Authors: Hutchinson, DJ

Open access courtesy of:


Cite As:
Hutchinson, DJ 2023, 'Integrating monitoring data into risk assessment and management for rock slopes', in PM Dight (ed.), SSIM 2023: Third International Slope Stability in Mining Conference, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 55-64,

Download citation as:   ris   bibtex   endnote   text   Zotero

Large open pit and natural rock slope monitoring methods have become increasingly available and useful with advances in equipment, analysis techniques and data integration. The toolbox of remote and in situ instrumentation provides a wealth of opportunities to collect data and inform deformation-based analyses. As a result, observational design approaches are increasingly being adopted and are of benefit, as long as they are well integrated into risk assessments and the consequence of potential failures is well understood. As monitoring data becomes increasingly available, we are able to consider the deformation capacity of slopes, particularly in post failure event back-analyses. The capacity for slope deformation prior to failure ranges from very small to very large strains, depending on the failure mechanism, which, in turn, depends on the geological and rock mass characteristics. Small strain deformations and failure modes must be identified early, so that the risk of failure can be assessed and mitigated if required. This relies on understanding the geological setting, and, in particular, the structural controls on the slope’s stability. Case histories from several locations will be discussed within this framework.

Keywords: rock slope instability, remote sensing, deformation monitoring

Abellán, A, Oppikofer, T, Jaboyedoff, M, Rosser, NJ, Lim, M & Lato, MJ 2014, ‘Terrestrial laser scanning of rock slope instabilities’, Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, vol. 39, pp. 80–97.
Assali, P, Grussenmeyeraa, P, Villemin, T, Pollet, N & Viguier, F 2016, ‘Solid images for geostructural mapping and key block modeling of rock discontinuities’, Computers & Geosciences, vol. 89, pp. 21–31.
Blikra, LH 2008, ‘The Aknes rockslide; monitoring, threshold values and early-warning’, in Z Chen, J-M Zhang, K Ho, F-Q Wu & Z-K Li (eds), Proceedings of the 10th International Symposium on Landslides and Engineered Slopes, CRC Press, Boca Raton.
Bonneau, D, DiFrancesco, P-M & Hutchinson, DJ 2019a, ‘Surface reconstruction for three-dimensional rockfall volume analysis’, International Journal of Geo-Information, vol. 8, no. 12.
Bonneau, DA & Hutchinson, DJ 2019b, ‘The use of terrestrial laser scanning for the characterization of a Cliff-Talus system in the Thompson River Valley, British Columbia, Canada’, Geomorphology, vol. 327, pp. 598–609.
Bonneau, D, Hutchinson, DJ, DiFrancesco, P-M, Coombs, M & Sala, Z 2019c, ‘3-dimensional rockfall shape back-analysis: methods and implications’, Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, vol. 19, 2745–2765.
Bonneau, DA, Hutchinson, DJ, McDougall, S, DiFrancesco, P-M & Evans, T 2022, ‘Debris-flow channel headwater dynamics: examining channel recharge cycles with terrestrial laser scanning’, Frontiers in Earth Science, vol. 10,
Brideau, M-A, Sturzenegger, M, Stead, D, Jaboyedoff, M, Lawrence, M, Roberts, N, Ward, B, Millard, T & Clague, J 2011, ‘Stability analysis of the 2007 Chehalis lake landslide based on long-range terrestrial photogrammetry and airborne LiDAR data’, Landslides, vol. 9, pp. 75–91.
Buyer, A Aichinger, S & Schubert, W 2020, ‘Applying photogrammetry and semi-automated joint mapping for rock mass characterization’, Engineering Geology, vol. 264.
DiFrancesco, P-M 2021, Digital Rockfall Databases: Developing Best Practices for Semi-Automatic Extraction of Rockfall from LiDAR, master’s thesis, Queen’s University, Kingston,
DiFrancesco, P-M, Bonneau, D & Hutchinson, DJ 2020, ‘The implications of M3C2 projection diameter on 3-D semi-automated rockfall extraction from sequential terrestrial laser scanning point clouds’, Remote Sensing, vol. 12, no. 11.
