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International Journal o f Mining Engineering, 1983, 1, 1 8 9 - 2 2 8

Design of underground plugs

Cementation Mining Ltd, Bentley House, P.O. Box 22, Doncaster DN5 0BT, South Yorkshire, UK
Received 24 D e c e m b e r 1982

The design of underground plugs is well documented for the gold mines of South Africa where
reasonably hard rock and relatively high water pressures are experienced at deep levels. However,
very little new information has been forthcoming in the last two decades, and published design data
concerning other situations in softer rocks and with lower imposed hydrostatic pressures is virtually
non-existent. This paper therefore sets out to review underground plug design with the object of
bringing the subject to prominence and more up to date. An attempt has also been made to rationalize
the design process in relation to current practice.
Six sections are included in the paper, the various types of plug being described at the beginning.
The factors to be considered in plug design form the basis for discussion in the second section and
design calculations are detailed in the third. Construction aspects follow while plug sealing and
resistance to leakage are the topics included as the fifth section.
To elucidate the contents of the previous five sections more fully, the last section comprises three
current case studies of actual plugs. Based on the overall concepts contained in the paper, conclusions
and recommendations for plug design are formulated at the end.
Key words: Mining; mine water; water inrush; underground dams; concrete

To sink mine shafts and drive-inclined drifts, underground roadways or tunnels successfully,
experience and skill is needed to maintain excavation stability and to deal with and control
ground water: The presence of the latter is possibly the most serious threat to working in the
underground environment and the miner must always operate with care when approaching
known zones of water-bearing strata.
During d e v e l o p m e n t work in shafts and tunnels, techniques are available whereby strata
water can be controlled temporarily prior to installing a water-tight lining. Such methods
are: pumping, where the a m o u n t is not excessive; pre-grouting of the strata for reducing
water m a k e s to within the available pumping capacity; and freezing, if excessive amounts
are expected.
Before commencing d e v e l o p m e n t work hydrogeological boreholes are normally drilled
from the surface to locate the water-bearing zones approximately. Pressure recovery tests
are carried out within the boreholes to provide data for estimating water inflow quantities
0263-4546/83 $03.00 + .12 1983 Chapman and Hall Ltd.



which could be expected during excavation. Subsequently forward-probe drilling is carried

out prior to each section of excavation to locate the water exactly.
Such procedures allow development to take place safely irrespective of the presence of
water. However, it is not always possible, or economic, to provide fully water-tight linings
for shafts and tunnels and, throughout the life of the underground system, ground relaxation and stress readjustment may allow further ingress of ground water.
Accidental inrushes of large quantities of water are also a potential hazard if mining takes
place too close to undetected sources and ground instability occurs or if drilling interconnects
with unexpected water-bearing zones. Therefore it can be seen that, in many cases, water
will be prevalent in underground workings, whether it is expected or unexpected, and the
means must be provided for sealing off areas of the workings either for temporary water
control while pumping to disposal or on a permanent basis. Plugs of concrete with a
designed specific length and which fill the shaft or tunnel cross-section are used for this type
of sealing.
The design of underground plugs is well documented for the gold mines of South Africa
where reasonably hard rock and relatively high water pressures are experienced at deep
levels (Garrett and Campbell Pitt, 1958, 1961; Lancaster, 1964). However, very little new
information has been forthcoming since 1964 and published design data concerning other
situations in softer rocks and with lower imposed hydrostatic pressures is virtually nonexistent.
This paper therefore sets out to review underground plug design with the object of
bringing the subject to prominence and more up to date. An attempt has also been made to
rationalize the design process in relation to current practice. Six sections are included in the
paper. The following five sections are: a description of various types of plug; a discussion of
the factors to be considered in plug design; detailed design calculations; construction
aspects; and plug sealing and resistance to leakage.
To elucidate the contents of these five sections more fully, the sixth section comprises
three current case studies of actual plugs. Based on the overall concepts contained in the
paper, conclusions and recommendations for plug design are formulated at the end of the

Types of plug
Four different categories of underground plugs can be defined: (1) Precautionary plugs;
(2) control plugs; (3) emergency plugs; and (4) temporary or consolidation plugs.
Basic descriptions follow outlining the functions of each type.

