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Tunnelling and Underground Space Technology

Tunnelling and Underground Space Technology 21 (2006) 246

incorporating Trenchless Technology Research


Stability assessment in wide underground mine openings by Mathews stability graph method
Choon Sunwoo a, Yong-Bok Jung a, U.M. Rao Karanam

Geotechnical Engineering Division, Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources, Republic of Korea b Department of Mining Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, India

Stability of underground openings is a major concern for the safety and productivity of mining operations. Of the many factors which inuence the stability of openings, span of the opening for a given rock mass condition forms a single parameter of design. In the present investigations, it is attempted to assess suitability of a rock mass classication system specic to the limestone mines. Six underground limestone mines have been identied for the present study and all the parameters required for estimating RMR and Q values have been measured from 140 locations of 6 underground limestone mines. A comparison is drawn between Rock Mass Rating (RMR), and Rock Mass Quality (Q) for the rock mass conditions prevailing at the mine sites. Since the main objective of the study was to obtain a critical span design curve for the present set of underground limestone mines, the critical span curves proposed by Lang, the Mathews stability graph method, and the modied critical span curve obtained by the authors have been assessed. The critical span curve is a simple tool that aids in the design of underground openings. The critical span is dened as the diameter of the largest circle that can be drawn within the boundaries of the exposed back as viewed in plan. This exposed span is then related to the prevailing rock mass of the immediate back to arrive at a stability condition. The critical span curves proposed by Lang [Lang, B., 1994. Span design for entry type excavations. MASC thesis, University of British, Columbia, Vancouver, BC] as well as the modied curve suggested by Ouchi et al. [Ouchi, A.M., Pakalnis, R., Brady, T.M., 2004. Update of span design curve for weak rock masses. Presented at AGM-CIM Edmonton] did not give good assessment of the stability of the underground limestone mine opening of the mines sites considered in the present study. It is apparent from this curve that almost all the points fall within potentially unstable and unstable zone. The curve has certain uncertainties since most of the data points are within the unstable zone. It is shown that around 45% of the openings of the mines considered in the present investigations can remain stable with good support system, while more than 50% is totally unstable. Although the stability zones can be dened statistically, a number of case histories in the present analysis have been placed in the unstable zone. This is to be expected, given the inherent variability of rock mass data that can be somewhat subjective. In order to include the locations of ambiguity, points within the 10% condence interval from the mean have been considered. However, a satisfactory assessment is obtained using the modied critical span curve as well as the modied Mathews stability graph. In mine openings the long dimensions are reduced by virtue of pillars, thereby increasing the stability. However, for a safe unsupported span of a stope, it is essential to estimate the limiting safe height of the opening. In order to ascertain the limiting height of an opening for a stable width, RMR has been correlated with the shape factor (S) of the underground. The relationship between RMR and the unsupported span and stability factor gave reasonably good correlations for the limestone mines considered in the present investigation. The critical width as well as the limiting height at which the openings are stable, calculated using the linear equations obtained by the statistical regression analysis, gave comparable results with those measured in the eld. The modied critical span curve propose by the author has been successfully used to assess the stability of wide underground openings in several limestone mines.
Keywords: Stability graph method; Underground mine opening; Critical span curve