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Procedia Engineering 191 (2017) 1144 – 1151

Symposium of the International Society for Rock Mechanics

Rockburst in Ostrava-Karvina Coalfield

Jiří Ptáček*
Institute of Geonics, AS CR, Studentska 1768, Ostrava 70800, Czech Republic


More than 450 rockbursts, many of them with fatal consequences, have been monitored in Ostrava-Karviná Coalfield since
the start of the last century. Right from the start of their appearance, miners have made efforts to avoid them or at least to reduce
their consequences. Many researchers and geomechanical experts have explored the rockburst mechanism, its regularities
and natural relations. Nevertheless, there are many things about rock mass properties and rock mass behavior that we do not
know yet. Together with gaining valuable knowledge, the development of rockburst protection methods was achieved.
The development of prognosis and prevention methods as well as a contemporary system for their application in the coal mines
in Ostrava-Karviná Coalfield is described in the contribution. It considers the history of rockburst cognition, reflecting new
experience and consequently new opinions on the mechanism of different types of rockburst in the specific geological conditions
in the Upper Silesian Coal Basin. Geomechanical methods comprising destress drilling, destress blasting and seams watering
as well as geophysical methods of rockburst prediction and prevention are presented. All are supplemented by examples
of the application of protection methods in coal mines where there is a risk of rockburst. Opinions on the effectiveness
and usability of individual methods of rockburst prevention based on practical experience are stated in conclusion.
© 2017
Authors. Published
Published by Elsevier
by Elsevier Ltd. is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
Ltd. This
Peer-review under responsibility of the organizing committee of EUROCK 2017.
Peer-review under responsibility of the organizing committee of EUROCK 2017
Keywords: Rockburst; coal mining; rockburst risk; rockburst protection

1. Introduction

Rockburst is a phenomenon which has accompanied coal mining in Ostrava-Karviná Coalfield (OKCF) as well as
in Polish mines generally for more than one hundred years. OKCF is the southernmost part of the Upper Silesian
Coal Basin (USCB), which is the easternmost part of the Bohemian massif. It is one of the well-known hard coal
deposits in Central Europe and it is currently the largest one in Europe. It lies on the border between the Czech

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +420 603801956.

E-mail address: ptacek@ugn.cas.cz

1877-7058 © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
Peer-review under responsibility of the organizing committee of EUROCK 2017
Jiří Ptáček / Procedia Engineering 191 (2017) 1144 – 1151 1145

Republic and Poland, where only one third of the whole deposit belongs to the former. Coal mining there started
in the 18th century and since then more than 50 coal seams have been mined out. From the last decade of the past
century, a major restriction of coal production occurred in OKCF. Reduction of the annual coal production from
about 24 million tons to about 10 million tons was caused mainly by the abandoning of the mines in the Ostrava part
of the coalfield.
Mining openings caused changes of primary stress field distribution. Owing to these changes and with regard
to discontinuities of rock massive the stress field is heterogenic. They are the places with great concentration
of stress, which can reach limit state of deformation. In this case, sudden release of accumulated deformation energy
origin and their transformation in other forms of energy, (changes of potential energy of rock blocks, seismic energy
etc.). From point of seismology, these events are named as mining induced seismic events. Part of them, which
caused damages and destructions of mining openings, are called rockburts.
Rockburst is one of the most serious risks in mining. It is a result of stress release in the rock mass due
to the exceeding of its strength limit. The specific geological conditions of the rock mass and mining that disrupt
the original stress state are the real causes of the uneven stress concentration there. More than 450 rockbursts
of different intensity have been monitored since the start of the 19th century when the first rockburst was recorded.
Many mining experts and researchers have pursued and are still pursuing the problem of rockburst since it first
appeared. Nevertheless, many of its aspects, primarily the influence of geological factors on the level of rockburst
risk, are not sufficiently explained. A rock mass is an environment the properties of which are heterogeneous,
anisotropic and discontinuous. They change locally and create a unique situations combining the specific geological
properties and mining impacts. That is why most mining experiences are not suitable for application in all cases,
and there consequently emerge situations when a random rockburst occurs at a time and space where it was not
expected. Nevertheless, it is possible to say that the contemporary system of rockburst prevention in OKCF is mostly
successful. It is only possible to speculate on how many rockbursts have been prevented, or the application of which
measures restricted their consequences. This is simply because we apply the prevention measures immediately after
detection of unfavorable stress concentration in rock mass.

