Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy]]> vol. 114 num. 10 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<b>Journal Comment</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>President's Corner</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Extending empirical evidence through numerical modelling in rock engineering design</b>]]> Models are used in engineering to reproduce reality as faithfully as possible so that the expected response of a system for given actions or inputs can be determined. In the field of rock engineering, both empirically based and numerical models are widely used to determine the likely response of the rock surrounding excavations. Many of the empirical models are developed from statistical analysis of case histories or from direct observation; however, empirical models are limited because they should be used only within the range of conditions of the observational database. Synergy exists between empirical and numerical models, because empirical models can be used to calibrate and validate numerical models. The empirical approach can benefit from the capability of numerical models to investigate specific mechanisms, which would not be possible using observations alone. Two cases are presented in which the synergy between empirical and numerical models is demonstrated. The first case examines the analysis of discontinuity effects on the strength of slender pillars in limestone mines, and the second case evaluates the effects of stress orientation on coal mine entry stability. It is concluded that numerical model calibration and verification comprises an important first stage in the successful application of models in rock engineering design. Application of numerical models allows mechanisms and interactions of various parameters to be analysed, greatly improving the understanding of the system. The improved understanding can be used to extend the application of empirical design methods, resulting in improved safety and efficiency of rock engineering designs. <![CDATA[<b>Time-dependent tensile strengths of Bushveld Complex rocks and implications for rock failure around mining excavations</b>]]> Despite observations of spalling and damage of mine excavation wall rock in the Bushveld Complex (BC) over the passage of time, there have been very few time-dependent or creep tests carried out in South Africa on rock, particularly on BC rock types. The research described in this paper deals with the investigation of stress and strain conditions influencing spalling of wall rock in BC mine excavations, and the influence of time on the tensile strength of several BC rock types. Time-dependent laboratory testing of BC rocks was carried out in indirect tension. The results show that the magnitude of the tensile strength of BC rock types is approximately 5% of their uniaxial compressive strength magnitudes. The average long-term uniaxial compressive strength of the BC rocks, interpreted from the axial stress-volumetric strain graphs, is 56% of the UCS value. The long-term tensile strength is shown to be less than 70% of the normal tensile strength. Extension strains at tensile strength failure ranged between 0.16 and 0.21 millistrain. Values corresponding with the long-term tensile strength are less than 70% of this range, namely, 0.11 to 0.15 millistrain. These results represent new knowledge, since such rock testing and analysis does not appear to have been carried out previously on BC rock types. Elastic numerical modelling was carried out to illustrate the extents of tensile stress zones and extension zones around of typical BC mine excavations. The models showed that large zones of extension strain can occur around BC excavations, and that the magnitudes of the extension strain can substantially exceed the critical values determined from the laboratory testing. The implication of this is that there are substantial zones surrounding BC mine excavations that will be prone to time-dependent spalling conditions and perhaps more significant failure. <![CDATA[<b>Fan-structure shear rupture mechanism as a source of shear rupture rockbursts</b>]]> This paper proposes the further development of a recently identified shear rupture mechanism (fan mechanism) that elucidates a paradoxical feature of hard rocks - the possibility of shear rupture propagation through a highly confined intact rock mass at shear stresses that can be significantly less than frictional strength. In the fan mechanism, failure is associated with consecutive creation of small slabs (known as 'domino blocks') from the intact rock in the rupture tip, driven by a fan-shaped domino structure representing the rupture head. The fan head combines such unique features as extremely low shear resistance, self-sustaining stress intensification, and self-unbalancing conditions. Consequently, the failure process caused by the mechanism is inevitably spontaneous and violent. Physical and mathematical models explain unique and paradoxical features of the mechanism, which can be generated in primary ruptures and segmented faults. The fan mechanism provides a novel point of view for understanding the nature of spontaneous failure processes, including shear rupture rockbursts. The process explains, in particular, features of shear rupture rockbursts such as activation at great depths, generation of new shear ruptures in intact rock mass, nucleation of hypocentres at significant distances from the excavation, shear rupture development at low shear stresses, and abnormal rupture violence. <![CDATA[<b>Unique fall-of-ground prevention strategy implemented at Two Rivers Platinum Mine</b>]]> Since 2005 Two Rivers Platinum Mine has set out on an initiative to actively monitor and control ground conditions on a daily basis, by making use of borehole