Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Crush pillars are widely used in mine workings on the Merensky Reef in the Bushveld Complex to prevent panel collapses. Crush pillars are expected to fail as or soon after they emerge from the face and failure should occur non-violently. Unfortunately, violent failure occurs frequently and is said to be the main cause of seismicity associated with mining of the Merensky Reef. Recent work by Napier, Malan, and du Plessis has shown that limit-equilibrium quasi-static models are able to simulate pillar failure using three states of strength of rock in pillars, namely intact, residual after failure, and decayed strength after later time-dependent (viscous) weakening. We have previously introduced an additional state of strength to account for the dynamic failure that results in seismic events, and found that this approach could be used to generate synthetic seismic catalogues similar to observed seismicity for deep-level gold mines, where seismicity takes place mostly on advancing faces. The less brittle seam material of the Merensky Reef, compared to the brittle quartzites and lavas of the Witwatersrand reefs, results in little or no face bursting and is modelled with an assumed plastic strain of some 0.005 over an effective stope width of 2 m before failure. When this plastic yield is surpassed, we allow the reef to fail 'seismically'. We show that synthetic seismic catalogues modelled in this way have some of the features of observed seismicity. Analysis is greatly facilitated using our custom-built software that reads the mine's survey data into a database and presents results in an interactive graphical form.
Keywords : seismicity; dynamic failure; crush pillars; pillar behaviour; pillar failure; simulation; numerical modelling.