Precautionary plugs
These plugs are normally constructed in underground roadways to limit the area of
flooding should water inrushes occur. Watertight doors are built into them which can be
shut when any danger of flooding arises. Precautionary plugs are installed as a safety

Design: of underground plugs


measure prior to development in areas known to be potential water-bearing zones and such
plugs are designed to withstand full hydrostatic pressure from surface level.

Control plugs
Sealing off or controlling the inflow of water from abandoned mining areas involves the
introduction of control plugs. Plugs constructed in boundary pillars between adjacent
mines also fall into this category. They are referred to as boundary plugs and serve to
prevent water flowing from abandoned areas of one mine into the workings of an adjacent
No means of access to the sealed off areas is provided through control plugs but normally
drain pipes, with valves, are cast into them. These plugs are designed to resist full hydrostatic pressure from surface level or the pressure imposed by the head of water to the
highest overflow point.

Emergency plugs
Plugs of this type are constructed to seal off unexpected inrushes of water either temporarily or permanently. No means of access to the sealed-off areas is provided in such plugs
and they are usually designed to withstand full hydrostatic pressure from surface level.

Temporary or consolidation plugs

Plugs which allow inflow water to be controlled or stopped while simultaneously providing
the resistance for high pressure grouting and consolidation operations are known as
temporary or consolidation plugs. They are normally removed after the water pressure
zones are sealed. Full hydrostatic pressure from surface level may again be the dominant
design parameter for these plugs.

Factors to be considered in the design of plugs

When designing underground plugs the following factors need to be considered: (1) the
purpose for which the plug is to be constructed; (2) the type of excavation in which the
plug is to be installed (shaft or tunnel); (3) where the plug is to be sited in relation to the
prevailing rock and working conditions; (4) plug shape; (5) head of water to be withstood
by the plug; (6) the condition of, and the stress in, the rock surrounding the plug; (7) the
strength of, and stresses in, the material of the plug; and (8) the method of plug construction.

Purpose for which the plug is to be constructed

Each of the four categories of plug described above has a different specific function and the
form of a particular plug will be dependent upon the prevailing situation.



Type o f excavation in which the plug is to be installed (tunnel or shaft)

Undisturbed ground stress conditions alter locally in the areas surrounding an excavation.
The adjusted stresses differ depending upon whether the excavation is for a vertical shaft or a
horizontal tunnel. A more uniformly distributed stress occurs around a shaft excavation
whereas, for a tunnel, the vertical ground pressure may be different from the horizontal
causing stress variations around the perimeter. In highly stressed ground a fracture zone may
surround the excavation and its extent will also depend upon whether it encompasses a shaft
or a tunnel. Therefore the installation of a plug in a shaft will require different design
considerations than for construction in a tunnel.

Where the plug is to be sited in relation to the prevailing rock and working conditions
One of the most important factors in deciding where to place a plug is the condition of the
surrounding rock. Preferably the ground should be free from geological disturbances which
could provide leakage paths for water. However, there could be limitations for the choice of
site and the presence of faults or dykes in the immediate vicinity may have to be accommodated.
It is not advisable to site plugs in or near the fracture zones of highly stressed ground
resulting from mining excavations although it is probably impossible always to avoid such
situations. Control plugs may have to be located near mined out areas to restrict outflow of
water and the distance ofboundary plugs from the workings depends upon the width of the
boundary pillars in which they are installed. Boundary plugs need careful inspection at all
times as boundary pillars which are too thin will be pervious to water and the danger of plug
failure could be present under high hydrostatic pressures.
Plugs should be sited in ground which is not likely to be affected by subsequent ground
movements resulting from mining operations. Damage to both the plug and the surrounding
strata would annul the grout sealing integrity and introduce fresh leakage paths. The prevailing working conditions could also influence the choice of plug site. When there is an
inrush of water, depending on the amount of water flowing into the workings, preference will
be shown for a site which can be temporarily dammed upstream providing relatively dry
construction conditions for the plug.
Ventilation would be another criteria to be considered particularly for an underground
environment where high temperatures prevail. However, in an emergency, an adequately
ventilated site may not necessarily be forthcoming.