cameras and pro-actively amending the support and mining strategies based on day-to-day observations of the hangingwall conditions. Today the borehole camera observations form part of the Rock Engineering Department's daily function, and the size and frequency of falls of ground and ensuing accident rates have been drastically reduced since implementation of the system. The Two Rivers Platinum fall-of-ground management system aims to support 100% of the possible fallout thickness, based on ongoing data gathering and interpretation, thereby ensuring safety and limiting support cost. <![CDATA[<b><i>In situ</i></b><b> monitoring of primary roofbolts at underground coal mines in the USA</b>]]> Primary roof support represents the first line of defence against rock-related falls of ground in underground mines, and improper utilization or misunderstanding of the applicability and behaviour of primary support can be costly from a safety standpoint. This is a major concern for underground mines, as roof support is the single most costly expense from a mining operational perspective. This is further backed by the evidence that, in the USA, hundreds of injuries and fatalities still occur each year because of rib, roof, and massive roof falls. Additionally, the fully-grouted passive rebar, fully-grouted tension rebar, and resin-assisted mechanical anchor bolts, which constitute a large portion (89%) of the 68 million bolts installed each year in underground mines in the USA can vary in cost quite dramatically. To mitigate this concern a study was conducted in 2010 by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, in conjunction with Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, to assess the performance of primary roofbolts in underground coal mines for improved safety and cost. This was accomplished using underground roofbolt monitoring solutions, field data, and numerical modelling to better understand the quasi-static behaviour of underground coal mine roofs and the response behaviour of the bolts. In particular, over 170 instrumented extensometers, closure meters, shear meters, fully-grouted passive rebar, fully-grouted tension rebar, and resin-assisted mechanical roofbolts were installed at three coal mines across the USA. Of these three mines, two used the room and pillar extraction method and the other used the longwall extraction method. There was no evidence to indicate a difference in performance of the active primary roofbolts compared with the passive primary roofbolts. Additionally, in the initial loading phase, the active bolts showed no difference in loading, indicating that tension bleed-off is of more of a concern than originally thought. Lastly, for the initial computer modelling studies, challenges still remain in obtaining a good match to the in situ bolt measurements and replicating the discontinuous roof rock and in situ bolt behaviour over time. <![CDATA[<b>Pillar behaviour and seismicity in platinum mines</b>]]> Crush pillars are widely used in mine workings on the Merensky Reef in the Bushveld Complex to prevent panel collapses. Crush pillars are expected to fail as or soon after they emerge from the face and failure should occur non-violently. Unfortunately, violent failure occurs frequently and is said to be the main cause of seismicity associated with mining of the Merensky Reef. Recent work by Napier, Malan, and du Plessis has shown that limit-equilibrium quasi-static models are able to simulate pillar failure using three states of strength of rock in pillars, namely intact, residual after failure, and decayed strength after later time-dependent (viscous) weakening. We have previously introduced an additional state of strength to account for the dynamic failure that results in seismic events, and found that this approach could be used to generate synthetic seismic catalogues similar to observed seismicity for deep-level gold mines, where seismicity takes place mostly on advancing faces. The less brittle seam material of the Merensky Reef, compared to the brittle quartzites and lavas of the Witwatersrand reefs, results in little or no face bursting and is modelled with an assumed plastic strain of some 0.005 over an effective stope width of 2 m before failure. When this plastic yield is surpassed, we allow the reef to fail 'seismically'. We show that synthetic seismic catalogues modelled in this way have some of the features of observed seismicity. Analysis is greatly facilitated using our custom-built software that reads the mine's survey data into a database and presents results in an interactive graphical form. <![CDATA[<b>Management of the Nkomati Mine crusher slope failure</b>]]> Due to limited available level ground, Nkomati Nickel Mine cut a weathered rock slope at the base of a mountain spur in order to create a platform for construction of the primary crusher plant and run-of-mine stockpiles. As space is limited around the mining area, ore processing at Nkomati is based on a high reliability of flow of material through the crusher plant, with minimal usage of other and larger designed stockpiles. Evidently, any crusher plant shutdown will render the mine as a whole unproductive and put excessive strain on the medium- to long-term large ore stockpiles, the deposition rates for which are restricted by founding material consolidation requirements. At the onset of the 2012 rainy season, movement was identified on the slope monitoring system and cracks developed on the slope. After a minor failure on the crusher slope an assessment of the slope stability was conducted and a slope management plan recommended, which included deployment of real-time monitoring. An evaluation of the conditions leading to instability was conducted and the likely causes for the failure identified. A full evaluation