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Mining Geomechanics - AWestern.

Australia
School of Mines Perspective
T N LITTLE
1
AND T SZWEDZICKI
2
ABSTRACT
In recent years substantial advances have been made in the field of
geomechanics. Staff at the Western Australian School of Mines (WASM)
are keen to see that such advances continue and that the mining industry
in Australia can take full advantage of such developments in a timely
manner. WASM views mining geomechanics in its broadest sense, as
being concerned with the characterisation of the physical properties and
the behaviour of earth materials (soil, rock and water) and openings as
mining proceeds. Aspects such as, soil and rock improvement techniques
for difficult site conditions and the rock breaking processes, are also
considered to be an integral part of mining geomechanics.
This paper indicates the inter-relationships between the various areas
within the field of geomechanics and the strong reliance of all of these
areas on site specific engineering geology.
The major part of this paper deals in considerable detail with the
geotechnical engineering theme within the current mining engineering
course. The strong co-operation between industry and WASM in the
Goldfields region is then demonstrated. These links are by way of
collaborative research projects, rock properties testing and short course
programs.
Finally the future geomechanics initiative planned at WASM are outlined.
These initiatives include the development of an integrated geotechnical
laboratory, the introduction of a coursework Masters program and the
further enhancement of our Continuing Education Program.
INTRODUCTION
Western Australia is a world-scale producer of a large range of
minerals. The export orientated mining irtdustry is the most
significant contributor to the State economy.
Gold mining was the mainstay of the State's mining industry
from the 1890s through to the 196Os, when iron ore, nickel,
bauxite and oil assumed prominence. Since the late-1970s
however, high gold prices and technological advances in
processing methods have led to renewed growth irt the industry.
Production has increased significantly every year since 1981-82
and irt 1987-88 gold again became the single most valuable
mineral produced. Major gold mine developments and
expansions have occurred, not only in the traditional areas around
Kalgoorlie and other Eastern Goldfields centres, but also in the
Murchison area and at Boddington in the South-West.
Other significant mineral projects in Western Australia are the
giant iron ore mines in the Pilbara, nickel in the Eastern
Goldfields, bauxite on the Darling escarpment, mineral sands
principally at Capel and Eneabba, and diamonds in the
Kimberley. Coal production is also commercially important in
the Collie region.
Copper and zinc mining recommenced in 1988 and production
of both is expected to reach significant levels (DOMWA 1990).
In an attempt to identify the main rock mechanics issues that
affect current and may affect future mines, a review of the
currently operating underground mines irt Western Australia has
been carried out by the Western Australian School of Mines
Department of Mirting Engineering and Mine Surveying.
1. Head, Department of Mirting Engineering and Mine Surveying,
Western Australian School of Mines.
2. Lecturer in Rock Mechanics, Department of Mirting
Engineering and Mine Surveying, Western Australian School
of Mines.
The review has identified that the majority of mines (some 70
per cent) have had mining problems of a geotechnical nature.
The following are the main geomechanical issues which affect
underground mining operations:
fall of ground,
ore dilution,
seismic activity,
mining induced subsidence.
In open pits the major problem is that of the stability of pit
walls.
Despite the large number of rock bolts installed in mines in
WA, rockfalls remain a major cause of accidents (16.5 per cent)
and fatalities (20 per cent).
Ore dilution is often significant, with the majority of mines
tolerating dilution of ten per cent or greater, some dilution
percentages as high as 30 per cent have been recorded.
Seismic activity has been reported from the Eastern Goldfields
since the 1920s. In certain situations such activity may indicate
rockbursting. The review has shown that such phenomena are
occurring in some Eastern Goldfields underground mines.
Despite the fact that almost half the underground mines in
Western Australia use backfill as an integral part of their mining
methods, examples of discontinuous surface subsidence and
sinkhole formations have been recorded. As past records in
Kalgoorlie show, a number of residential properties have been
affected by collapse of rocks above abandoned workings.
