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Chapter 2 Rock Formation and Rock Mass


This Chapter is intended as a review on the geological aspects of rock. Reader who is not familiar with geology should start with one of the many textbooks on physical geology or engineering geology, listed at the end of this Chapter. 2.1 Rock Formations and Types

2.1.1 Rock Formation and Rock Cycle Rock is a natural geomaterial. In geological term, rock is a solid substance composed of minerals, of which can consist in particulate form (soil particles) or in large form (mountains, tectonic plates, planetary cores, planets). In common term, rock usually stands a solid block of natural earth material. Rocks are formed by three main origins: igneous rocks from magma, sedimentary rock from sediments lithfication and metamorphic rocks through metamorphism. Figure 2.1.1a shows the geological process involved in the formations of various rocks. It should be noted that the processes are dynamic and continuous. Figure 2.1.1a Rock cycle illustrating the role of various geological processes in rock formation.

2.1.2 Rock Forming Minerals All rocks are composed of minerals. A few rocks are composed by single minerals, but most are by a group of minerals. A mineral is a naturally occurring, inorganic solid with a definite chemical composition and a crystalline structure. Minerals that are commonly found in rocks are often called rock-forming minerals. Silicate minerals form the largest group of minerals, and most rocks contain more than 95% of silicates. Silicates are composed largely of silicon and oxygen, with the addition of ions such as aluminium, magnesium, iron, and calcium. Some important rock-forming silicates include the feldspars, quartz, olivines, pyroxenes, amphiboles, garnets, and micas. A mineral can be identified by several physical properties. The key properties that are important to influence rock properties are crystal structure, hardness and cleavage. Other common properties include lustre, colour, fracture, and specific gravity. Table 2.1.2a gives main properties of common rock forming minerals.

Chapter 2 Rock Formation and Rock Mass

Table 2.1.2a Principal properties of common monierals

Mineral Olivine Crystal form Cleavage Colour None when fresh. Commonly greenish to black. Black to light green. Colourless, light colour in thick pieces. Black to dark brown White, grey, pink, or pale yellow White or grey, may be other colour Colourless or white, may be any colour Hardness Specific Gravity 6.5 3.2 - 3.6

Orthorhombic. 8-sided Cleavage rare seen, and with 8 dome and irregular cracks pyramid faces. common. Short 8-sided, prismatic crystals.

2 cleavages at nearly 90, not always well developed. Amphibole Long 6-sided prismatic 2 good cleavages (Hornblende) crystal. meeting at angles of 54 and 124. Muscovite Thin, scale-like crystal Perfect 1 cleavage, and scaly yielding very thin, flexible scales Biotite Thin, scale-like crystal, commonly 6-sided and scaly. Boxlike crystal. Massive. Well-formed crystals and in cleavable or granular masses. 6-sided prismatic crystal, terminated by 6-sided triangular faces. Perfect 1 cleavage, yielding very thin, flexible scales 1 perfect and I good cleavage at angle of 90. 2 good cleavage at angle of 86.

Pyroxene (Augite)


3.2 - 3.6


2.9 - 3.2


2.8 - 3.1

2.5 - 3

2.7 - 3.2

Orthoclase feldspar Plagioclase feldspar

2.5 - 2.6

6 - 6.5

2.6 - 2.7


None or very poor cleavage.


A crystal structure is the orderly geometric spatial arrangement of atoms in the internal structure of a mineral. The crystal structure is based on regular internal atomic or ionic arrangement that is often expressed in the geometric form that the crystal takes. A mineral may show good crystal form (Figure 2.1.2a). However, in rock, they are often massive, granular or compact with only microscopically visible (Figure 2.1.2b).

Figure 2.1.2a A fully developed quartz crystal. Figure 2.1.2b Quartz minerals in a granite do not have visible crystal forms.

Crystal structure greatly influences a mineral's physical properties. For example, though diamond and graphite have the same composition (both are pure carbon), graphite is very soft, while diamond is the hardest of all known minerals. This happens because the carbon atoms in graphite are arranged into sheets which can slide easily past each other, while the carbon atoms in diamond form a strong, interlocking three-dimensional network.