2. Definition and characteristic features of rockbursts in OKCF

There are several definitions of rockburst that depict more or less the mechanism of the rockburst. Herd [1],
similarly to Salustowicz [2], defined rockburst as a violent bursting in a coal seam or in adjacent rocks accompanied
by a noisy shock at the same time. Cook et al. [4] defined rockburst, including its mechanism, as a process of caving
in caused by uncontrolled failure of rocks accompanied by an explosive release of energy which was not consumed
in the rock failure. From the definitions by Czech authors, the best, in my opinion, is that by Zamarski [3].
He presents rockburst as the violent failure of a rock mass accompanied by a release of elastic deformation energy,
which causes, through its change into work, the sliding or bursting of the rock mass into a mined out space.
The mine working does not fulfil its function. The liquid and gaseous components of the rock mass do not
participate in the process.
In OKCF we put the following definition into effect: a natural event of the sudden breaking of the rock massif
that shows up as a sudden extrusion or throwing out of rocks into a working with the consequence of evident
and irreversible deformation; this event can be accompanied by a seismic and acoustic effect in the working.
Gaseous and liquid components contained in the rock massif are not substantially involved.
In accordance with that definition, the conditions that result in rockburst are as follows [3], [5], and [6]:

Some part of the rock mass needs to come to a brittle deformation where the gaseous and liquid components in
rock mass are not or are not substantially involved.
In consequence of the brittle deformation, there is a need to release the concentrated elastic deformation energy.
The released elastic deformation energy needs to change into kinetic energy and work, which slides or bursts into
a mined out space of the mine working and the working loses its function

Two types of rockburst are distinguished in OKCF according to the focal position in which they arrive
at the original deformation [7]. They are termed “seam rockburst” with the focus in a mined seam and “rockburst
1146 Jiří Ptáček / Procedia Engineering 191 (2017) 1144 – 1151

in high overburden” with the focus in the high overburden of an excavated seam. Rockbursts in the seam are caused
by the release of elastic deformation energy, while rockbursts in the overburden are caused much more by the release
of tectonic stress and potential gravitational energy [3]. The second category are the events which cause a sudden
stress redistribution in the rock mass due to violent deformation of thick complexes of rigid strata in the overburden.
The measures used against rockburst in the coal seams are not applicable for that purpose. Since the disintegration
of the rigid, compact strata in the high overburden is not practicable, the main emphasis is put on passive measures
consisting in the reinforcement of mine workings. It is necessary to state that a rockburst with the focus in the high
overburden is, as a rule, more intense and causes more significant damage to the mine working than a rockburst
in the seam.

Fig. 1. Scheme of mechanism of rockburst in the seam and the high overburden (adapted from [3]).

Every brittle failure releases seismic energy and emits seismic waves. The seismic waves passing through
the rock mass generate stress changes in the rock mass and these can consequently result in rockburst. Seismic
waves are monitored by special local seismic networks. The basic parameters of seismic events are determined from
recorded data, e.g. location of seismic focus, focus time, seismic energy, mechanism of focus, etc.
The released seismic energy is measurable and it is possible to use it to assess the dangerous or safe stress state
of the rock mass. For the same purpose, the more complex evaluation of regional seismicity is used [8].
The localization of seismic events in the Karviná region since 2015 is presented in Fig. 2. This depicts seismic
events as circles, distinguishing their energy and longwalls positions by their contours in the picture. It is clearly
Jiří Ptáček / Procedia Engineering 191 (2017) 1144 – 1151 1147

seen that the high seismicity is concentrated mostly in the region of the mining. Only a few are induced outside
the exploited regions.

Fig. 2. Localization of seismic events of energy 10 3 J and more since 1 January 2015 in the region of Karviná (Graphic material DPB GreenGas).

3. History

Older historical records of rockbursts in OKCF were obtained from the archival records of the Coal District Mine
Authority of Ostrava [9]. The oldest archival records found date back to the 1912 rockburst in the Hoheneger mine
in Karvina. This old information is incomplete and contains only the information that “…a few wheelbarrows of coal
were burst out from the pillar…” More detailed information can be obtained from the Mine Authority archive, dating
back to the 1930s. On the basis of a set of rockbursts with fatal consequences, all rockbursts and bumps must be
recorded and reported to the Mine Authority. Fig. 3 shows a sketch of rockbursts from the Trojice Mine of coal seam
Hugo, which was about 3 m thick and 500 m underground. Many mine experts were interested in the rockburst
at that time. Their knowledge and opinions on the mechanism of rockburst are summarized in articles published
in a number of journals [10], [11] and [12].
In the course of the next 40 years the rockbursts emerged primarily in the Ostrava and Petřvald districts. Their
results were very often fatal and their source was, just as today, the abandoned pillars and in general
the non-observance of mining principles. That is why uneven stress fields are formed in the rock mass
with a resulting stress concentration next to the mine workings.
1148 Jiří Ptáček / Procedia Engineering 191 (2017) 1144 – 1151

Fig. 3. Schematic sketch map of seam Hugo in the Trojice mine in Ostrava (miner symbols mark the position of the rockburst –
adapted from [10]).

The motivation to create a system for rockburst prevention in OKCF was the rockburst in Doubrava Mine in seam
No. 32 of thickness about 3 m, 700 m under surface on 24 April 1974. Its consequence in a roadway can be seen
in Fig. 4. A commission of experts and miners was established in 1974 to prepare a system for rockburst prevention.
They issued their conception of an approach to solve the problem drawing on experience from Germany, Poland
and Russia [13]. Thus, the groundwork was laid for a rockburst prevention system, including Mining Authority
Rules in the form that, with only small changes, we are still using up to the present time.
Jiří Ptáček / Procedia Engineering 191 (2017) 1144 – 1151 1149

Fig. 4. Roadway deformation as an effect of rockburst in Doubrava Mine, 24 April 1974 (documents of Mine Rescue Service).