Now that the importance of mining to Western Australia has
been indicated, we move on to demonstrating the importance of
geomechanics to mining.
MINING GEOMECHANICS
Any aspect of mine engineering which involves interaction with
the ground (soil, rock, water and voids) can be considered to be
in the domain of geotechnical engineering or mining
geomechanics. Broadly speaking geomechanics studies can be
divided into four stages.
Firstly companies need to find out what is at a site ie site
investigation. A number of methods and techniques can be used
for this rock exploration stage. These include: geological and
engineering geological core logging and mapping, geophysical
techniques, trial excavations and in-situ instrumentation and
testing, and laboratory testing. This input is critical to the mine
design process and ideally should include irtformation on in-situ
stresses, groundwater, rock type, structure and geometry,
mechanical rock properties and seismic activity.
Secondly the ways in which the ground will behave or perform
upon the excavation of an opening, slope or as a foundation must
be predicted. This stage involves the formulation of a mine
model representing the simplification and rationalisation of the
data generated by the site investigation. Three design analysis
approaches, namely analytical, empirical or observational
methods, can be used at this stage. In the last decade numerical
modelling, an analytical method, has taken a prominent position
with regard to design analysis work. It should be kept in mind
that there are a number of limitations with this approach and as
there is a danger of using sophisticated computer programs with
limited site specific input data. The prudent approach is to
consider numerical modelling to be just one of the many tools
available to the geotechnical engineer.
The AuslMM Annual Conference Broken Hill 17 - 21 May 1992 5
T N LfITLE and T SZWEDZICKI
- ~ k Cutt lng
RaInfall
Slope EngIneerIng t
Mlnewater"
Rock MechanIcs
Shotcrete
Evaforat Ion
Roads
111 Technology
Sol1s EngIneerIng
MINE GEOTECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS
FIG 1 - Broad interpretation of mining geomechanics.
MetamorphIc
Rock
Ultrametamorphosls
Magma
IntrusIon
Weath
UPheaval &
Depth
FIG 2 - The soil and rock cycle.
6 Broken Hill 17 - 21 May 1992 The AuslMM Annual Conference
MINING GEOMECHANlCS - AWASCHOOL OF MINES PERSPECTIVE
BEng (Mining Engineering)
The next stage is the design. Here the aim is to determine the
layout and dimensions of the mine openings and the associated
designs, for example, reinforcement and drainage. This stage
also involves the selection of the excavation method (rock
cutting, longhole stoping, ete) for the openings and the
sequencing and timing of the various operations.
The fmal stage is optirnisation. Here the feedback from the
monitored and observed rock mass behaviour is used to refme
future mine designs and operating procedures.
Figure 1 illustrates all of the components considered to be in
the domain of mining geomechanics. Any geomechanics design
work is very dependent on geological input and the quality of the
site investigation.
Figure 2 illustrates the interaction of soil and rock in the
geological cycle. A number of implications for rock mass
characterisation are evident. There are two areas of transition
between soils and rocks; they are diagenesis and weathering.
Any meaningful description of rock must contain a statement on
the degree of weathering and for sedimentary rocks the degree of
diagenesis.
Figure 2 also illustrates that most rocks have a more complex
history than soils. It should also be noted that over-consolidated
soils have some degree of rock-like mechanical behaviour.
Figure 3 further illustrates this relationship between soil and
rock mechanics. Soil mechanics is the interaction between solids,
water and gases. In addition, rock mechanics deals with
discontinuities or rock defects. The rock mass is made up of
intact rock blocks bounded by discontinuities which are
sometimes fully or partially filled with water. It is obvious that
we can not fully or accurately understand or specify rock mass
properties, and it is this aspect which makes geomechanics
different from other branches of mechanics. This is the reason
why observational approaches to design are often used.