Chapter 2 Rock Formation and Rock Mass

Minerals have different hardness, due to different crystal structures. The physical hardness of a mineral is usually measured according to the Mohs scale. This scale is relative and starts with 1 being the softest to 10 being the hardest. The minerals that define the scale are: 1 talc, 2 gypsum, 3 calcite, 4 fluorite, 5 apatite, 6 orthoclase feldspar, 7 quartz, 8 topaz, 9 corundum, and 10 diamond. Cleavage is the tendency of crystalline materials to split along definite planes, creating smooth surfaces. Some minerals have well developed cleavages. For example, mica minerals have one perfect cleavage, and calcite has three perfect cleavages. A rock is an aggregate of one or more minerals. Some rocks are predominantly composed of just one mineral. For example, limestone is composed almost entirely of the mineral calcite. Other rocks contain many minerals. For example, granite is composed of quartz, feldspars and mica minerals. The specific minerals in a rock can vary widely. Some minerals, like quartz, mica or feldspar are common, while others have been found in very limited locations. As rocks are composed of minerals, the properties of minerals become part of the properties of rocks. However, the physical and mechanical properties of a rock are governed by not only the intrinsic properties of minerals forming the rock, but also the texture structures of the composition minerals in that rock.

2.1.3 Igneous Rocks Igneous rocks are formed when molten rock (magma) cools and solidifies, with or without crystallization. They can be formed below the surface as intrusive (plutonic) rocks, or on the surface as extrusive (volcanic) rocks. This magma can be derived from either the Earth's mantle or pre-existing rocks made molten by extreme temperature and pressure changes. Figure 2.1.1a shows the origin of magma and igneous rock through the rock cycle. As magma cools, minerals crystallize from the melt at different temperatures. The magma from which the minerals crystallize is rich in only silicon, oxygen, aluminium, sodium, potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium minerals. These are the elements which combine to form the silicate minerals, which account for over 90% of all igneous rocks. Igneous rocks make up approximately 95% of the upper part of the Earth's crust, but their great abundance is hidden on the Earth's surface by a relatively thin but widespread layer of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. Intrusive igneous rocks are formed from magma that cools and solidifies within the earth. Surrounded by pre-existing rock (country rock), the magma cools slowly, and as a result these rocks are coarse grained. The mineral grains in such rocks can generally be identified with the naked eye. Intrusive rocks can also be classified according to the shape

Chapter 2 Rock Formation and Rock Mass

and size of the intrusive body and its relation to the other formations into which it intrudes. Typical intrusive formations are batholiths, stocks, laccoliths, sills and dikes. Extrusive igneous rocks are formed at the Earth's surface, when magma rises and reaches the surface, either beneath water or air. The magma is then called lava. Because lava cools and crystallizes rapidly, it is fine grained. If the cooling has been so rapid as to prevent the formation of even small crystals the resulting rock may be a glass (such as the rock obsidian). Because of this fine grained texture it is much more difficult to distinguish between the different types of extrusive igneous rocks than between different types of intrusive igneous rocks. Generally, the mineral constituents of fine grained extrusive igneous rocks can only be determined by examination of thin sections of the rock under a microscope, so only an approximate classification can usually be made in the field. Igneous rocks are classified according to mode of occurrence, texture, chemical composition, and the geometry of the igneous body. In a simplified classification, igneous rock types are separated on the basis of mineral composition and grain size, as shown in Table 2.1.3a. Table 2.1.3a Classification of common igneous rocks Granitic (acid) (felsic) Intrusive (coarse grain) Extrusive (fine grain) Silica Content Main Mineral Composition Minor Mineral Composition Colour Granite Rhyolite >65% Silica Quartz Orthoclase N-Plagioclase Muscovite Biotite Amphibole Light Andesitic (intermediate) Diorite Andesite 50-65% Silica Amphibole Plagioclase Biotite Pyroxene Basaltic (basic) (mafic) Gabbro Basalt 40-50% Silica Ca-Plagioclase Pyroxene Olivine Amphibole Ultramafic (ultrabasic) Peridotite None <40% Silica Olivine Pyroxene Ca-Plagioclase Dark

Igneous rocks which have crystals large enough to be seen by the naked eye are called phaneritic; those with crystals too small to be seen are called aphanitic. Generally speaking, phaneritic implies an intrusive origin; aphanitic an extrusive one. The crystals embedded in fine grained igneous rocks are termed porphyritic. The porphyritic texture develops when some of the crystals grow to considerable size before the main mass of the magma consolidates into the finer grained uniform material. Some of the typical igneous rocks are shown in Figure 2.1.3a.

Chapter 2 Rock Formation and Rock Mass

Figure 2.1.3a Igneous rocks, (i) granite, (ii) basalt, and (iii) prophyritic andesite.