of the slope monitoring, rainfall, and mining conditions was undertaken and movement triggers were determined. This paper describes the events leading to the development of the failure and the evaluation of the monitoring data to determine a management plan for the failure that allowed for minimal shutdowns of the primary crusher. <![CDATA[<b>Grid-based analysis of seismic data</b>]]> Quantitative seismology is an important tool for investigating mine-induced seismicity and the quantification of the seismic rock mass response. The spatio-temporal interpretation of seismic data within an ever-changing three-dimensional mining environment provides some challenges to the interpretation of the rock mass response. A grid-based approach for the interpretation of spatial variation of the rock mass response provides some benefits compared with approaches based on spatial filters. This paper discusses a grid-based interpretation of seismic data. The basic methods employed in the evaluation of the parameter values through space are discussed and examples of applications to different mine sites given. <![CDATA[<b>Evaluation of the spatial variation of <i>b-</i>value</b>]]> The estimation of the spatial variation of the b-value of the Gutenberg-Richter relationship is important for both the general interpretation of the mechanism of rock mass response and seismic hazard assessment. The interpretation of b-value as a parameter of rock mass response is discussed in this paper. The methods applied to evaluate the spatial variation of b-value and the algorithm for obtaining the magnitude of completeness and b-value for subsets of data are presented with some verification analyses. The algorithms presented enable the automation of a spatial evaluation of b-value. <![CDATA[<b>Testing tendon support units under a combination loading scenario</b>]]> Tendon support systems have been successfully used to stabilize excavations. Tendon support systems are routinely designed using the axial load-bearing capacity of tendons, namely the tensile strength. To attain tensile strength the tendon must be loaded along its length, which often does not occur in practice. Tendons should optimally be installed at 90° to the surface of the excavation to achieve maximum penetration depth, yet this is often not physically or practically possible, and installations at angles less than 90° occur. Furthermore, the intersection of geological features within the rock mass frequently results in complex loading situations on tendons. The position and angle at which loading occurs results in different combinations of tensile and shear forces acting on the tendon, which can impact on the support performance of each unit and ultimately the whole system. All factors that influence the support system should be understood and taken into account to ensure a sound support design. Combination loading situations are further investigated and tested to obtain a better understanding of the mechanisms involved and the effects on tendon load-bearing capacity. Tendon support units were tested at different installation angles to establish the tendon performance, mechanical behaviour, and load capacity during these loading situations. The results and outcomes are aimed at providing rock engineers with additional data and improved understanding of how tendons could perform under certain conditions. <![CDATA[<b>Estimation of future ground vibration levels in Malmberget town due to mining-induced seismic activity</b>]]> Malmberget town is located in northern Sweden, approximately 70 km north of the Arctic Circle. Parts of the town overlie more than 20 iron orebodies, consisting mainly of magnetite with smaller quantities of haematite. The mine is operated by the mining company LKAB. Mining started in the 17th century, but not until the railway to the coastal city of Luleå was completed in 1888 did large-scale production commence. Around 1920, mining proceeded underground and today sublevel caving is the only mining method used. Sublevel caving causes subsidence of the ground surface, and buildings and residential areas have been relocated due to the mining activities for more than 50 years. The number of seismic events accompanied by strong ground vibrations is now increasing. In 2008 the mine received a permit from the Environmental Court of Sweden to increase production to 20 Mt of crude ore per year. A prerequisite for the permit was that the mine conducts a number of investigations regarding the environmental impact on the residents of Malmberget. One of these investigations concerned how seismicity will change as production increases and what measures could be taken to reduce inconvenience to the town residents. Today the mine possesses an extensive seismic monitoring system with more than 180 underground and surface geophones. For this study, eleven seismically active volumes in Malmberget mine were identified, and for each of them, a yearly future maximum magnitude interval was estimated based on the current production plan. Relationships between historical seismic events and measured ground vibrations in the town of Malmberget were established, and future ground vibrations caused by expected seismic events were estimated using a probabilistic approach. The outcome was the number of intervals of expected ground vibration per year and per monitoring point. Possible measures to reduce inconvenience for the town residents include blast restrictions, sequencing, and possibly preconditioning. The ultimate long-term solution is an almost complete relocation of Malmberget town. This process has recently been formalized and LKAB is taking an active part in realizing this goal. <![CDATA[<b>Outsourcing in the mining industry: decision-making framework and critical success factors</b>]]> Theoretically, the