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Handout 4 - MIN 454 In this handout, some of the design considerations of coal pillars are introduced.

Pillar loading theories are presented first. Pillar loading is of three types, preliminary loading or loading immediately following excavation of opening, subsequent loading or the abutment pressures due to further mining (i.e. when massive extraction, such as longwall or pillaring, is happening near the pillar) and progressive failure theory for post-mining loading. Theories of Pillar Loading Preliminary loading: There are two theories explaining preliminary loading, tributary area theory and pressure arch theory. Tributary Area Concept: According to this concept, a pillar takes the weight of overlying rock up to a distance of half the opening width surrounding it (Figure 1). In the figure, Wo and Wp are widths of the opening and pillar respectively, while Lp is the length of the pillar. For square pillars, Wp = Lp.




Figure 1. The tributary area pillar loading concept. The load on the pillar, P, is, therefore, P = (Lp + Wo) * (Wp + Wo)*g*h where g is the weight of the rock per unit volume, and h is the depth of the pillar. The stress on the pillar, p is: p = P/Area of pillar = [(Lp + Wo) * (Wp + Wo)*g*h] / [Lp * Wp ] = [(Lp + Wo) * (Wp + Wo)*v] / [Lp * Wp ] where v is the vertical stress gh. Another formula that works is (only in English units): p = 1.1*h*(Lp + Wo) * (Wp + Wo) / (Lp * Wp )

Pressure Arch Theory: According to this theory, when an opening is made, the stresses shift outward on both sides of pillar, leaving a de-stressed zone, in the shape of an arch, around the pillar (Figure 2). The exact shape and size of the arch depends on the stress levels, age and shape/size of opening, and strata properties. Subsidence occurs when the arch reaches the surface. The de-stressed area inside the arch is called intradosal ground, while the area outside is called extradosal ground. The strata at the fringe of the intradosal ground gets compressed as part of the vertical stress is transferred to the abutments. The height of the intradosal ground is about 2-4 times the width of the extraction. For large excavations, the height is limited to 200 times the excavation height. Regions where pillars are being exploited can be thought of as large excavations.

Extradosal ground

Intradosal ground

Stress profile for the roof of the opening.

Abutment pressure Intradosal Pressure

Superincumbent pressure

Figure 2. The Pressure Arch theory A disadvantage of this theory is that due to a lack of a quantitative estimate of the pressure arch profile, it is difficult to design for (how would you estimate what the intradosal pressure on the roof of an opening is if you do not know where the arch begins). As mentioned earlier, an aspect of the pressure arch theory is subsidence. When an excavation exceeds a certain width, the pressure arch can reach all the way to the surface causing subsidence. Estimates, based on case studies, on the critical width of the pressure arch (Figure 3) are available. Alders curve, based on examples in England, is very conservative. Barrientos and Parkers curves were based on a copper mine, while Abels curve was based on 55 case studies (primarily from coal) with sedimentary overburden.

Figure 3. Critical width vs. mining depth (Agapito and Goodrich, 2002 Mining Engineering magazine)

The pressure arch theory can be used for design as given below: If the pressure arch height can be estimated, then multi-seams can be designed so that one mine is within the arch of another, thereby working under lower stresses (Figure 4).

Pressure arch from middle seam (earlier workings)

Reduces stresses in these seams due to being inside the pressure arch Note: except at the fringes of the arch

Figure 4. Multi-seam workings exploiting the intra-dosal region of the pressure arch

Yield pillar design 1 . This concept aims to extend the benefits of the pressure arch theory to the current mining activities rather than to future mining activities. Here, pillars in a panel are designed to NOT take the full load. Instead, they are slightly under-designed. This obviously causes the pillars to yield, thereby transferring their load to the barrier pillars or to larger pillars in the same panel. Barrier pillars are large pillars that separate one panel from another. Yield pillars are also advantageous for very deep mines. In deep mines, if pillars are designed to support the full load, the pillar dimensions become very large (verify this by using the tributary area method for pillar load and Bieniawskis formula for pillar strength). Besides, pillar stresses are high as well. On the other hand, if pillars are designed to yield, not only do the dimensions remain reasonable, but the pillar stresses are reduced as well. Load deformation curve for a pillar. Initially, the load taken by the pillar increases. Then it decreases.

For a given load, when the pillar size is reduced, the stresses in the pillar increase. After a certain point, the pillar yields, resulting in lower stresses. Based on case histories compiled by Schissler et al (2003), it appears that successful yield pillar design has the following characteristics: i. Width to height ratio of 2.8 to 6.0 (most cases in 3-5.5 range) a. If the width to height ratio is very high, yielding will not occur, whereas if it is too low, violent failure may occur ALPS development load stability factor of 0.4 to 0.6 (Note: ALPS Analysis of Longwall Pillar Stability - is a popular free NIOSH software)


Note the following when using yield pillars: overall span of development should be as small as possible. This implies that the number of entries is as low as possible as well.

This section is based on Schissler, Badr, Salamon and Ozbay (2003). The work is part of Schisslers M.S. thesis at Colorado School of Mines

FYI: It is commonly believed that Jim Walter Resources, Alabama, pioneered yield pillar design in the 70s. Yield pillars in the approx. 2000 ft mines are typically 20 ft wide (40 ft centers) with a height of 7 ft. In the JWR#7 mine, it was found that if the yield pillars were widened to 30ft, they started taking load instead of yielding and created problems.