2.1.4 Sedimentary Rocks Sedimentary rock is formed in three main ways by the deposition of the weathered remains of other rocks (known as 'clastic' sedimentary rocks); by the deposition of the results of biogenic activity; and by precipitation from solution. Sedimentary rocks include common types such as sandstone, conglomerate, clay, shale, chalk and limestone. Sedimentary rocks cover 75% of the Earth's surface, but count for only 5% of the rock in the earth crust. Four basic processes are involved in the formation of a clastic sedimentary rock: weathering (erosion), transportation, deposition and compaction, as sown in Figure 2.1.1. All rocks disintegrate slowly as a result of mechanical weathering and chemical weathering. Mechanical weathering is the breakdown of rock into particles without producing changes in the chemical composition of the minerals in the rock. Chemical weathering is the breakdown of rock by chemical reaction. Rock particles of different sizes are transported by the agents of erosion (usually water, and less frequently by ice and wind). These agents reduce the size of the particles, often sort them by size, and then deposit them in new locations. The sediments are usually deposited in layers, generally at a lower elevation. As sediment deposition builds up, the overburden pressure squeezes the sediment into layered solids in a process known as lithification. Clastic sedimentary rocks are composed of discrete fragments or clasts of materials derived from other rocks. They are composed largely of quartz with other common minerals including feldspars, amphiboles, clay minerals, and other minerals. Clastic sedimentary rocks are commonly classified by their grain size, with shale and clay being the finest with particles less than 0.004 mm, siltstone at 0.004 to 0.06 mm, and sandstone at 0.06 to 0.2 mm, and conglomerates and breccias being the coarsest with grains 2 to 256 mm. Composition of the particles, the cement, and the matrix also contribute to the classification. Classification of sediments and clastic rocks are shown in Table 2.1.4a, while some typical clastic sedimentary rocks are shown in Figure 2.1.4a. Table 2.1.4a Classification of common clastic sedimentary rocks Particle size > 2 mm 1/16 - 2 mm < 1/16 mm Comments Rounded rock fragment Angular rock fragment Quartz with other minerals Split into thin layers Break into clumps or blocks Rock name Conglomerate Breccia Sandstone Shale Mudstone

Chapter 2 Rock Formation and Rock Mass

Figure 2.1.4a Sedimentary rocks, (i) shale, (ii) sandstone, (iii) conglomerates, (iv) rock salt.

Texture of chemical sedimentary rocks is generally non-clastic. Main chemical sedimentary rocks are limestone, dolomite, halite (salt) and gypsum.

2.1.5 Metamorphic Rocks Metamorphic rock is a new rock type transformed from an existing rock type, through metamorphism. When an existing rock is subjected to heat and extreme pressure, the rock undergoes profound physical and/or chemical change. The existing rock may be sedimentary rock, igneous rock or another older metamorphic rock (Figure 2.1.1a). Metamorphic rocks make up a large part of the Earth's crust and are classified by texture and by mineral assembly. They are formed deep beneath the Earth's surface by great stresses from rocks above and high pressures and temperatures, known as regional metamorphism. The high temperatures and pressures in the depths of the Earth are the cause of the changes, and if the metamorphosed rocks are uplifted and exposed by erosion, they may occur over vast areas at the surface. Metamorphic rocks are also formed by the intrusion of molten rock (magma) into solid rock and form particularly at the place of contact between the magma and solid rock where the temperatures are high, known as contact metamorphism. Recrystallization of the rock will destroy the textures and fossils present in sedimentary rocks. Another important mechanism of metamorphism is that of chemical reactions that occur between minerals without them melting. In the process atoms are exchanged between the minerals, and thus new minerals are formed. Many complex high-temperature reactions may take place, and each mineral assemblage produced provides us with a clue as to the temperatures and pressures at the time of metamorphism. Heat and pressure are the causes of metamorphism. When above 200C, heat causes minerals to recrystallise. Pressure forces some crystals to re-orient. The combined effects of recrystallisation and re-orientation usually lead to foliation, which is an unique feature of metamorphic rocks. It occurs when a strong compressive force is applied from one direction to a recrystallizing rock. This causes the platy or elongated crystals of minerals, such as mica and chlorite, to grow with their long axes perpendicular to the direction of the force. This results in a banded, or foliated, rock, with the bands showing the colours of the minerals that formed them. Textures of metamorphic rocks are separated into foliated and non-foliated categories. Foliated rock is a product of differential stress that deforms the rock in one plane, sometimes creating a plane of cleavage: for example, slate is a foliated metamorphic rock, originating from shale. Non-foliated rock does not have planar patterns of stress.