1ST
YEAR
2ND
YEAR
3RD
YEAR
4TH
YEAR
FIG 3 - Relationship between soil mechanics and rock mechanics in tenns
of the various disciplines involved.
MINING GEOMECHANICS PROGRAM AT WASM
Teaching at WASM has a long tradition of being of a high
standard and practically orientated. The Bachelor of Engineering
program offered by the Department of Mining Engineering and
Miner Surveying is summarised in Figure 4.
This figure illustrates the six themes which are necessary for
the training of mining engineers. These are:
Science and mathematics
FIG 4 - WASM's BEng mining engineering program.
Geology, surveying and metallurgy
Mining methods and technology
Mineral economics and management
Geotechnical engineering
Basic engineering.
In recent years an increased emphasis has been placed on the
geotechnical theme within the course. This has been achieved by
increasing the number of lecture hours and number of units on
geomechanics an modifying course contents to suit the
requirements of a modern mining industry.
The overall educational aim at WASM is to prepare young
people to become leaders and innovators in the mining industry.
With regard to mining geomechanics the following five
educational objectives have emerged and are pursued:
1. To instil in graduates an awareness of the importance of
geomechanics as an essential mining science and give
them a positive attitude to the subject.
2. To develop skills that will enable graduates to undertake
geotechnical data collection, analysis of results and to
identify the limitation of these activities.
3. To develop skills that will enable graduates to undertake
mine planning and design based on sound geotechnical
principles.
4. To instil in graduates a consciousness and professional
ethic with regard to geotechnical safety aspects in the
mining environment.
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T N LmLE and T SZWEDZICKl
5. To develop skills and techniques that will enable
graduates to solve non-trivial geotechnical problems,
communicate with specialists, and cope with unexpected
geotechnical conditions.
In order to achieve these objectives the geomechanics units
delivered by Departmental staff are based on material available
due to the good links with local industry, studies of geomechanics
advances from selected published literature, staff research
findings, and through international and regional conference
attendance. The lecture programs are also enriched by the
involvement of prominent scientists and engineers from the
CSIRO Division of Geomechanics, the WA Department of Mines
and industry practitioners. This type of co-operation also has the
benefit of fostering strong links between the Department staff,
other geotechnical specialists and industry personnel. Specialised
geotechnical field trips have also been introduced and have
proved to be successful.
Figure 5 illustrates the developmental stages for the
geotechnical theme within the mining course.
In second semester fourth year students also undertake a mine
design project, which includes geotechnical consideration. It is
important to note that it is ultimately the mine planning engineer
who transforms the individual technical contributions into
working drawings, production schedules and cost estimates for
subsequent implementation.
This is will illustrated in Figure 6 (from Brady and Brown,
1985).
Final year students are also required to undertake a major
Industrial Project unit on a mining topic of their choice. In the
past ten years students have undertaken numerous geomechanics
research projects for local mines. As an example, the fmal year
mining engineering student projects carried out in 1991 are listed
below:
Laboratory tests on the effect of sample geometry on rock
properties.
Investigation of the anchorage performance of point anchor
resin bolts.
The use of high pressure water jets to assist drilling.
Development of an expert system to assist in the design of
open-pit blasting patterns.
Backfill testing at a mine.
Narrow vein uphole open stoping blasting analysis.
Optimisation of rockbolting program.
The effects of various types of stemming on fragmentation.
An investigation of muckpile characteristics resulting from
open-pit blasting.
Performance and comparison of diamond drill bits in
different rock types.
Rock characterisation by high frequency seismic pulse
transmission techniques.
Location of 'lost' drill holes by seismic techniques.
Most of these projects were carried out in close collaboration
with the Eastern Goldfields underground and open-pit mines
which requested research assistance. The results of many of
these projects fulfilled expectations of mines. The measure of
success of the co-operation is that mines propose student research
topics many months in advance, and do this year after year.
