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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 0038-223X


WATSON, B.P. et al. Nonlinear rock behaviour and its implications for deeper level platinum mining. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2009, vol.109, n.1, pp.5-13. ISSN 2411-9717.

Uniaxial tests performed on core from instrumented sites at Amandelbult 1 shaft, Impala 10 shaft and Union Section Spud shaft showed a nonlinear elastic relationship between applied load and induced deformation. This nonlinear behaviour does not appear to be dependent on borehole orientation but in the case of the Amandelbult and Union sites appears to have been influenced by the stress condition of the rock mass at the time of drilling. Cores drilled at these two sites under destressed conditions, such as over a stope, showed a linear elastic response to the applied load whereas most of the cores drilled under relatively high radial stresses were nonlinear. The Impala 10 shaft tests, however, all showed strong nonlinear behaviour irrespective of the stress condition of the rock mass at the time of drilling, although high stress conditions may have influenced the severity of the nonlinearity. A comparison between underground stress change measurements and an elastic model indicated that the rock mass became nonlinear when the virgin stress condition was relaxed to about 10 MPa. The cores for laboratory testing were retrieved from vertical boreholes drilled up from the centre of a stope and from horizontal boreholes drilled over pillars and stopes at about 600 m, 1 100 m and 1 400 m below surface for the three sites respectively. The k-ratios under virgin conditions were estimated from sockets, modelling and stress measurements to be 1.0, 1.3, and 0.5 for the Amandelbult, Impala and Union sites respectively. Of the three sites, therefore, Impala 10 shaft appears to have had the highest virgin stress state. Tests performed on similar rocks from shallower depths at Impala Platinum essentially showed a linear relationship between stress and strain. From the small Impala Platinum rock test database available to the project, it appears that the nonlinear elastic behaviour initiates at this mine from about 1 000 m below surface and seems to become progressively more nonlinear below this depth. In addition, the nonlinear elastic rocks are weaker, have a lower Young's modulus and a higher Poisson's ratio than their linear elastic equivalents. Interestingly the tangential Poisson's ratios of the nonlinear elastic materials are often greater than 0.5 at 50% of the failure stress, suggesting an early failure initiation. The paper describes the microscope and modelling work done to determine the causes of the nonlinear behaviour and discusses some implications of the behaviour for deep-level mining.

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