Chapter 2 Rock Formation and Rock Mass

Rocks that were subjected to uniform pressure from all sides, or those which lack minerals with distinctive growth habits, will not be foliated. The common metamorphic rocks are: slate (very fine-grained, slaty cleavage foliation); phyllite (fine-grained, slaty cleavage foliation); schist (coarse-grained, schistocity foliation); gneiss (very coarsegrained, gneisocity or banded foliation); marble (non-foliated, originating from limestone); and quartzite (non-foliated, originating from quartz sandstone). The common metamorphic rocks are shown in Table 2.1.5a and Figure 2.1.5a. Table 2.1.5a Classification of common metamorphic rocks Rock Slate Phyllite Mica schist Chlorite schist Gneiss Marble Quartzite Texture Foliated Foliated Foliated Foliated Foliated Non-foliated Non-foliated Metamorphic grade Low grade Low to intermediate grade Low to intermediate grade Low grade High grade Low to high grade Intermediate to high grade Original parent rock Shale (clay minerals) Shale Shale Basalt Granite, shale, andesite Limestone, dolomite Quartz sandstone

Figure 2.1.5a Metamorphic rocks, (i) slate, (ii) schist, (iii) gneiss, and (iv) quartzite.

2.1.6 Rock Texture Rock texture usually indicates the origin of rocks, how they formed, and their appearance. Sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks have different textures due to their different origin. The two main texture forms are clastic and interlocking. Clastic texture is typically found in clastic sedimentary rocks (Figure 2.1.6a). Description of clastic texture includes shape and size, composition, and matrix. Clastic shape includes form and rounding. Form indicates whether a grain is more spherical or platy. Roundness refers to the degree of sharpness of the corners and edges of a grain. Composition indicates the derivation of a rock's sediments. For instance, volcanic fragments, wellrounded sands and cornered gravel all imply different sources. Matrix and cementation indicates how a sedimentary rock holding together.

Figure 2.1.6a Clastic textures of sanstones.

Igneous and metamorphic rocks generally have microstructures that grains are interlocked. During cooling, minerals are crystallised, and each requires space for its crystal growth. It results in mineral crystals penetrate into other minerals, and form the interlocking structure, as shown in Figure 2.1.6b.

Chapter 2 Rock Formation and Rock Mass

Figure 2.1.6b Interlocking textures of some igneous and metamorphic rocks.

An igneous or metamorphic rock may have grains of more or less uniformly coarse or fine sizes or have grains of different sizes (porphyritic), depending on the formation environment. Igneous microstructure is a combination of cooling rate, nucleation rate, eruption (if a lava), and magma composition. Metamorphic microstructure is influenced by rock origin, heating conditions and duration and mineral growth. Rock material strength is essentially a structural strength of the composition of the minerals in a rock material. It is governed by the strength of the minerals as well as the structural bonding (integration) of the minerals. The interlocking microstructures of igneous and metamorphic rocks lead to generally high strength of rock material, while the clastic microstructures of sedimentary rocks often lead to low rock material strength, particularly when cementation is weak. Any existing weakness, e.g., microcracks, pores, and weak mineral particles, within a rock material matrix also has great influence on the strength of the rock material. When the rock is subjected to a stress, the weak points start to fail (cracking) and cracks then propagate leading to overall failure of the rock. Rocks often contain existing weak microstructures, hence lead to large variation of strengths. For example, two granites may have variations in mica, a soft mineral, and grain structures, which in turn, will have different strength. When a rock is weathered, even to a very small degree, part of the structure bonding is weakened and lead to substantial reduction in strength.


Rock Discontinuities

2.2.1 Joints A geological joint is a generally planar fracture formed in a rock as a result of extensional stress. Joints are always in sets. Joints do not have any significant offset of strata either vertically or horizontally (Figure 2.2.1a).

Figure 2.2.1a Typical joints seen (i) one dominant set, (ii) three sets.

Joints can be formed due to erosion of the overlying strata exposed at the surface. The removal of overlying rock results in change of stresses, and hence leads to the fracturing of underlying rock. Joints can also be caused by cooling of hot rock masses, which form cooling joints, as illustrated in Figure 2.2.1b. Columnar jointing or columnar basalts are typical joint features by cooling. Joints are also formed by tectonic movement, for example, by folding.

Chapter 2 Rock Formation and Rock Mass

Figure 2.2.1b Joint formation due to cooling and contraction of pluton.

Joints are often in sets. A joint set is a group of parallel joints. Typically, a rock mass can have between one to a few joint sets. Joints are the most common type of rock discontinuities. They are generally considered as part of the rock mass, as the spacing of joints usually is between a few centimetres and a few metres. Therefore, for an engineering project, joints are a constant feature of the rock mass at site within the project scale.