GEOMECHANICS RESEARCH AND
DEVELOPMENT ATWASM
Research activities and interests
In 1991 the Department pursued geomechanics research work on
the following geotechnical projects:
The measurement and dynamic modelling of wave
propagation from biastholes.
GEOTECUNlCAL
ENGINEERING
GI!OMJ!CBANICS ClW- .0CJt I&EAIING
I(UX 1) lUX 1) I
MINE BACDUL .0CJt CllTl'ING
(15 X 2.5)
MININO11IaI
TAILIHOI DAMI,aOAM
MINIHO11IaI
43Z
IIIOTCUTII, IroUI
411
WA11III
4TH
(15 X 4)
CVlLBNO YEAR
A oaOVNDI1lIIS11lIINC1l
01
a IlJ1'POIlT ANDUINFOIlCDOlH1'
lUX 1) I C NVMBIUCAL KODIlLLlNO
D aoex DYNAMICS ADVANCIIDaL.vnNO
aoex
IIIIN1NO11IaI
IlOIOIANICI 01
01
I (15 X 3)
UNDERGROUND
aocr; MECIIANlCS
Roex
MBOtAN/csm
3RD
(15 X 1)
SOIL MECHANICS
YEAR
I
(15 X 1)
lOlL A ILOPBlINODl
SLOPE ENGJNEFJUNG
lOlL A ILOPB lINO Dl
I lUX 1)
(15 X 1)
I
HYDROLOGY AND MINE WATIIIl
EII'LOIiIVIlS
BLA511NG
IIIIN1NO'11ICIINOLOOy Dol
2ND
YEAR
FIG 5 - Mine geOlechnical engineering theme in Bachelor of
Engineering in mining engineering.
FIG 6 - The interaction between the technical functions involved with mine
engineering [After Brady and Brown, 1985 (modified)].
8 Broken Hill 17 - 21 May 1992 The AuslMM Annual Conference
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MINlNG GEOMECHANICS - AWA SCHOOL OF MINES PERSPECTIVE
Laboratory testing of rocks
Underground design and ground control course, in
conjunction with the Department of mines
Mining-geology interface short course, in assocIation with
UWAand the Key Centre.for Strategic Minerll1 Deposits.
Shotfirers' courses.
Drill management training courses.
FUTURE GEOMECHANICS INITIATIVES
The above achievements have led to the Department of Mining
Engineering and Mine Surveying being widely recognised in the
field of mining geornechanics. In response to industry demands
the Department is offering a Master of Engineering Science
program by coursework and minor dissertation in Mining.
Georriechanics in 1993. The 16 units in the four sessions of the
Masters program will be offered as a series of short courses as
part of WASM'S continuing education program. .
Other initiatives for the future include the development of an
integrated geotechnicallaboratory. The laboratory will be based
on existing and new in-house constructed or purchased testing
equipment. It will consist of three main components: rock
properties testing facilities, a drilling and rock cutting facility, and
a rock dynamics testing facility. These school based activities
will be cornplimented by other field based equipment for site
investigations and monitoring.
The rO<ik properties laboratory is well equipped and the only
new equipment being considered is a large scale shear box for
testing large (300 mm x 300 mm) samples of jointed rocks.
With regard to the drilling and rock cutting component,
existing equipment includes a diamond drilling rig facility, which
has been set up to monitor drilling thrusts, drilling moments,
penetration rates and rotational velocities. In the future the
recorded data will be datalogged and processed on a computer.
The rock dynamics component will consist of a non-destructive
laboratory testing facility, equipment for monitoring blasting
emissions and a micro-seismic monitoring capability. Existing
equipment includes a large number of accelerometers and a data
acquisition system, airblast transducers and video recording
system.
The Department is currently preparing a number of new
continuing education short courses and workshops, on the
following topics:
underground blasting
open-pit blasting
numerical modelling
slope design
design of tailings dams
geotechnical instrumentation.
The main objective of these courses is to encourage the
exchange of knowledge and to present state-of-the-art
information on topics where this appears to be lacking.