Subsequent Loading or Abutment Pressures: It was seen earlier that the stress characteristics change during development, i.e. when an opening is made. The stresses change further when coal is extracted (pillaring or longwalling). The stresses due to extraction get superimposed with the development stresses, resulting in abutment loading of the pillar. As the line of extraction approaches a pillar, the abutment pressures on the pillar start to increase rapidly. Within the pillar, the abutment pressures are higher at the ribs and decrease towards the center. Abutment pressures are created by strata that cantilever over the gob areas (Figure 5(a)). Figure 5(b) shows a plot of the abutment pressure versus days before extraction for a mine.
2000 psi (a) 1500 psi Strata cantilevering 1000 psi gob (b)




12 9 6 days from extraction

Figure 5. Abutment pressures due to extraction of pillars. Progressive Failure Theory: This theory applies in the post mining scenario. For a pillar with gob on both sides, this theory propounds that the stress at the ribs of a chain pillar is low (because they probably failed during subsequent or abutment loading), although it quickly reaches the maximum value within 10-30 ft of the edge. The center of the pillar remains intact and the stress is constant across the core. When the chain pillar has gob on both sides, the gob material supports strata beyond a distance of 0.3h from the edge of the pillar, where h is the depth of the pillar or overburden. If a linear decrease is assumed for the load taken by the pillar, from the ribs to a distance of 0.3h, the total load on the pillar is: Pt = gh(Wp+0.3h) tons/ft However, if there is gob only on one side, the load is given by: Pt = gh(Wp+ Wo)2 tons/ft

Stresses within a Pillar While it is intuitive to think that the loading on a pillar is uniformly distributed over the area, that is not the case. This is because of the frictional forces at the contact planes at the top or bottom ends of the pillars. The coal expands or compresses differently from the strata it is in contact with. These frictional forces cause differential expansion or restriction between the different areas of the pillar leading to non-uniform stress distribution within the pillar. Figure 6 shows the vertical stresses in a pillar along two sections.



plan view

Vertical stress

Overburden pressure

Vertical stress

Overburden pressure

Figure 6. Stresses in a pillar in the mid-section along the length and diagonal.

It is seen that the stress at the center of the pillar is less than the overburden stress, while at the edges, it is higher than the overburden stress. Also, the stresses in the corners of the pillar are higher than at the edges. Pillar Strength There are various pillar strength formulas. In the US, the most popular is Bieniawskis:
where, p is the pillar strength (psi), 1 is the in-situ coal strength (psi), Wp and Wo are the pillar and opening widths (feet) and h is the mining height (feet). p = 1 0.64 + 0.36 W p Wo h

Since laboratory specimens are significantly stronger than in-situ coal, one must properly adjust the lab strength values to obtain the in-situ value. This is a two step process: i) convert the lab specimen strength to k or Gaddys factor and then ii) convert k to the in-situ strength. Note that the two steps presented below work only in English units. For a specimen of diameter d (inches) and lab compressive strength of c (psi), k = c sqrt(d)

where k is the Gaddys factor. The second step is to convert k to the in-situ strength. This is done using Hustrulids equation: 1 = k/sqrt(H) for H<36 = k/6 for H>36 where H is the mining height or pillar height in inches. Example: Find the factor of safety (FOS) for a 100x70 feet (centers) pillar with a 20 feet wide and 5 feet high opening at a depth of 500 feet. sample strength of 4030 psi for a specimen of 2 inch diameter. Sample strength Gaddys factor = 4030 sqrt(2) = 4030 x 1.414 In-situ strength, 1, for H = 60 inches = 5700/6 Pillar strength 1 p = 950(0.64+0.36((70-20)/5)) (Note: the smaller dimension of the pillar, 70, is taken) = 4028 psi = 4030 psi = 5700 psi = 950 psi

Pillar load according to the tributary area method (since we are using English units we can use the formula below): = 1.1*500*100*70/(80*50) = 962.5 psi Factor of Safety: 4028/962.5 = 4.19 Generally recommended factor of safetys are: Long term = 2 Short term = 1.6 Short term, panel, FOS can be as low as 1.3 Other Pillar Strength Formulae Holland-Gaddy formula:

p =

k w h

where k (Gaddy factor) is between 1.8-2.2, w and h are pillar width and height in inches. This formula is valid for w/h ratio between 2 and 8 and the pillar strength (p) is in psi. This formula is not popular anymore since it is very conservative at w/h > 5 Salamon-Munro:

p = 1320

w 0.46 where w and h are in feet. h 0.66

This was developed based on South African data. Recommended FOS is 1.6 Barrier Pillar Design: Barrier pillars are those that are left unmined between adjacent panels for panel support (Figure 7). The width of the barrier pillar is given by the formula: Wbp = 20+4h+0.1H where, Wbp is the width of the barrier pillar (feet), h is the seam height (feet) and H is the depth (feet). Another approximation is: Wbp = kWo where k is between 3 and 4, and Wo is the width of the opening.

Advance Barrier pillar

Mined out panel Barrier pillar

Figure 7. Barrier pillars.

References and further reading for this handout Bieniawski, Z. T., 1984, Rock Mechanics Design in Mining and Tunneling, A. A. Balkema. Peng, 1978, Coal Mine Ground Control, John Wiley and Sons.