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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717


HANDLEY, M.F.. Pre-mining stress model for subsurface excavations in southern Africa. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2013, vol.113, n.6, pp. 449-471. ISSN 2411-9717.

This paper covers in situ stresses in the Earth's crust prior to any man-made disturbances, such as mining. It introduces the Southern African Stress Database, which contains primitive stress measurements obtained from locations spread all over southern Africa. The measured stress data shows large variability without any visible trends, except a relationship with increasing depth. The stress database is reviewed briefly, establishing means to measure the variability or dispersion in the measurements, and showing that the dispersion is not as much a result of experimental error as it is a feature of primitive stress. The paper demonstrates from the beginning that the state of stress in rock is highly variable, but that there are well-defined maximum and minimum limits to all the stress components in rock. Formal error analysis is introduced to check the consistency of the database and to separate out a database of consistent stress measurements for use in a primitive stress model. The aim is to provide a picture of primitive crustal stress based on objective stress measurements together with interpretations of how the primitive stress can be affected by the five main influences; namely, depth, rock mass properties, tectonism, isostacy, and erosion. Four elementary models for primitive stress are introduced and compared with the measured data. It is quite clear that none of the elementary models is sufficient to describe the data. In the absence of a better model, this paper suggests a generic model based on the Hoek-Brown failure criterion and the consistent stress database, since it incorporates the variability in the stress tensor that is likely to be encountered underground all over southern Africa. Rock engineers should take every opportunity to obtain local primitive stress data at every mining operation and civil engineering project, and to adjust the proposed model accordingly

Keywords : primitive stress; Southern African Stress Database; error analysis; generic primitive stress model.

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