Sunrise dam open pit

Phase-X Challenge

Your chance to solve a world class mathematical challenge and win $50,000!

Competition has ended

284 Participants


First Prize

$35,000 AUD

Thomas Li and Robin Candy

Second Prize

$10,000 AUD

Wimbi Putra

Third Prize

$5,000 AUD

Andi Nuhogro

Travel Prize

$10,000 AUD

Awarded to winning submissions

Leader Board

  • 75.61 Heyang Li
  • 68.7 wimbi putra
  • 66.91 Andi Nugroho
  • 53.03 Brian Lynch
  • 33.55 James Chan

Challenge Description

In the Phase-X Mine Design Challenge, Unearthed has partnered with one of the world’s largest resources companies, BHP Billiton, to offer an online challenge drawn from the company’s real life operational data and mine planning scenarios.

Teams from universities and research organisations across the globe will compete to create the best algorithm for optimising open pit mining phases, drawing from gigabytes of BHP Billiton’s operational data.  No mining experience required.

Open pit mining for minerals such as iron ore and nickel requires complex and informed planning. The order in which specific areas of the pit are mined is dependent on a number of critical factors, such as the processing capacity at the mine, the grade (quality) of the mineral and the maximum slope of the pit walls. With thousands of options available, choosing which area of the pit to mine and in what order is an important and valuable challenge.

The winner of the competition could receive up to $50,000 AUD.

BHP Billiton has collaborated with Unearthed on this challenge as part of its innovation agenda, aimed at improving safe productivity and maintaining competitiveness through the development of innovative approaches to real-life business challenges. 

Key Dates

24th March - Competition Announced
30th March - Submissions Open
7th October - Submissions Close
17th November - Winners Announced at the 24th National Conference of the Australian Society for Operations Research


Once you have registered you will received a link to download the block model data, additional challenge description, and access to a forum to post questions.


Submissions will open on the 24th of March and close on the 7th of October.  Register and we’ll let you know as soon as submissions open. In the meantime once you register you’ll be able to download the full dataset and get a head start!

Note that submissions are ranked based on score and the date of submission, so you should submit as soon as possible. You can make multiple submissions if you improve your algorithm later.


A $50,000 Grand prize is up for grabs for the top submission. And for the top 5 submissions a Travel prize is available to present at a special 2 hour sessions at the 24th National Conference of the Australian Society for Operations Research in Canberra, Australia on the 17th of November.  Full details can be found in the competition terms and conditions listed below.


If you have any questions about the competition, please post them on the community discussion forum.  If you have a private question, feel free to email us at

About BHP Billiton

BHP Billiton is among the world’s largest producers of major commodities and one of Australia’s largest companies by market capitalisation, employing around 80,000 people. Its portfolio includes operations in iron ore, metallurgical coal, copper and uranium, as well as substantial interests in conventional and unconventional oil and gas and energy coal. Its portfolio of high-quality assets and growth opportunities allows it to sell its products to customers around the world, helping them meet the resources demand of emerging economies at every stage of their growth.  


The challenge includes block models and data for three different mine planning scenarios.  The data from three additional block models will be reserved for judging and scoring purposes.

To learn more about the data and receive a full challenge description, sign up and participate.

Block Model 3D Rendering


Frequently Asked Questions

How will my submission be scored?

There are two parts to the competition - processing the block models to develop the most efficient mining phase design with the highest net present value (NPV). When the competition is open you will need to submit both the algorithm in executable form and an output of the results from the three open block models in csv form.

The score of a valid submission is the total sum of its percentage deviation (positive or negative) from the nominal results of the three hidden problems.

The highest score submission will be considered as the winner. Submission scores that are within 5% of each other will be considered equal. In the event of a tie, the winner will be the submission that consumes the minimum total CPU time. If still there is a tie then it will be broken by ranking the contestants with the date of their submission, giving priority to earlier submission.

Who owns the Intellectual Property in my submission?

You always retain full ownership of your IP.

While the competition is open you will need to submit an executable of your code for judging purposes on the hidden data sets.

When submissions close if you are ranked in the top 5 we will invite you to submit your code. You’ll need to grant us a 30 day non-exclusive license to the code solely for us to assess it.

If you are selected as the grand prize winner, in return for the $50,000 prize you must assign a perpetual non-exclusive royalty-free license to BHP Billiton. You will continue to own your code, and are free to do whatever you like with it, including selling it to others.

Can I submit multiple times?

Yes, you can submit early and then refine your algorithm and submit again later. Your algorithm will be ranked based on its best score.

If two or more participants have submissions with the same score, then they will be ranked based on the date they were submitted, so we encourage you to submit early.

Supporting Organisations

Bhpb orn rgb pos

Terms and Conditions