Plug shape
Three basic forms of solid plug can be considered (Fig. 1). The first consists of a thin
reinforced concrete wall (Fig. la) or unreinforced arch (Fig. lb) keyed into the excavation
all around the perimeter in contact with the ground. Design of the slab involves calculation of
bending moments, shear forces and axial forces, sufficient strength being incorporated in the
structure to resist the applied pressure. The amount of keyed-in area is related to the bearing
resistance of the surrounding ground. A solid plug of the second type possesses a longer

Design of undergroundplugs

Possible water keakagepaths through

Possible water {eokage paths through

-- ~ ~




/, I,ol





Posslb{e water Leakage p a t h s

PossLbte water LeaKagepaths through










I' ' "






Steel butkheod door\

bulkhead door



A \ \ "x- / / A \ ~ "

/ / ~-x \ X

/ ~-,\

Steel Load tronsfer cyhnder

Stee~ {oo.d transfer cylinder


Fig. 1. Plug shapes. (a) Reinforced concrete slab in rectangular opening (adequate strength
but insufficient leakage resistance). (b) Unreinforced concrete arch in rectangular opening
(adequate strength but insufficient leakage resistance). (c) Unreinforced concrete tapered
plug in rectangular opening (adequate strength and leakage resistance but uneconomical).
(d) Unreinforced concrete parallel plug in rectangular opening (economical with adequate
strength and leakage resistance). (e) Unreinforced concrete cylindrical parallel plug, with
man access, in circular opening. (f) Unreinforced concrete cylindrical parallel plug, with
roadway access, in circular opening.
length, no reinforcement and incorporates a taper to provide the ground bearing area (Fig. lc).
Parallel plugs are the third type (Fig. ld) and resistance to the applied end hydrostatic
pressure is achieved through mechanical interlock with the rough excavation face of the
surrounding rock.
Garrett and Campbell Pitt (1958, 1961) consider plug length to be governed more by
leakage resistance around the sides and through the surrounding rock than by structural



strength. T h e longer length required for leakage sealing also ensures low shearing or
bearing stresses at the concrete to rock interface. Thin barriers, although economic on
materials, have very short, unsealable leakage paths at their extremities so are not suitable
for underground plugs. Tapered plugs, when compared with parallel plugs, require more
rock excavation which introduces further rock destressing, extra construction time and
added cost. Increased quantities of concrete are involved and tapered plugs are subjected to
larger pressures resulting from the greater projected end area at the maximum cross-section
dimensions. Such factors are a disadvantage when plugs are required to be installed under
emergency conditions. Although the leakage resistance paths are adequate with tapered
plugs the other factors are prohibitive.
Garrett and Campbell Pitt (1958, 1961) have reported the results of tests in South Africa
on an experimental plug at West Driefontein, on plugs constructed at West Driefontein and
on a Virginia/Merriespruit boundary plug which show conclusively that parallel but roughsided excavations will retain a plug without any sign of failure under very heavy load
conditions. On this basis, all further discussion on plugs in this paper is focussed predominantly on parallel plugs. The section 'plug length based on bearing strength of concrete or
rock at the interface' (p. 197), does however contain tapered plug design theory. Solid plugs
installed in shafts or tunnels will have a cross-section of the excavation shape in which they
are constructed. Shaft plugs will generally be circular in cross-section whereas for drifts,
roadways or tunnels the shape may be square, rectangular, D-shaped, circular or otherwise.
For precautionary plugs with access ways through them, either purely for man entry (Fig.
le) or roadway access for materials transportation (Fig. if), a different concept is required.
To resist high strata-grouting pressures, which are applied in the transverse direction for
leakage-sealing purposes, only the circular shape provides adequate strength. Precautionary
plugs with access through therefore need to be in the form of concrete cylinders with
sufficient length for leakage resistance, adequate mechanical interlock automatically being
provided. In plugs incorporating access roadways, the dimensions required for clearance
govern the inner diameter while strength to resist radial grout pressure determines the wall
thickness. These two criteria apply for part of the length in a plug which is only provided
with man access, as a structural concrete wall can be incorporated integrally with the
concrete cylinder at the upstream face (Fig. le). In this case the strength of the wall is
adequate, the concrete cylinder acting as a sufficiently long sleeve to provide leakage
resistance and mechanical interlock with the surrounding ground.
In addition to the concrete cylinder, two other steel components are necessary for the
successful operation of a precautionary plug with an access way. One is the bulkhead door
for sealing off the plug in an emergency and the other is a load transfer cylinder (Figs. le, f).
The steel load transfer cylinder allows the bulkhead door pressure to be carried by the
concrete cylindrical plug through bearing on the ring flanges. Enough flanges are provided
to reduce the bearing stresses to permissible limits.
Head o f water to be withstood by the plug
For the majority of plugs the design head of water will be that from ground surface to the
level of plug installation. This should be taken as normal for all designs unless very clearly