4. System of rockburst prevention

The rockburst prevention system embraces activities enabling the engineer to discern the risk that rockbursts may
occur and to take measures to prevent them or limit their consequences. Its schema is presented in Fig. 5.
The prediction of rockbursts occurrence can be regional, local or current. It comprises a complex of activities
making it possible to specify the vulnerability of a rock massif or a part of it to the occurrence of rockburst,
to determine the degree of the risk of rockburst occurring in the planned, designed, and existing workings,
and to properly select the means of rockburst prevention. Regional prediction provides a determination
of the predisposition of the rock massif, its strata units, seams or their parts, to the occurrence of rockburst
on the basis of an evaluation of the natural conditions and assessment of rockburst occurrences. The main evaluated
data are in particular the lithology of the strata, the physical and mechanical properties of coal and rocks, the depth
under the surface, the thickness and layer dip, and the structural and tectonic pattern.
1150 Jiří Ptáček / Procedia Engineering 191 (2017) 1144 – 1151

Rockburst prevention

Rockburst prediction Active method of Pasive method of

rockburst prevention rockburst prevention


Regional prediction Local prediction Current prediction

Fig. 5. Schema of rockburst prevention system.

Local prediction is a complex of activities allowing the classification of a working according to the degree
of the rockburst risk as early as the planning and designing phase, The local prediction is made in those parts
of the rock massif that are at the risk of rockburst. On the basis of the local prediction, mine workings are classified
as having a 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree risk of rockburst occurrence. The bases for the local prediction are the deposit
conditions (e.g. the seam depth and thickness), the influence of past mining activity (e.g. rib edges, pillars
remaining, presence of abandoned workings, protection seams being worked out) mostly in the overburden
of the excavated seams.
Current prediction comprises activities implemented in the mine workings to identify parts of the strata
with a stress concentration, verify protection zones and check the effectiveness of the active rockburst prevention
measures used. The current prediction is made in order to manage the workings in those rock mass parts that are
at risk of rockburst occurrence. The current prediction can result in the reclassification of the workings into different
risk degrees from those specified in the local prediction. The current prediction is based on the results of individual
observations of miners, test boring in the coal seams, and seismic monitoring and evaluation.
The rockburst prevention methods applied in directing the workings are selected in accordance
with the evaluation of the geomechanical conditions and prediction results. Rockburst prevention measures are
divided into active and passive measures. Active measures represent a complex of activities which aim to reduce
the risk of rockburst occurrence, while passive measures and devices aim to limit the consequences of rockburst.
Jiří Ptáček / Procedia Engineering 191 (2017) 1144 – 1151 1151

Active rockburst prevention measures are primarily suitable in the planning of mine workings, destress blasting
in the seam and rocks, watering of the seam and rocks, destress boring and finally selection of the proper technology
for driving and reinforcing workings.
Passive rockburst prevention measures particularly include the selection of the type and density of workings
support, stabilizing attenuated parts of the rock massif by injecting and anchoring, forming compensation rooms
in the rock mass, producing rockbursts in the non-presence of personnel, limiting the number of miners in threatened
areas, recalling employees when a risk of rockburst is indicated, the positioning of equipment in the mine workings,
and protecting and switching off electric appliances.

5. Conclusion

The system of rockburst prevention in OKCF has developed step by step over more than four years. It has proved
its usability and has without doubt prevented many rockbursts. This is of course very difficult to prove, because we
use prevention measures every time a dangerous concentration of stress arises. There is then a question of whether
a rockburst has been prevented or not. Long-term exploitation of the coal deposit has caused some instability
of the exploited rock mass. That is why, in connection with the additional stress induced by recent mining, uneven
and unstable stress fields are evolving in the rock mass, consequently creating the sources of regions of high stress
concentration and potential rockburst risk. Despite all the efforts to prevent rockburst by applying the best known
prevention methods, rockburst can still happen. It is necessary to concede that our knowledge of the rock mass
and of its relations is limited and that it is therefore impossible to prevent it entirely. Rockbursts will only stop
with the closing of the mines, and no doubt the fading of rheological processes will continue.


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in coalmines (in Czech), SNTL, Praha, 1990.
[2] A. Salustowicz, Principle of Rock Mechanics (in Polish), Slask, Katowice, 1968, In: I.M. Pěťuchov, B. Zamarski, Rockburst prevention in
coalmines (in Czech), SNTL, Praha, 1990.
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[7] J. Bartoš, P. Konečný, G. Takla, The new concept of the regulations for health and safety protection of operation in mines with rockburst
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Sczyrk, Poland, 1994.
[8] L. Trávníček, S. Knotek, J. Holečko, Seismicity of Ostrava Karviná Coalfield (in Czech), Uhlí-Rudy-Geologický Průzkum 2 (4) (1995).
[9] Provincial Record Office Opava, fond RBU [Local Mine Authority], cartons 237,410,422.
[10] A. Pelnář, The influence of the competent rock in overburden (in Czech), Hornický Věstník XIX (1937) 477-485.
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