Phase-X Challenge

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

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.  


25 Mar - 08 Oct