Design of underground plugs


defined lower overflow levels are shown to exist below ground surface which produce heads
of water that cannot under any circumstances be exceeded.

Condition of, and the stress in, the rock surrounding the plug
The successful sealing of water flow by the introduction of a plug depends on the capacity of
the surrounding rock to prevent leakage. Any discontinuities in the strata will make the job
of sealing off more difficult. Fissures of geological origin or fracture planes resulting from
high ground stress could endanger plug performance and installation of plugs in such areas
should be avoided wherever possible, as indicated above in the section on plug siting.
The type of rock in which a plug is constructed is also a very important factor in
governing how well leakage paths can be sealed or how efficient the shearing resistance or
bearing capacity will be along the concrete to rock interface. The presence of weak beds of
shale, clay, sandstones or conglomerates will increase leakage potential and reduce interface shearing resistance or bearing capacity.
As indicated previously, undisturbed ground stresses alter once excavation takes place
and the magnitude and variation of such stresses around an opening differ for shafts and
tunnels. High ground stresses, which cause rock fracture, depend upon the following
factors: (1) the depth below the surface; (2) the size of the opening; (3) the proximity of
other mining excavations; and (4) the proximity of geological disturbances which may
introduce tectonic stresses.
The subject of stress evaluation around underground openings is a complex one and is
too large a topic to be introduced into this paper. Nevertheless, it is a subject which must
be fully understood if a true evaluation of concrete plug to rock interaction is to be formulated and more research into this area is required.

Strength of, and stresses in, the material of the plug

Five points warrant consideration when evaluating the stresses in, and strength of,
underground plugs: (1) concrete compressive strength; (2) the early age development of
strength; (3) the shear or bearing stress at the plug to rock interface; (4) the pore water
pressure in the concrete; and (5) the possible end spaUing of the plug due to high stresses
set up by ground pressure.
Provided the recommendations of current Codes of Practice for structural concrete (in
the UK, British Standards Institution, 1969b, 1972, 1976) are followed, with Grade 25
concrete (characteristic strength 25 N mm -2) as the minimum specified requirement, then
dense, impermeable and durable concrete ought to be achieved easily. On this basis, in
conjunction with the length required for sealing which ensures low stresses, no problems of
strength should be encountered.
Early age strength development is important from two aspects. First it is essential that
plugs develop their specified strength without any detrimental effects occuring from
shrinkage, thermal changes or ground pressures. Provided care is taken to overcome these
factors, then the integrity of the concrete mass will be protected and leakage paths through
plugs minimized. The second aspect of importance in relation to early age strength develop-



ment is how quickly a plug needs to be sealed. It is possible to use higher strength concrete
mixes than are required purely for design strength. This allows higher strengths to be
achieved at earlier ages and hence the problem of sealing can be tackled more quickly.
The factor of safety against shearing or bearing failure in the rock or concrete of the plug
at their interface depends upon the magnitude of the induced stresses, which in turn is
related to plug length. Since the length of a plug should be determined with leakage
sealing in mind, which means providing a longer length than is necessary for structural
strength purposes, relatively low interface stresses are inherent in good plug design.
Knowledge of pore-water pressure behaviour within a concrete plug is limited. A pressure
gradient exists from the hydrostatic pressure at the face in contact with the impounded
water to zero at the opposite end. How the pressure and induced stresses are dissipated
throughout the system and into the surrounding ground is a matter for conjecture at the
present time and this area, in conjunction with rock stress evaluation, needs further
research. However, it is unlikely that spalling of the free face of a plug will occur due to
pore water pressure unless nonhomogeneous irregularities occur in the concrete mass.
It is conceivable that high localized ground stresses at the ends of plugs could cause
spalling at these points, reducing the effective resistance to applied pressure and leakage.
Careful choice of site related to a study of the induced rock stresses and rQck strength can
avoid or minimize this risk. Additional plug length would also contribute to solving this

