Abstract

This document highlights some of the topical problems associated with the design and support of deep tabular excavations in hard rock. The displacement discontinuity boundary element method has been used for at least five decades to analyse stress and displacement distributions around narrow width excavations with complex plan outlines. The assumption is made in most cases that the rock mass surrounding the excavation is perfectly elastic. Although this approach works well to minimise stress concentrations in practice, it has limitations as important parameters, such as the effect of mining rate, cannot be investigated. Recently, a limit equilibrium model has been studied as a means to enhance standard layout design exercises by including an interactive on-reef damage model. This approach can include explicit energy release dissipation computations. A second problem faced by engineers in the mining industry is the evaluation of pillar and remnant stress. The paper highlights two aspects namely the effect of element size in displacement discontinuity modeling on pillar stress and the difficulty to estimate the effect of total closure on the regeneration of stress in old mining areas. Regarding the support of the tabular excavations, current efforts are focussed on providing improved aerial coverage using hangingwall bolting and temporary nets. An unresolved issue is the installation of permanent mesh in low stoping width areas.

Introduction

Since 1886, more than 50 000 tons of gold has been mined in the Witwatersrand Basin of South Africa (Hartnady, 2009). The nearby platinum mines also saw significant growth in recent years and more than 80% of the world's platinum group metal reserves are contained in the Bushveld Complex of South Africa (Nell, 2004). Apart from the economic aspects, the mines served as an outstanding rock engineering "laboratory" for many decades owing to the deep, tabular nature of the excavations. The period from 1960 to 1980 was especially lucrative in terms of research and world-renowned researchers investigated the support and rockburst problems (e.g. see Cook et al., 1966; Salamon, 1968; Bienawski, 1973; Wagner, 1984). Many of the rock-related problems nevertheless persist up to the present day and this paper explores some of these problems and recent progress. The production of gold declined substantially in recent years (Hartnady, 2009) and well-directed rock engineering research can play a meaningful role to slow this trend. The objective of the document is to highlight critical areas requiring additional research and not to discuss the topics in detail. The reader is referred to the many references for additional information. The paper only focuses on three areas namely numerical modelling, pillar stress estimation and aerial support. Although these are diverse topics, it is included in one paper to illustrate the many unsolved and practical problems associated with deep tabular excavations.

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