Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
MERWE, J. N. van der. Rock engineering method to pre-evaluate old, small coal pillars for secondary mining. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2012, vol.112, n.1, pp. 1-6. ISSN 2411-9717.
Due to the approaching depletion of reserves in the Witbank Coalfield, and the fact that the Waterberg Coalfield is as yet underdeveloped, there is increasing pressure to extend the lives of the operating coal mines in the Witbank Coalfield. One potential source of coal is the old pillars, often small and at shallow depth, that were not left with secondary extraction in mind. At face value, some of these pillars appear to be suitable for secondary mining due to their high safety factors. However, it is known that over time, these pillars have scaled and the current sizes are smaller than the as-mined dimensions. It is also known that at shallow depth, the overburden is often less likely to fail during secondary mining, resulting in high abutment loads on the unmined pillars. The paper proposes a systematic method to pre-evaluate those old pillars for the possibility of stooping. The method consists of elements of fundamental methods and newly developed technology. In essence, it revolves around using empirical methods to estimate current pillar dimensions, followed by numerical modelling to investigate the probability of progressive pillar failure and then fundamental methods to determine the limits of applicability of the numerical model.
Keywords : pillar scaling; old pillars; stooping; numerical model; overburden failure.