Method of plug construction

For precautionary, control and temporary or consolidation plugs, which can generally be
constructed in phase with and under normal mine-operating conditions in a relatively dry
environment, the method of construction has little influence on design. However, in
conditions of emergency, materials access problems and water inflow quantities may
require consideration of different methods of construction. Normal concrete transportation,
placing and compaction can be replaced by grouted concrete in which a mixture of cement,
sand and water is introduced into pre-placed aggregate. This technique is particularly suitable for the construction of plugs in areas where access is difficult or for plugs installed
under water in flooded shafts. Concrete can also be placed by tremie under water if
necessary. Resulting from the chosen method of construction, different concrete to rock
interface allowable shear or bearing stresses may have to be used depending upon how
dense and impermeable the plug mass is expected to be and how integral a contact can be
achieved with the surrounding rock.

Design calculations
Formulae for calculating plug length and strength
Plug length based on shear strength of concrete or rock at the interface. Garrett and Campbell
Pitt (1961) quote the following formula which can be applied to parallel-sided plugs with
rectangular cross-sections if interface shearing is accepted as the governing failure

Design o f underground plugs



pbh = 2(b + h)lpp~


wherep is the intensity of appliedpressure; b is the width of the plug; h is the height of the
plug; l is the length of the plug; and Poe is the permissible punching shear stress of the rock
or concrete at the interface.
By transposing Equation 1, the length of plug can be obtained

l -

2(b + h)pp~"


For a square cross-section, Equation lb becomes

l = (pb)/(4pp~).


The length of circular plugs, of radius r, can be obtained from

pTrr2 = 27rrlpp~


l = (pr)/(2ppe)



Plug length based on bearing strength o f concrete or rock at the interface. Although the
shear strength concept of the previous section can be employed, Garrett and Campbell
Pitt (1961) also considered that, alternatively, the mechanism of interaction between
concrete plugs and the surrounding rock could be more in the form of direct bearing
rather than shearing at the interface. Mechanical interlocking action is achieved at an
excavation face through the various inclined planes of its surface. Orientation of these
planes can be in any direction lying between the extremes parallel with or normal to the
general direction of the excavation face. An assumption can be made that half of the inclined
planes resist movement by direct bearing (Fig. 2a) while the others are subjected to tensile
stresses and therefore can be neglected.
For a parallel plug, consider an element of the excavation face ABC (Fig. 2b) with a
horizontal length AC = l', which contributes to the plug bearing resistance over the
element of length 1'/2. The permissible bearing stress in the concrete or the rock ispb e and
Fb represents the total bearing resistance over the element of plug bearing length BC,
inclined at an angle of ~ to AC such that
BC cos ~ = l'/2.


In the triangle of forces (Fig. 2b) P' is the element of applied horizontal force which is
resisted by the horizontally resolved component of Fb. Therefore

P ' = F b sin ~


Fb = PbeBC.








Fj Z



Fig. 2. Evaluation of parallel plug length based on bearing strength of concrete or rock at
the interface (Garrett and Campbell Pitt, 1961). (a) Plug bearing resistance. (b) Element of
plug bearing resistance.
From Equation 3
BC = I'/(2 cos ~)


and combining Equations 4, 5 and 6 gives

e ' = ( p b j ' / 2 ) t a n ~.


Summing all the forces on the plug results in

]~e' = e = p b h = X p b e ~ tan~ = 2(b + h) ~Pb, tan


Design o f underground plugs


from which
l = (b +h)pb~ tan u


Since the surface planes will be inclined at angles of between 0 and 90 to the direction of
thrust, Garrett and Campbell Pitt (1961) considered the assumption that the average
inclination a = 45 for a parallel-sided plug was justified. Equation 8b becomes
l -

(b + h)Pbe "


For a square cross-section, Equation 8c reduces to

l = pb/2pbe


The length of circular parallel plugs can be obtained from

pnr 2 = 2nr ~pbe tan e


l = pr/Pbe



for a = 45 . Tapered plugs can also be considered if appropriate amendments are made to
Equations 3-9 (Fig. 3).
The element of bearing length BC (Fig. 3b) is now inclined at an angle a + fl to the
horizontal and
BC cos ~ = 1'/2 cos fl


where,/? is the angle of plug taper. From the triangle of forces (Fig. 3b)
P' = Fb sin(a + /?)


