The majority of open-pit mineral workings are established in hydrogeological environments in which unsaturated drainage or saturated groundwater flow occurs predominantly via discrete fracture networks. Stress relaxation resulting from open-pit mineral extraction can lead to a change in host rock fracture network configuration and fracture hydraulic properties, with the potential to change local hydrogeological characteristics and groundwater flow regimes. Research being undertaken at the University of Leeds is applying a DFN approach to investigate the hydrogeological significance of such effects in relation to methodologies for impact assessment at mineral sites. The paper presents a summary of the research approach and preliminary results. A discrete finite element approach to geomechanical modelling has been undertaken with simulation of DFN evolution in response to lithostatic unloading for a range of pre-existing discontinuity configurations, lithological types and variations in in-situ stress regimes. Preliminary modelling results have provided improved understanding of the vertical and lateral extent of potential DFN response for a range of excavation profiles. Research results will be used to define conditions under which open-pit mineral extraction could lead to hydrogeologically significant change in fracture flow drainage characteristics at a scale relevant to hydrogeological impact assessment for new and existing mineral workings.

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