DiFrancesco, P-M, Bonneau, D & Hutchinson, DJ 2021, ‘Computational geometry-based surface reconstruction for volume estimation: a case study on magnitude-frequency relations for a LiDAR-derived rockfall inventory’, International Journal of GeoInformation, vol. 10, no. 3.
Donati, D, Stead, D, Brideau, M-A & Ghirotti, M 2021, ‘Using pre-failure and post-failure remote sensing data to constrain the threedimensional numerical model of a large rock slope failure’, Landslides, vol. 18, pp. 827–847.
Eberhardt, E, Ness, M, Noon, D, Schwarz, E & Stacey, P 2020, ‘Chapter 2: overview of slope monitoring’, in R Sharon & E Eberhardt (eds), Guidelines for Slope Performance Monitoring. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp. 7–16.
Ergun, S, Emam, S, Rodriguez, P, Fahle, L, Schafer, K, Dedecker, F, Williams, C, Cambio, D & Ross, B 2022, ‘Particle flow code modeling of slope failure and runout at Bingham Canyon Mine’, Proceedings of the International Slope Stability 2022 Symposium.
Farmakis, I, Bonneau, D, Hutchinson, DJ, Vlachopoulos, N 2021, ‘Targeted rock slope assessment using voxels and object-oriented classification’, Remote Sensing, vol. 13, no. 7.
Glastonbury, J & Fell, R 2000, Report on the Analysis of “Rapid” Natural Rock Slope Failures, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering Report No. R390, University of New South Wales, Sydney.
Hutchinson, DJ, Lato, M, Gauthier, D, Kromer, R, Ondercin, M, van Veen, M & Harrap, R 2015, ‘Applications of remote sensing techniques to managing rock slope instability risk’, GeoQuebec 2015, Canadian Geotechnical Society, Richmond.
Hutchinson, DJ, Bonneau, D & Diederichs, K 2022, ‘Rock slope monitoring – the benefits and challenges of remotely sensed data’, Geohazards 8, pp. 13–23.
Jaboyedoff, M, Metzger, R, Oppikofer, T, Couture, R, Derron, M-H, Locat, J & Turmel, D 2007, ‘New insight techniques to analyze rock-slope relief using DEM and 3Dimaging cloud points: COLTOP-3D software’, in E Eberhardt, D Stead, & T Morrison (eds), Rock mechanics: Meeting Society’s Challenges and Demands, vol. 1, Taylor & Francis, Milton, pp. 61–68.
Jaboyedoff, M, Couture, R & Locat, P 2009, ‘Structural analysis of Turtle Mountain (Alberta) using digital elevation model: toward a progressive failure’, Geomorphology, vol. 103, pp. 5–16.
Kristensen, L, Pless, G, Blikra, LH & Anda, E 2020, ‘Keynote lecture: management and monitoring of large rockslides in Norway’, in CC Li, H Odegaard, AH Hoien & J Macias (eds), ISRM International Symposium: Eurock 2020 – Hard Rock Engineering.
Kromer, R, Hutchinson, DJ, Lato, M, Gauthier, D & Edwards, T 2015a, ‘Identifying rock slope failure precursors using LiDAR for transportation corridor hazard management’, Engineering Geology, vol. 195, pp. 93–103.
Kromer, RA, Abellán, A, Hutchinson, DJ, Lato, M, Edwards, T & Jaboyedoff, M 2015b, ‘A 4D filtering and calibration technique for small-scale point cloud change detection with a terrestrial laser scanner’, Remote Sensing, vol. 7, no. 10, 13029-13052, erratum published, Remote Sensing, 2015, vol. 7, no. 12, pp. 16915–16916.
Lague, D, Brodu, N & Leroux, J 2013, ‘Accurate 3D comparison of complex topography with terrestrial laser scanner: application to the Rangitikei canyon (N-Z)’, ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, vol. 82, pp. 10–26.
Lato, MJ 2021, ‘Canadian Geotechnical Colloquium: three-dimensional remote sensing, four-dimensional analysis and visualization in geotechnical engineering — state of the art and outlook’, Canadian Geotechnical Journal, vol. 58, no. 8, pp. 1065–1076,
Lato, M, Gauthier, D & Hutchinson, DJ 2015a, ‘Selecting the optimal 3D remote sensing technology for the mapping, monitoring and management of steep rock slopes along transportation corridors’, Transportation Research Record, January, 2510, pp. 7–14,
Lato, M, Hutchinson, DJ, Gauthier, D, Edwards, T & Ondercin, M 2015b, ‘Comparison of ALS, TLS and terrestrial photogrammetry for mapping differential slope change in mountainous terrain’, Canadian Geotechnical Journal, vol. 52, no. 2, pp. 129–140.