2.2.2 Faults Geologic faults are planar rock fractures which show evidence of relative movement. Large faults within the Earth's crust are the result of shear motion and active fault zones are the causal locations of most earthquakes. Earthquakes are caused by energy release during rapid slippage along faults. The largest examples are at tectonic plate boundaries, but many faults occur far from active plate boundaries. Since faults usually do not consist of a single, clean fracture, the term fault zone is used when referring to the zone of complex deformation associated with the fault plane. Figure 2.2.2a.

Figure 2.2.2a Faults, fault zone and shear zone.

A shear zone is a wide zone of distributed shearing in rock. Typically this is a type of fault but it may be difficult to place a distinct fault plane into the shear zone. Shear zones can be only inches wide, or up to several kilometres wide. As faults, particularly fault zone and shear zone, are large scale geological features. They are often dealt separately from the rock mass. Small scale single faults often have the similar effects as a joint. The behaviour large scale fault and shear zones require specific investigation and analysis, if a project is to be constructed over or close such zones.

2.2.3 Folds The term fold is used in geology when originally flat and planar rock strata are bent as a result of tectonic force or movement. Folds form under very varied conditions of stress. Folds can be commonly observed in sedimentary formation and as well as in metamorphic rocks (Figure 2.2.3a).

Figure 2.2.3a Folds in a sedimentary formation.

Chapter 2 Rock Formation and Rock Mass


Folds are usually not considered as part of the rock mass. However, folds can be of the similar scale as the engineering project and hence the significance of folds on the behaviour of the rock mass must be taken into consideration. It should be noted that fold has huge variation of features. Folds, particularly intense folds, are often associated with high degree of fracturing and relatively weak and soft rocks. Although the folding feature may not be directly taking into account of rock mass, but the results of folding is often reflected in the rock mass consideration.

2.2.4 Bedding Planes As sedimentary rocks are formed in layers, the interfaces between layers are termed as bedding planes. Bedding plane therefore is a discontinuity separating different rocks (Figure 2.2.4a). Bedding plane often can be fully closed and cemented.

Figure 2.2.4a Some typical bedding planes.

Bedding planes are isolated geological features to engineering activities. It mainly creates an interface of two rock materials. However, some bedding planes could also become potential weathered zones and pocket of groundwater. For example, an interface between porous sandstone and limestone may lead to extensive weathering of the limestone, which leads to cavities along the interface.


Rock Material and Rock Masses

2.3.1 Engineering Scale and Rock Engineering in and on rock has different scales, varying from a few centimetres to a few kilometres. A borehole can be typically around 8 cm while a mine can spread up to a few km. For civil engineering works, e.g., foundations, slopes and tunnels, the scale of projects is usually a few ten metres to a few hundreds metres (Figure 2.3.1a).

Figure 2.3.1a Scale of rock engineering.

When such engineering scale is considered, then rock in such scale is generally a mass of rock at the site. This mass of rock, often termed as rock mass, is the whole body of the rock in situ, consists of rock blocks and fractures, typically seen in Figure 2.3.1b.

Figure 2.3.1b Typical rock masses.

Chapter 2 Rock Formation and Rock Mass


2.3.2 Composition of Rock Mass As shown in Figure 2.3.2, a rock mass contains (a) rock material, in the form of intact rock plates, blocks and wedges, of various sizes, and (b) rock discontinuities that cuts through the rock, in the forms of fractures, joints, and faults. Rock masses = Rock materials + Rock discontinuities In addition, rock mass may also include filling materials in the discontinuities and dyke and sill igneous intrusions (Figure 2.3.2a). Faults are often filled with highly weathered materials, varying from extremely soft clay and highly fractured and crushed rocks.

Figure 2.3.2a A dyke intrusion.

As discussed earlier, large geological discontinuity features, such as fault zones and intrusions, are dealt separately. Therefore rock discontinuities in considered in a rock mass are discontinuities of scale comparable to the rock mass, i.e., joints and fractures. Rock discontinuities are often associated with groundwater flow, as they acts as flow channels for groundwater. Groundwater has significant influence on the properties of the rock mass and hence is should be considered in the rock mass characteristics.

2.3.3 Role of Joints in Rock Mass Behaviour Rock joints change the properties and behaviour of rock mass in the following terms: (i) Cuts rock into slabs, blocks and wedges, to be free to fall and move (Figure 2.3.3a); (ii) Acts as weak planes for sliding and moving; (iii) Provides water flow channel and creates flow networks (Figure 2.3.3b); (iv) Gives large deformation; (v) Alters stress distribution and orientation; Because the rock materials between rock joints are intact and solid, they have relative small deformation and low permeability. It is therefore obvious that rock mass behaviour by large is governed by rock joints.

