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Slope Stability in Open Cast Mines

Slope Stability in Open Cast Mines

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Published by Marco Olivier
Slope Stability in Open Cast Mines
Slope Stability in Open Cast Mines

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Published by: Marco Olivier on Jul 27, 2008
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12/24/2012

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DETECTING PROBLEMS WITH MINE SLOPE STABILITYJami M. Girard
1
and Ed McHugh
11
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Spokane Research LaboratoryABSTRACT
Slope stability accidents are one of theleading causes of fatalities at U.S. surface miningoperations. The Spokane Research Laboratory of the National Institute for Occupational Safetyand Health (NIOSH) is currently conductingresearch to reduce the fatalities associated withslope failures. The purpose of this paper todiscuss some of this research and to present potential new technologies for slope monitoringand design. The paper also briefly discussesvarious warning signs of slope instability,introduces the most common slope monitoringmethods, describes the limitations of variousslope monitoring systems, and presents somefield results using some of this new technology.
CONSEQUENCES OF SLOPE FAILURES
Whether on the surface or underground,unanticipated movement of the ground can posehazardous conditions which may lead toendangerment of lives, demolition of equipment,and the loss of property. In the five years since1995, 33 miners have lost their lives as a resultof surface ground control accidents (see Figure1). As such, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH)Office of Mine Safety and Health Research inSpokane, Washington has initiated a research program with the goal of reducing the number of injuries and fatalities resulting from slopefailures at mines.
Figure 1. Map of 33 fatalities occurring from surfaceground control problems January 1995 -June 2000.
There are several ways to reduce the chancesof surface ground control failures: 1) safegeotechnical designs; 2) secondary supports or rock fall catchment systems; or 3) monitoringdevices for advance warning of impendingfailures. While it is important to note thatgeotechnical designs can be improved to increasefactors of safety, proper bench designs can beimproved to minimize rock fall hazards, and
 
certain support systems may enhance overallrock mass strength, diligent monitoring andexamination of slopes for failure warning signs isthe most important means of protecting exposedmine workers. Even the most carefully designedslopes may experience failure from unknowngeologic structures, unexpected weather patterns,or seismic shock (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Consequences of unexpected slope failures.
SLOPE MONITORING SYSTEMS
Relative displacement measurements are themost common type of monitoring, complemented by monitoring of groundwater. The mostimportant purpose of a slope monitoring programis to: 1) maintain safe operational practices; 2) provide advance notice of instability; and 3) provide additional geotechnical informationregarding slope behavior (Sjöberg, 1996). Thefollowing is a list of the most commonmonitoring systems currently in use and is notintended to be an all-inclusive list of monitoringequipment. Readers interested in a morecomprehensive list are referred to Szwedzicki,1993.
Surface MeasurementsSurvey Network:
A survey network consists of target prisms placed on and around areas of anticipated instability on the slopes, and one or more non-moving control points for surveystations. The angles and distances from thesurvey station to the prisms are measured on aregular basis to establish a history of movementon the slope. It is extremely important to placethe permanent control points for the surveystations on stable ground. The surveys can bedone manually by a survey crew or can beautomated.
Tension Crack Mapping:
The formation of cracks at the top of a slope is an obvious sign of instability. Measuring and monitoring thechanges in crack width and direction of crack  propagation is required to establish the extent of the unstable area. Existing cracks should be painted or flagged so that new cracks can beeasily identified on subsequent inspections.Measurements of tension cracks may be assimple as driving two stakes on either side of thecrack and using a survey tape or rod to measurethe separations.Another common method for monitoringmovement across tension cracks is with a portable wire-line extensometer (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Portable wire-line extensometer formonitoring a tension crack.
 The most common setup is comprised of a wireanchored in the unstable portion of the ground,with the monitor and pulley station located on astable portion of the ground behind the lasttension crack. The wire runs over the top of a pulley and is tensioned by a weight suspendedfrom the other end. As the unstable portion of the ground moves away from the pulley stand,the weight will move and the displacements can be recorded either electronically or manually.Long lengths of wire can lead to errors due to sag
 
or to thermal expansion, so readjustments andcorrections are often necessary. The length of the extensometer wire should be limited toapproximately 60 m (197 ft) to keep the errorsdue to line sag at a minimum (Call and Savely,1990).
 
Subsurface MeasurementsInclinometers:
An inclinometer (figure 4)consists of a casing that is placed in the groundthrough the area of expected movements. Theend of the casing is assumed to be fixed so thatthe lateral profile of displacement can becalculated. The casing has grooves cut on thesides that serve as tracks for the sensing unit.The deflection of the casing, and hence thesurrounding rock mass, are measured bydetermining the inclination of the sensing unit atvarious points along the length of theinstallations. The information collected from theinclinometers is important to slope stabilitystudies for the following reasons (Kliche, 1999):
=
to locate shear zone(s);
=
to determine whether the shear alongthe zone(s) is planar or rotational;
=
to measure the movement along theshear zone(s) and determine whether the movement is constant,accelerating, or decelerating.
Time Domain Reflectometry (TDR):
TimeDomain Reflectometry is a technique in whichelectronic pulses are sent down a length of acoaxial cable. When deformation or a break inthe cable is encountered, a signal is reflectedgiving information on the subsurface rock massdeformation. While inclinometers are morecommon for monitoring subsurfacedisplacements, TDR cables are gaining popularity and have several advantages over traditional inclinometers (Kane, 1998):
=
Lower cost of installation.
=
Deeper hole depths possible.
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Rapid and remote monitoring possible.
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Immediate deformationdeterminations.
=
Complex installations possible.Recent advances have also been made in theuse of TDR for monitoring ground water levelsand piezometric pressures (Dowding,
et al
.1996). A summary of applications of TDR inthe mining industry is provided by O’Connor and Wade (1994).
Borehole Extensometers:
An extensometer consists of tensioned rods anchored at different points in a borehole (figure 5). Changes in thedistance between the anchor and the rod head provide the displacement information for therock mass.
Figure 4. Cross-sectional schematic of typicaltraverse-probe inclinometer system.
 

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