of Queensland

Andre is an underground mine geotechnical engineer who has spent most of his 30-year career working on caving operations and caving projects. Andre has worked on, or had significant involvement in, more than 10 major caving operations and projects, sits on several cave mining geotechnical review boards, and has published widely on cave mining and caving geomechanics.  

In 1997, he and Dr Rob Jeffrey introduced hydraulic fracturing into the cave mining industry as a means of cave induction and rock mass preconditioning at Northparkes Mines. As a result of their work, they were awarded a CSIRO medal.

After 22 years working for Rio Tinto, Andre formed his own consultancy in 2018, focussed on providing technical expertise to the cave mining industry.  Most recently, Andre joined the Bryan Research Centre at The University of Queensland as the group lead for deep mining geoscience research. 

Workshop Presenters

Dr Alex Campbell
Principal Engineer Mining and Rock Mechanics
Beck Engineering Pty Ltd

Alex is a mining engineer with 15 years’ experience in operating mines and as a consultant. His experience spans underground and open pit mining, with roles including geotechnical engineering, mine production and long term mine planning. He holds bachelor’s degrees in Mining Engineering and Civil Engineering, a master’s in Mining Geomechanics and completed a PhD in 2019. Alex has special interests in sublevel caving, blasting and cave flow simulation, and has published over 20 papers to date. Alex is currently a principal mining and rock mechanics engineering at Beck Engineering.

Chris Chester
Lead – Orebody Knowledge
OZ Minerals

Chris commenced his career in 2001 with Rock Mechanics Technology (RMT) in the UK, primarily focused on the development of novel remote instrumentation for use in the coal mining industry. Since moving to Australia in 2005 he has worked at various operations covering Gold, Nickel, Copper, and Zinc commodities. Currently working at OZ Minerals on their Carrapateena Expansion Project, with a focus on building a strong foundation of Orebody Knowledge in order to minimise risk and maximise value.

Josef Ekkerd
Principal Geotechnical Engineer
Rio Tinto


Corey Kamp
Senior Geotechnical Engineer
New Gold Inc.


James Lett
Superintendent Geotechnical
Newcrest Mining Limited

Cristián Orrego
Principal Geotechnical Engineer
Newcrest Mining Limited

Associate Professor Glenn Sharrock
General Manager – Principal Geotechnical Engineer
Itasca Australia Ltd

Matthew Sullivan
TE, Strategic Geomechanical Specialist


Gert Van Hout
Gatco Consulting

Gert holds a Master’s degree in mining engineering from the Catholic University of Leuven and is an underground mine geotechnical engineer with 25 years’ experience in caving operations and projects across the globe. He started his career with Itasca South Africa and moved to De Beers Consolidated Mines in 1998 before joining Rio Tinto in 2006. Gert established his consultancy in 2020, providing technical assistance to mining firms and other companies requiring his expertise on caving geomechanics. He has a keen interest in the fields of cave flow processes and draw control systems.


Sarah Webster
Study Leader, Life of Mine
CMOC Mining Services Pty Ltd

Sarah is a geomechanical engineer with more than 20 years of experience spent at open pit, stoping and caving operations.  Since 2016 Sarah has led the life of mine studies team at Northparkes to deliver the future cave and open pit projects for Northparkes.  Sarah has a master’s in mining geomechanics from Western Australian School of Mines and is studying a PhD at the Australian National University.