Figure 2.3.3a Block and wedge sliding and falling due to jointing.

Figure 2.3.3b Groundwater flow out of a joint in a tunnel.

Chapter 2 Rock Formation and Rock Mass



Inhomogeneity and Anisotropy

2.4.1 Inhomogeneity of Rock Materials Inhomogeneity represents property varying with locations. Most of the engineering materials have varying degrees of inhomogeneity. Rocks are formed by nature and exhibits great inhomogeneity. Figure 2.4.1a shows the texture of some rock materials. Most of the rocks are not homogeneous in their physical appearance, due to: (i) different minerals in a rock, (ii) different bounding between minerals, (iii) existence of pores, (iv) existence of microcracks.

Figure 2.4.1a Textures of some common rocks, (a) granite, (b) sandstone, and (c) gneiss.

Inhomogeneity is the cause of fracture initiation leading to the failure of a rock material (Figure 2.4.1b). A high degree inhomogeneity means some elements in the rock material matrix are very weak, and therefore usually lead to low overall strength of the rock material. For two rock specimens of same composition, one contains a pore or a default usually fails at lower strength than the other.

Figure 2.4.1b Effects of inhomogeneity on failure of rock material.

2.4.2 Inhomogeneity of Rock Masses Inhomogeneity of a rock mass is primarily due to the existence of discontinuities. Rock masses are also inhomogeneous due to the mix of rock types, interbedding and intrusion (Figure 2.4.2a).

Figure 2.4.2a Sedimentary formation with bedding planes and layers.

2.4.3 Anisotropy Anisotropy is defined as properties are different in different direction. Anisotropy occurs in both rock materials and rock mass.

Chapter 2 Rock Formation and Rock Mass


Some sedimentary rocks, e.g., shale, have noticeable anisotropic characteristics. Other sedimentary may not have clear anisotropy. However, under the influence of formation process and pressure, small degree of anisotropy is possible. Rock with most obvious anisotropy is slate. Phyllite and schist are the other foliated metamorphic rocks that exhibit anisotropy, as seen in Figure 2.4.3a.

Figure 2.4.3a Some common anisotropic rocks, (i) slate and (ii) shale.

Rock mass anisotropy is controlled by (i) joint set (Figure 2.4.3b), and (ii) sedimentary layer (Figure 2.4.2a).

Figure 2.4.3b A granitic rock mass with one dominating joint set.


In Situ Rock Stresses

2.5.1 Overburden Stress and Tectonic Stress Rock at depth is subjected to natural stress generated by the overlaying rocks and tectonic force. Consider a point at a depth (z) below the ground, vertical stress at that point v is given by weight of the overlying material, i.e., v = z, where is the unit weight of the overlaying material. The average specific gravity of rocks is 2.7. The average vertical stress at depth can be estimated as v 0.027 z where v is in MPa, when z is in m. It is often considered that the horizontal stresses are induced by the vertical stress. But this suggestion is not correct, as tectonic activities contribute greatly to the built up of horizontal stresses, perhaps simultaneously. Horizontal stresses in rock are primarily tectonic. This is evidently by the fact that horizontal stresses in rocks are generally higher than vertical stresses. The maximum horizontal stress is the same directions as tectonic movement, as shown in the stress maps of Europe (Figure 2.5.1a)and of the World. Tectonic stress has huge variations in term of magnitude. Exceptional high horizontal stress has been reported in areas of tectonic movement and close to tectonic boundaries.

Chapter 2 Rock Formation and Rock Mass


Figure 2.5.1a In situ stress map of Europe.

In situ stress field can also be altered by geological factors and processes: Surface topography Erosion Intrusion Fault and faulting

2.5.2 In situ Stress Measurements In situ stress measurements have been compiled and presented in Figure 2.5.2a. Change of vertical stress with depth is scattered about the tend line, v = 0.027 z, which represents the overburden pressure.

Figure 2.5.2a In situ stress measurements at various (Brady Brown 157).

The horizontal stresses are presented in the figure by a ratio of average horizontal stress to vertical stress, k. From the data, k various between 0.5 to more than 3.0, at depth up to 3000 m. (100/z + 0.3) k (1500/z + 0.5) is suggested as the limits of k. It should be noted, at common depth for civil engineering works, say, less than 1000 m, the variation of horizontal stress is wide. The maximum horizontal stress could be up to 10 times the vertical stress. It is very common in rock mechanics that one of the horizontal stresses represent the major principal stress, while the vertical stress or the other horizontal stress represents the minor principal stress. While vertical stress can be estimated with reasonable reliability. The horizontal stress should not be estimated. For projects that maximum stress direction and magnitude may be important, in situ stress measurements is required.

