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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

Print version ISSN 0038-223X


POTVIN, Y.; DIGHT, P.M.  and  WESSELOO, J.. Some pitfalls and misuses of rock mass classification systems for mine design. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2012, vol.112, n.8, pp. 01-06. ISSN 0038-223X.

Rock mass classification systems are extensively used in rock engineering design work, and mine design is no exception. Among the systems most widely used for mining-related design work are the NGI Q-system (Barton et al., 1974), the RMR system (Bieniawski, 1976), the MRMR system (Laubscher and Taylor, 1976) and, more recently, the GSI system (Hoek et al., 1998). Classifying the rock mass is widely seen as being the fieldwork required to characterize the rock mass and enable the application of empirical design methods associated with the different classification systems. This paper argues that it is fundamentally important to recognize the distinction between rock mass characterization and rock mass classification. These two processes should, in most cases, be separated from each other. Rock mass characterization should be used to determine the intrinsic properties of the rock mass independently of the application; i.e. independent from the infrastructure to be designed, the size, shape, and orientation of the excavation(s) or pillar(s), etc. Rock mass characterization should also be compatible with most classification systems and empirical design methods to be used. Rock mass characterization is the background fieldwork required to perform rock mass classification and/or engineering design work. Rock mass classification is the subsequent step to the characterization, and an integral part of the design process. Parameters that vary according to the design, such as the relative orientation of geological structures compared to the opening or the mine-induced stresses, should be calculated as part of the rock mass classification and design process, rather than during the rock mass characterization process. The failure to distinguish between rock mass characterization and rock mass classification can lead to major design errors and poor results

Keywords : rock mass; classification; characterization; rock engineering; mine design.

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