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Making models for safer mining

Some mining environments are unpredictable – Cassady’s research is helping mining companies build models so they will know how certain rocks will behave in a particular environment.


When Cassady Harraden moved from the US to Tasmania, her luggage weighed a lot.

Because as a geologist, she had to take her rock collection to her new home where she is studying her PhD at CODES in the Transforming the Mining Value Chain research hub.

Even in the United States everyone talks about the University of Tasmania and the geology program here, particularly the postgraduate program.

“My research is looking at how we can better extract minerals from the earth. I’m looking at images that we collected from automated rock scanning systems and seeing how we can determine what the integrity of the rock is. 

We’re coming up with methods that allow mining companies to predict rock behaviour in what can be an unpredictable mining environment.

“Part of my PhD is looking at how the rock is broken and the different fractures. Looking at the different minerals that are present in a rock tells us how it’s going to behave when it’s extracted, so miners know ahead of time what they’re actually dealing with.

“We can help them build models that will predict exactly how this rock is going to behave when you put it through a processing environment. 

If we can apply these technologies and these ideas and models that we’re coming up with, and make them as efficient and safe as possible, it will assist with getting the most out of our mining, with the smallest impact that we can manage.

Cassady said there’s lots of different ways that we can look at mineralogy, the study of minerals’ make up.

“One is using the scanning electron microscope which we have here at the Central Science Laboratory at the University. That allows us to actually look at individual minerals within a rock and determine what the basic chemistry of those minerals are.

“So if we can actually look at an image of a particular mineral, we can really understand from a mining processing sense, when we crush the rock and we go to extract the minerals that we’re interested in, how the rock is going to behave,” she said.

Cassady said it has been a 'really fantastic opportunity' to collaborate not only with University researchers but also with external industry people on the project.

 “My dad was a geologist and used to follow him around the desert in New Mexico looking for rocks.

He actually ran into someone that he knew from my hometown and they asked what I was up to and he said, ‘she’s at CODES.’ And they said, ‘I know CODES, that’s in Tasmania!’ So it really does have an international reputation.

Cassady's research is part of the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub for Transforming the Mining Value Chain (TMVC). The TMVC is funded by the Australia Research Council (ARC), AMIRA International, Newcrest Mining, BHP Billiton & Corescan (Partner Organisations), Laurin Technic & RWTH Aachen University (Other Organisations) and various other Additional Funder Organisations.

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