2.5.3 Effective Stress The principle of effective stress used in soil mechanics has limited application in rock mechanics. In porous rocks, e.g., sandstone, porewater pressure may be evenly distributed and hence the effective stress may be computed as total stress pore pressure. However, in fractured rock mass, distribution of water is no longer even and stress field is no longer uniform. Hence, the effective stress principle has no application, as illustrated in Figure 2.5.3a.

Chapter 2 Rock Formation and Rock Mass


Figure 2.5.3a Pore water and effect stress in porous rock and fractured rock mass.

2.5.4 Redistribution of Stress One major characteristics of rock engineering is that the engineering activities, e.g., cutting out a slope or a tunnel, disturbs the original stress field which is already in equilibrium (for millions of years). Rock mechanics study therefore has to constantly deal with stress re-distribution and redistributed stresses, as well as the short term response of rock during stress re-distribution and long term behaviour in the redistributed stress field. Figure 2.5.4a gives an illustration on how excavating a tunnel causes stress to redistribute, while Figure 2.5.4b shows the displacement of a rock slope due to stress release.

Figure 2.5.4a Redistribution of stress due to excavation.

Figure 2.5.4b Movement of rock slope due to stress release at slope face.



2.6.1 Water in Rock Material Most of the igneous and metamorphic rocks are very dense with interlocked texture. The rocks therefore have extremely low permeability and porosity. They are generally considered as impermeable. Some clastic sedimentary rocks, typically sandstones, can be porous and permeable.

2.6.2 Flow in Rock Fracture Network While rock materials may be extremely low in porosity and permeability, the rock masses, on the other hand, are often fractured. Fractures are opening in the rock masses therefore provide flow paths. Flow quantity and hydraulic conductivity of fractures can be estimated by using appropriate hydraulic equations, e.g., Darcys Law. Flow in a fractured rock mass is controlled by the connectivity of fracture system or network. As shown in Figure 2.6.2a, only a limited percentage of fractured are interconnected, flow therefore can only be found in those connected fractures while those non-connected fractures do not have flow. It is commonly observed at site that only a few fractured has water flow while the remaining fractures are dry.

Figure 2.6.2a Flow in a fractured rock mass, simulated by computer.

Chapter 2 Rock Formation and Rock Mass


2.6.3 Effects of Groundwater and Pressure Groundwater represents an important boundary condition of the rock mass. It is no only the water pressure which contributes to the stress field. The presence of water, changes a number of rock parameters, e.g., a wet surface has low friction. The presence of water, also increase the complexity of rock engineering, e.g., it is more difficult to tunnel with water inflow and high water pressure. In the later chapters, the effects of groundwater on the rock mass properties and rock mass classifications will be addressed again.


Special Rocks

2.7.1 Weathering and Weathered Rocks All rocks disintegrate slowly as a result of mechanical weathering and chemical weathering. Mechanical weathering is the breakdown of rock into particles without producing changes in the chemical composition of the minerals in the rock. For example, ice is an important agent of mechanical weathering. Water percolates into cracks and fissures within the rock, freezes, and expands. The force exerted by the expansion is sufficient to widen cracks and break off pieces of rock. Heating and cooling of the rock, and the resulting expansion and contraction, also aids the process. Mechanical weathering contributes further to the breakdown of rock by increasing the surface area exposed to chemical agents. Chemical weathering is the breakdown of rock by chemical reaction. In this process the minerals within the rock are changed into particles that can be easily carried away. Air and water are both involved in many complex chemical reactions. The minerals in igneous rocks may be unstable under normal atmospheric conditions, those formed at higher temperatures being more readily attacked than those which formed at lower temperatures. Igneous rocks are commonly attacked by water, particularly acid or alkaline solutions, and all of the common igneous rock forming minerals (with the exception of quartz which is very resistant) are changed in this way into clay minerals and chemicals in solution. Figure 2.7.1a gives the condition of weathering and Figure 2.7.1b shows a weathered granite.

Figure 2.7.1a Relationship between climate and type of weathering.

Figure 2.7.1b Weathering of granite in a outcrop and weathered granite.