Lato, M, Diederichs, MS, Hutchinson, DJ & Harrap, R 2009, ‘Optimization of LiDAR scanning and processing for automated structural evaluation of discontinuities in rockmasses’, International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Science, vol. 46, no. 1, pp. 194–199.
Lato, M, Diederichs, M & Hutchinson, DJ 2010, ‘Bias correction for Lidar scanning of rock outcrops for structural characterization’, Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering, vol. 43, no. 5, pp. 615–628.
Lato, M & Voge, M 2012, ‘Automated mapping of rock discontinuities in 3D lidar and photogrammetry models’, International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences, vol. 54, pp. 150–158.
Lim, M, Petley, DN, Rosser, NJ, Allison, RJ, Long, AJ & Pybus, D 2005, ‘Combined digital photogrammetry and time-of-flight laser scanning for monitoring cliff evolution’, Photogrammetric Record, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 109–129.
Macciotta, R & Hendry, MT 2021, ‘Remote sensing applications for landslide monitoring and investigation in Western Canada’, Remote Sensing, vol. 13.
Macciotta, R, Gräpel, C & Skirrow, R 2020, ‘Fragmented rockfall volume distribution from photogrammetry-based structural mapping and discrete fracture networks’, Applied Sciences, vol. 10, no. 19,
Peck, RB 1969, ‘Advantages and limitations of the observational method in applied soil mechanics’, Géotechnique, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 171–187.
Prescott, B, Wellman, EC, Ross, BJ, Potter, JJ, Williams, CP, Davidson, J & Nielsen, R 2022, ‘Comparison of Doppler radar to thermal infrared rockfall detection’, Proceedings of the International Slope Stability 2022 Symposium.
Riquelme, AJ, Abellán, A, Tomás, R & Jaboyedoff, M 2014, ‘A new approach for semi-automatic rock mass joints recognition from 3D point clouds’, Computers & Geosciences, vol. 68, pp. 38–52.
Robotham, M 2021, ‘The Bingham Canyon Leo failure: review findings and lessons’, presented at SSIM 2021: Second International Slope Stability in Mining, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth.
Rosser NJ, Lim, N, Petley, DN, Dunning, S & Allison, RJ 2007, ‘Patterns of precursory rockfall prior to slope failure’, Journal of Geophysical Research, vol. 112, no. F4,
Schafer, KW, Wellman, EC, Noonan, GE, Ross, BJ, Williams, CP, Bakken, K, Abrahams, G & Hicks, D 2022, ‘Thermal imaging analysis of rockfalls leading to slope failures at an open-pit mine’, Proceedings of the International Slope Stability 2022 Symposium.
Slob, S, Hack, R & Turner, AK 2002, ‘An approach to automate discontinuity measurements of rock faces using laser scanning techniques’, EUROCK 2002 – ISRM International Symposium on Rock Engineering for Mountainous Regions.
Stead, D & Wolter, A 2015, ‘A critical review of rock slope failure mechanisms: the importance of structure geology’, Journal of Structural Geology, vol. 74, pp. 1–23.
Sturzenegger, M, Stead, D, Froese, C, Moreno, F & Jaboyedoff, M 2007, ‘Ground-based and airborne LiDAR for structural mapping of the Frank slide’, 1st Canada - U.S. Rock Mechanics Symposium, American Rock Mechanics Association, Alexandria.
Voge, M, Lato, MJ & Diederichs, MS 2013, ‘Automated rockmass discontinuity mapping from 3-dimensional surface data’, Engineering Geology, vol. 164, pp. 155–162.
Wellman, EC, Schafer, KW, Williams, CP & Ross, BJ 2022, ‘Thermal imaging for rockfall detection’, 56th U.S. Rock Mechanics/Geomechanics Symposium, American Rock Mechanics Association, Alexandria.
Williams, JG, Rosser, NJ, Hardy, RJ, Brain, MJ & Afana, AA 2018, ‘Optimising 4-D surface change detection: an approach for capturing rockfall magnitude–frequency’, Earth Surface Dynamics, vol. 6, pp. 101–119.
Zavodni ZM & Broadbent CD 1978, ‘Slope failure kinematics’, Proceedings of the 19th US Symposium on Rock Mechanics, vol. 2, American Rock Mechanics Association, Alexandria, pp. 86–94,

© Copyright 2023, Australian Centre for Geomechanics (ACG), The University of Western Australia. All rights reserved.
View copyright/legal information
Please direct any queries or error reports to