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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717


WATSON, B.P.; MOSOMANE, S.M.; KUIJPERS, J.S.  and  ROBERTS, D.P.. Investigations into the residual strength of a 2.5 m wide Bushveld Merensky Reef crush pillar. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2008, vol.108, n.8, pp. 473-480. ISSN 2411-9717.

The first crush pillars on the Bushveld platinum mines were introduced at Union Section in 1978. Before the introduction of crush pillars, serious problems were experienced when stoping advanced to a point 30 m to 40 m on both sides of the centre gully. At least three to four stopes were collapsing per month. The introduction of the pillars stopped the stope collapses in the mining area where they were introduced. The residual stresses of these pillars were never measured; however, the successful elimination of the 'back-break' problem suggests that the original pillars had a residual strength of at least 8 MPa. Apart from back analyses, very little work has been done to determine the residual strength of crush pillars and only very recently have any measurements been made. The lack of knowledge in this field has resulted in pillars being designed based on experience. Concerns about stope collapses, similar to the Coalbrook disaster, have led to larger pillars being cut in more recent times. If such pillars were cut in brittle quartzites they would always fail violently but the ductile nature of the Merensky Reef generally allows large pillars to fail without bursting. Occasionally, however, one would burst in a working area. Increased incidence of bursting has been reported on some mines at deeper levels but most of these bursts occur in the back areas. Nevertheless, the incidence of bursting increases the risk of falls of ground in already dangerous areas, and the larger pillars decrease the extraction ratio. This paper describes the evaluation of stress measurements conducted in two boreholes over a crush pillar with dimensions 2.5 m x 4.0 m, and a height of 1.2 m. Boussinesq equations for vertical and shear stress were used to analyse the original measurements and provide a stress profile across the pillar as well as the residual strength of the pillar. The results showed an unexpectedly high peak stress of 280 MPa at the centre of the pillar and a residual strength of 48 MPa. The reason for the high residual strength is suspected to be the result of the stiff environment under which the pillar failed and the small height of the siding on the updip edge of the pillar. More measurements should be conducted on several mines to establish a range of residual strengths for narrow crush pillars.

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