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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 2225-6253


JESSU, K.V.; SPEARING, A.J.S.  and  SHARIFZADEH, M.. An improved pillar design methodology. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2022, vol.122, n.10, pp.587-596. ISSN 2411-9717.

Empirical pillar design methods are commonly used in the mining industry. The parameters within which these methods are valid are frequently unknown to the user or ignored. In addition, empirical design may not consider essential parameters such as blasting effects, orebody dip and the presence of geological structures, which all adversely affect the stability of the pillars. This can result in potentially serious pillar design strength over-estimates. Although the commonly based tributary area method is generally conservative, as the spans are seldom that large relative to the depth, failing to consider other relevant parameters can result in errors. Problems associated with an under-designed pillar can range from a local pillar collapse to a catastrophic chain reaction collapse (or run). Over-designed pillars are generally safe but reduce the extraction of the orebody, thus adversely affecting the profitability of the mining operation. We used laboratory tests and numerical modelling to understand the effects of pillar orientation, blasting and the presence of discontinuities on pillar strength. Reduction factors were developed with these models to be implemented in conjunction with the existing empirical pillar design methods. For any pillar or mine design, once it is implemented, the actual performance of the system must be checked regularly by observation and monitoring and adjusted if needed. The pillar design approach outlined in this paper can better optimize the pillar mining method by considering other generally ignored but important parameters, thus improving safety, productivity, and economic aspects.

Keywords : pillar; tributary area theory; geological structures; orebody dip; width-to-height (W/H) ratio.

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