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Overall Slope Angle vs.

Inter-ramp Slope Angle


In the mining industry, nomenclature can be very important. This became especially clear to me
a few weeks ago when discussing the slope angle of an open pit mine. In the context of the
discussion, the term 'overall slope angle' was used. Later, when attempting to apply this 'overall
slope angle' I discovered that what we were really talking about was 'inter-ramp slope angle.'
Very often, when professionals in the mining industry say 'slope angle' they are referring to the
'inter-ramp slope angle' or the angle from the toe of one bench to the toe of the next bench,
exclusive of any ramp system. This measure is consistent and easy to visualize. It includes one
bench height, one catch bench and the offset due to the face angle. This should not be confused
with 'overall slope angle' which is the angle between the lowest toe and the highest crest
inclusive of any haul roads (Slope Stability in Surface Mining; W.A. Hustrulid p48).
This formal definition of 'overall slope angle' is how we would normally think about the slope of
an ordinary hill. The slope would start at the very top and continue until it flattened out at the
bottom. Over this distance the slope might become more or less steep in a local area but overall
it would start at the top and continue to the toe of the hill. When this same definition is applied
to a pit slope in a surface mine, the application of this angle becomes dynamic even if there is no
ramp in the slope.
When the formal definition of 'overall slope angle' is applied, the measured angle will change
slightly for each additional bench. The source of this dynamic relationship is the fact that the
'overall slope angle' is equal to the 'inter-ramp slope angle' less one bench width. For a single
bench this difference can be very large. However, as more and more benches are added the
change will become smaller. Effectively, as the pit becomes deeper the 'overall slope angle'
becomes steeper.
A simple way to illustrate this difference is to draw the two slope angles on the same pit starting
at the top crest. The 'overall slope angle' by definition will end at the bottom toe. The 'interramp slope angle' will touch each crest on the way down but will intersect the pit floor some
distance from the bottom toe. This difference could dramatically affect the interaction of the pit
slope and the slope stability defined by the existing rock mechanics.
In mining, as in all other industries, the definitions used can change the outcome of technical
discussions. Please be sure that the terms you are using are the terms that describe what you
mean.