Other Departmental initiatives include the organisation and
hosting of the first Western Australian Conference in Mining
Geomechanics, in June 1992 and the participation in the recently
established Australian Centre for Geomechanics in Western
Australia.
4.5MN
lOMN/mm

2.0ms
650 mm (vert)
530 mm(horiz)
The facility is used for non-standard static and dynamic rock
testing and for the research into post-failure behaviour of rock.
The Department also offers industry a rock properties testing
service. In 1991 a total of 33 geotechnical testing projects were
undertaken by the Department for 15 different companies.
The range of tests which are carried out include:
uniaxial compressive tests
elastic properties
shear box testing
triaxial compression testing
multistage triaxial testing
uniaxial tensile testing
indirect tensile testing
point load testing
slake durability
porosity and moisture content
bulk density.
The Department has a well equipped rock mechanics laboratOry
in which almost all rock tests specified by the International
Society of Rock Mechanics (lSRM) Suggested Methods for Rock
Testing can be undertaken. In addition to the standard items of
equipment the Department has a 450 tonne capacity
servo-controlled INSTRON testing facility with the following
specifications:
Load capacity
Stiffness of frame
MaxSpeed
Response time
Max Daylight
The influence of testing method and sample size .on the
behaviour of rock specimens.
Selection and design of blasting techniques for selective
open-pit mining using expert system technology. -
Location of bottom of raise borehole using seismic
techniques.
Formulation of guidelines for direct tension testing of
competent rock cores.
Application of some seismic techniques for underground
mines.
Collaborative research into open-pit and underground drill
and blast practices.
Most of the research has been done to meet the requirements of
the local mining industry. Many of the findings have been
applied in mining practice.
Staff in the Department are currently interested in the following
research areas: rock reinforcement design, numerical modelling,
geotechnical mapping, using photogranunetry, rock cuttability
and drillability, subsidence monitoring and prediction, expert
systems applications, rock dynamics, and seismicity in mines.
Continuing education program
The WA School of Mines situated in the heart of the Eastern
Goldfields has taken an active role in the continuing education of
the local industry personnel. The content of courses varies from
year to year reflecting changes in mining techniques and
requirements of the industry. These courses have been presented
in Kalgoorlie, Perth and at selected mines.
The demand for high level geotechnical courses is very high in
Western Australia and more than 200 participants improve their
geotechnical knowledge each year through the WA School of
Mines.
In 1991 the Departmental staff organised short courses in the
general area of geomechanics. These are:
CONCLUSIONS
Geomechanics at the Western Australian School of Mines has
been substantially expanded in recent years. This expansion has
taken place in the areas of undergraduate teaching programs,
industrial training short courses, research and consulting services.
Significant developments include:
The recruitment of a number of highly qualified rock
mechanic academics.
The procurement of state-of-the-art laboratory facilities.
The initiation and implementation of a number of
collaborative research projects in association with the CSIRO
Division of Geomechanics.
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Broken Hill 17 - 21 May 1992 9
T NUTILE and T SZWEDZICKI
The close co-operation with the mining industry and other
research and-development organisations.
These achievements have led to the Department being widely
recognised in the field of mining geomechanics.
Other initiatives for the future include further development
towards an integrated geotechnical laboratory and the
introduction of a coursework Masters program and the further
enhancement of our continuing education program in mining
geomechanics.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors would like to thank Dr G R Baird for reviewing the
paper and Rosa Lewis and Shelley Roberts for proof reading the
final draft. The Western Australian School of Mines must also be
thanked for giving permission to publish this paper.
REFERENCES
1. Brady, B H G and Brown, E T, 1985. Rock Mechanics for
Underground Mining. George Alien & Unwin, London.
2. DOMWA, 1990. Department of Mines of Western Australia
Annual Review 1989 -1990.
10 Broken Hill 17 - 21 May 1992 The AuslMM Annual Conference