The determination of in situ rock density is an important process in most opencast mining operations where an accurate estimate of total resource tonnage allows forecasting of metal production and life-of-mine. At the Skorpion zinc mine in Namibia, various techniques have been tried to improve density measurements, which are used to estimate mined tonnage and predict ore recovery based on laboratory measurements of ore yield per rock mass. Hitherto, the Archimedean submersion technique has been the basis of measurement. Downhole wireline density logging was put forward as a technology that could assist in getting accurate density determinations, particularly in the porous and vuggy arkose host rock. A borehole logging trial was conducted where a dual spaced gamma-gamma density sonde and other complementary downhole measurements, such as the photo electric density and optical televiewer, were surveyed for comparison with core density measurements. The wireline logs were run successfully in both wet and dry borehole conditions and a high degree of precision was achieved. The accuracy of the logs was based on industry standard calibration and borehole compensation with some quality assurance using core data in non-porous sections of the borehole sample. Results showed good agreement between core and wireline density in the non-porous rocks, but the wireline logs measured somewhat higher density in porous and vuggy zones. Analysis of the Archimedean technique used at Skorpion showed that the precision achieved was good, but accuracy was compromised by unsaturated and unmeasurable drill core porosity. The extreme geological environment and predominantly dry boreholes highlights the limitations of the gamma-gamma density measurement and demonstrates the critical requirement for sound data quality control and adherence to rigorous calibration standards. The availability of complementary measurements is found to be important to developing the right understanding of the wireline density response in an unfamiliar geological environment. Skorpion mine has recognised the differences in density measured by the Archimedean and the wireline logging techniques, particularly in porous and vuggy formations and supports further test work for quantitative calibration of the response. Following the successful outcome of that work, the wireline method could be deployed on an ongoing basis to supplement and enhance the accuracy of the core-based measurements.


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