Chapter 2 Rock Formation and Rock Mass


Weathering is progressive, between fresh rock and completed weathered and residual materials (soil), rocks can be slightly, moderately and higly weathered. Those weathered rocks are still intact and have structure and texture as rock. However, due to weathering, their properties have been affected and altered. Table 2.7.1a gives the classification of weathering grade and common properties. Table 2.7.1a Classification of weathering grade and common properties.
Weathering Class/Grade Description of Rock Material and Rock Mass No visible sign of material weathering. Near boundary with Grade II some slight discoloration on major defects Discoloration indicates weathering of rock material and defect surface. Discoloration ranges from defect surface only to completely stained Less than 50% of material decomposed and disintegrated to intact soil. Rock core discoloured and weakened More than 50% of material decomposed and disintegrated to intact soil. Rock core discoloured and weakened Intact friable soil which may be weakly cohesive. Soil has fabric of parent rock Friable soil with original rock fabric completely destroyed Index Properties Strength RQD (%) 90 ~ 100 Rock/soil (% rock) 95 ~ 100 5% increase from fresh rock 7% increase Effective porosity

Fresh (I) Slightly weathered (II) Moderately weathered (III) Highly weathered (VI) Completely weathered (V) Residual soil (VI)

Very high Very high to 50~60% of fresh rock strength 30% of fresh rock strength

75 ~ 90

90 ~ 95

40 ~ 75

60 ~ 90

15% of fresh rock strength

10 ~ 40

30 ~ 60

10% increase

Extremely low

0~ 10 0

0~ 30 0

20% increase > 20

Extremely low

The strength of rock materials is governed by the bonding strength of mineral grains in the rock. Once being weathered, particularly by chemical weathering, the bonding is weakened and resulting in significant reduction of rock material strength.

2.7.2 Soft Rocks and Hard Soils Sedimentary rocks are formed by sediments (soils) through lithification (solidification through compact and cementation). The lithification process is long, and due to geological movement, the formation could be pushed upward to the surface and lithification could stoped before the sediments are being completed solidified. The materials then could be highly consolidated but not fully solidified. Typically, those materials have low strength and high deformability, and when placed in water, they often can be dissolved. Figure 2.7.2a shows a semi-lithified sandstone with upper portion being weathered. In dry state, the material behaves as weak rock and when place in water, it collapses.

Chapter 2 Rock Formation and Rock Mass


Figure 2.7.2a A semi-lithified alluvium sandstone with weathered upper portion.

Such materials some exhibit the properties of rock and of soil. Depending on the solidification degree, the materials can be described and dealt accordingly, with soil mechanics principles or rock mechanics principles, or a combination of both.

2.7.3 Swelling Rocks Some rocks have the characteristics of swelling, that is when the rock is exposed with water (directly in contact with water or in air), it expanse. This is primarily due the swelling behaviour of the minerals of the rock, typically the montmorillonite clay mineral. This montmorillonite mineral is composed of units made of two silica tetrahedral sheets with a central alumina octahedral sheet. In stacking of these combined units one above the other, oxygen layers of each unit are adjacent to oxygen of the neighbouring units with a consequence that there is a very weak bond and an excellent cleavage between them. Water can enter between the sheets, causing them to expand significantly. Thus rock and soils containing considerable amount of montmorillonite minerals will exhibit high swelling and shrinkage characteristics. Swelling can be characterised by swelling measurement. In engineering, swelling is a complex problem due to excess deformation when the rock is exposed (Figure 2.7.3a).

Figure 2.7.3a Excessive deformation observed at a tunnelling site sue to swelling.

2.7.4 Highly Fractured and Crushed Rocks Due to various geological processed, rocks can be highly fractured and sometimes crushed. Highly fractured and crushed rock masses can exist in large extend due to regional tectonic stress and movement, or localised in fault and shear zones. Such rock can often have a mixed sizes and can be a rock-soil mixture. Figure 2.7.4a shows some typical highly fractured and crushed rock.

Figure 2.7.4a Some typical highly fractured and crushed rock.

Characteristics of such highly fractured and crushed rocks are quite different from the massive rock mass. They behave as granular and block material. Their mechanical properties are depending on the geometry and friction. When such materials are encountered in engineering, they need to be addresses separately.

Chapter 2 Rock Formation and Rock Mass


Further Readings Blyth, FGH, de Freitas MH (1984). A geology for engineers, 7th Edition. Arnold, London. Parriaux A (2006). Gologie: bases pour lingnieur. PPUR, Lausanne.

Magma (Lava)
ti n g m el


ys t

al lis a

tio n

Metamorphic Rock


Igneous Rock
weath ering transp ort

mor meta

we ath eri ng /t


sp ort

Sedimentary Rock


Sediment (Soil)



2.1.2a, b



Rock salt Shale



Quartzite Slate Schist Gneiss









A borehole 10 cm.

A tunnel of 12 m diameter. An excavated quarry slope of several 10 m high.



















Pore water