Rock On! SMI-BRC alumnus awarded international prize for mining PhD thesis

20 Aug 2013

Former BRC student Dr Matthew Pierce has been awarded the 2013 Manuel Rocha Medal for his thesis A Model for Gravity Flow of Fragmented Rock in Block Caving Mines by the International Society for Rock Mechanics. 

An alumnus of The University of Queensland (UQ) has been awarded a prestigious rock mechanics award for his efforts in improving understanding around the effects of flow of granular materials (caved rock) in block and panel cave mining as well as sublevel caving. During his PhD, undertaken via the Sustainable Minerals Institute’s WH Bryan Mining and Geology Research Centre (BRC), Dr Matthew Pierce identified a number of new techniques and methods to better predict rock flow in caving mines. This research has enabled industry to optimise production strategies to maximise recovery and minimise dilution through tracking the locations and flow in 3D space of materialswithin the caved rock column. It has been incorporated into a software package used at a number of cave mining operations and projects worldwide at both feasibility and operational stages.Dr Pierce’s research has led to the mining engineer being awarded the 2013 Manuel Rocha Medal for his 2010 doctoral thesis entitled A Model for Gravity Flow of Fragmented Rock in Block Caving Mines. The Rocha Medal is presented annually by the International Society for Rock Mechanics to encourage young researchers in the field of geomechanics. The winner is awarded a bronze medal and a cash prize. “UQ was a great place to do my PhD for a number of reasons including its connection to the mining industry. Regular interaction with the sponsors of the Mass Mining Technology ensured my research outcomes were both practical and innovative,” Dr Pierce said. “UQ encourages use of a wide range of tools in research, including both physical and numerical modelling, and encourages collaboration among researchers.”The mining engineer’s PhD supervisor Dr Geoff Just said: “Throughout his PhD investigations Matt has shown an exceptional ability to remain focused on developing new knowledge of the fundamental mechanics of flow in masses of fragmented rock.”“His depth of knowledge in both the complex mechanics of particle interactions involved in fragmented rock flow and the practical design and operation of large scale underground caving mining operations were significant factors in his success in improving ore recovery.”Professor Gideon Chitombo, who helped oversee Dr Pierce during his studies, added: “Prizes such as Matthew’s are a demonstration of the high quality learnings our researchers receive and the benefits a BRC postgraduate education can provide to an engineer’s future career Dr Pierce is a consultant at Itasca Consulting Group and has previously served on the company’s board of directors. He will be presented with the award at the ISRM International Symposium in Wroclaw, Poland in September.