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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


SPEARING, A.J.S.; GREER, B.  and  REILLY, M.. Improving rockbolt installations in US coal mines. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2011, vol.111, n.8, pp.555-563. ISSN 2411-9717.

The vast majority of the roughly 100 million rock anchors installed in mines in the USA each year use resin cartridges1. About 4.5 million of these bolts are installed using a mechanical shell in addition to the resin to create an active (pre-tensioned) bolt. Over 1 million of the bolts are passive cable bolts and typically have an effective grout length of 1.2 m, regardless of the cable length, which could be as long as 6 m. The successful performance of the resin grouted bolts depends on several parameters, including the annular gap between the bolt and hole wall, which should be relatively small, ideally from 3 mm to 5 mm. This requirement, combined with the high viscosity of the resin, produces a high back-pressure that can cause the bolt being installed to buckle or not be installed to standard. It is this back-pressure that limits the effective grout length with passive cable bolts and causes the mechanically anchored bolt failures (typically called 'spinners' where the mechanical shell does not anchor). This creates potentially unsafe conditions and wastes time and money. A purpose, built rig was used to mimic underground installations and record the back pressures during full scale applications in the laboratory. This information was used, and is still being used, to reduce the failures and sub-standard installations by producing improved designs. In addition, a flow model was calibrated that can act qualitatively to estimate the back-pressures and can be used as a crude screening process before full scale prototypes are built and tested. To date, the results obtained have been used to stop the use of a mechanical shell due to the proven higher rate of failures. A new, improved mechanical shell is being field tested and another system is under development. The use of the rig is therefore ongoing to develop improved mechanical anchor systems. It is too early for real data; however, anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that significant improvements can and will be made.

Keywords : Rockbolt; performance; mechanical anchor; resin; underground support; annular gap; installation pressure; back-pressure; resin ports.

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