main driver behind a mining operations' sourcing decision should differ from company to company, and within a company from project to project, but in reality it often relates to cost. Research confirms that there are a number of factors, including cost, to consider when choosing between in-house and outsourced mining. While the literature is rife with factors to consider, little information exists on how to apply these in practice and the relative importance of the different factors to be considered. A study was conducted to determine whether mining is truly a core competency for a mid-tier commodity specialist mining company. Furthermore, a decision-making framework for mining operations sourcing was developed, and the critical success factors that should be adhered to if outsourced mining is chosen were determined. The research showed that owner mining is not a core competency for the mining company investigated. A decision-making framework was developed using the order winner/order qualifier structure, which can be used to facilitate the mining sourcing decision. The most important tools at the disposal of a mine owner's team to manage a contractor miner are the social and output control mechanisms, according to the critical success factors study. <![CDATA[<b>Focal depths of South African earthquakes and mine events</b>]]> Focal depths of 15 tectonic earthquakes and 9 mine-related events were determined for South Africa using data recorded by the South African National Seismograph Network. These earthquakes and events were relocated by means of the Hypocenter program using direct P-waves (Pg) , critically refracted P-waves (Pn) , and first-arrival S-waves for the magnitude range 3.6 < M L< 4.4. Focal depths were first determined by means of the minimum root mean square (RMS) of the differences between the measured travel times and those predicted using the velocity model. The depths for tectonic earthquakes had a 2 km < D <10 km range and an average depth and standard deviation of 6.9 ± 2.3 km. Depths for mine-related events ranged over 0 km < D < 7 km, averaging 3 ± 2.3 km. Next, arrival times for the additional regional depth phases sPn, PmP, sPmP, and SmP were measured. Focal depths were re-determined for the relocated epicentres, with the minimum variance (i.e. spread) of the differences between the measured travel times and travel times predicted by means of the Wentzel, Kramer, Brillouin, and Jeffreys (WKBJ) method for synthetic waveform modelling. Depth ranges were 4 km < D < 7 km (average 5.9 ± 1.2 km) and 1 km < D < 4 km (average 2.4 ± 1.2 km) for tectonic and mine-related events, respectively. The derived depths were verified for one tectonic earthquake with synthetic-to-recorded-waveform fits using the WKBJ synthetic seismogram software for the abovementioned regional phases. The focal mechanism parameters for this earthquake source were obtained from the National Earthquake Information Centre. Focal depths were estimated for nine stations by visually comparing synthetic waveform phases with recorded waveforms, ranging from 5 km to 8 km <![CDATA[<b>Design and positive financial impact of crush pillars on mechanized deep-level mining at South Deep Gold Mine</b>]]> Crush pillars have been incorporated into a mechanized, low-profile trackless system at South Deep Gold Mine. These pillars had to be designed to fail near the face and to ensure that pillar failure is contained within the pillar, to avoid bursting and the risk of high loads being generated during a seismic event, respectively. PoweRite backfill bags were recommended to maintain the integrity of the pillars; except in the main access drives, where the sidewalls were to be supported on 5.6 mm diameter weldmesh and yielding anchors. The results of a trial site investigation exceeded expectations, showing a residual pillar strength of about 37 MPa for a newly formed pillar and 8 MPa for a pillar subjected to seismicity and a closure of more than 300 mm. The introduction of these pillars has improved the rock mass conditions because of the active nature of the support, compared to the previous passive backfill method. Importantly, the pillars have increased mining efficiencies and improved face availability. A potential cost saving to the mine of R140.9 million could be realized over a period of 10 years. <![CDATA[<b>The application of geophysics in South African coal mining and exploration</b>]]> Coal remains South Africa's most abundant and cheapest source of energy, and there is an ever-increasing necessity for optimal and safe extraction of the remaining reserves. Increasing focus on cost-effective mining and zero harm to the environment and miners has resulted in a shift in attitude towards the application of geophysics in local coal mining and exploration. Furthermore, technological advances have contributed to geophysics being embraced more readily by the coal mining industry, compared to a decade or two ago. Predictably, the growing interest in geophysical technologies has also created a need for education and training in the basic principles and application of geophysical methods, as local coal mining companies generally do not have in-house geophysicists. Consequently, the Coaltech Research Organisation's Geology and Geophysics working group forum compiled a textbook aimed at addressing this need: to produce a guide for applying geophysics to coal mining problems in South Africa. The target audience for such a book would be coal geologists, mine surveyors, mine planners, and other mining staff with limited or no geophysics background. This paper provides a very brief overview of the book by summarizing key sections and selected examples. In doing so, the value of geophysics to solving a range of coal mining and exploration problems is highlighted.