Fb = PbeBC = Pbe 2 COSe COSfl "


Combining Equations 11 and 12 gives

l' sin(e + //)
P' = Pbe 2 COSe COS/? -- Pbe ~ (tan e + tan/?).


Summing all the forces on the plug results in

~,P' . P

. ~ (tan
. c~+ tan fl)

~ + tan fl)
2(bay + h.v)~pbe(tan


where: bmais the maximum plug width at the water face; hmais the maximum plug height at



Water presiure end tlrea

= Totol






2 ~"

Totaleffective reslstonce
Length: T
zt (I-tan(~ton,~}



[ompresslon component


L. . . . . . . . .




y(1- tanc,t(ln~)

Fig. 3. Evaluation of tapered plug length based on bearing strength of concrete or rock at
the interface (developed from Garrett and Campbell Pitt, 1961). (a) Plug bearing resistance.
(b) Element of plug bearing resistance.

the water face; bav is the average plug width along its length; and hay is the average plug
height along its length.
From Equation 14a
l = (bay + hav)Pbe(tan ~ + tan fl) "
For ~ = 45 , Equation 14b becomes


Design o f underground plugs


l = (bav + ha0Pbe(1 + tan 8)


and for a square section


2b.vpb~(1 + tan fl)"


The length of circular tapered plugs can be obtained from

2 x = rr(rmax q- rmin)

-t- (rmax -- rmin)

Pbe(tan at + tan 8)


where rm~x is the maximum plug radius at the water face and rminis the minimum plug radius
at the face remote from water. Equation 15a gives
p rmax
- (rmax- rmin)
l = 2 (rmax + rmin)2pb2e(1 + tan/~)2


for ct = 45 .
An alternative form of bearing calculation for tapered plugs is that for a smooth-faced
wedge driven into an opening. On this basis the whole surface area acts in bearing and the
element of bearing length becomes AC (Fig. 3b), inclined at an angle/? to the horizontal
AC cos/3 = l'


P' = F b sin fl



F~ = PbeAC = pbel'/cos 8.


Combining Equations 17 and 18 gives

P' = PbJ' tan fl


Summing all the forces on the plug results in:

~,P' -- P = Pbmaxhm~x = ~'PbJ' tan fl = 2(bay + hav)lpb e tan fl


from which

2(bav + hav)Pbe tan/~


is derived.
For a square section
z .......... pb ax

4bavpb e tan/~ "




Comparing Equations 20b and 20c with Equations 14c and 14d, respectively, if a = 45 is
replaced by ~ = 0 in the latter two equations then compatibility is achieved except for the
anomaly of reducing the length by half in the case of the wedge theory due to using the full
bearing area.
The equivalent length of circular tapered plugs based on the smooth-wedge principle can
be obtained from


7r(rma x + rmin)[l 2 + (rma x --




P 2rrnax

l "~- (rma x + rminX2-2e)Pbtan /~2 - (/'max -- rrnin)

2] 1/2


Cylindrical plug strength. The strength of cylindrical parallel plugs (Figs. le,f) can be
determined using the standard Lam6 elastic design theory for thick cylinders (Auld, 1979,
2pr(t + ri) 2 _<
tr = t(t + 2r3 ~ P c


where a is the maximum tangential stress in the concrete cyclinder wall, occurring at the
inside face; Pc is the permissible concrete compression stress; Pr is the externally applied
radial pressure; ri is the inside radius of the cylinder; and t is the concrete cylinder wall

Bearing strength o f cylinder walls. Plugs of the type shown in Fig. le, which carry load from
a circular face wall back through a cylindrical rear section and thence into the surrounding
rock, must have sufficient strength at the interconnection between the wall and cylinder.
The cylinder end area must be sufficiently large to reduce the bearing stress imposed by the
end wall to a value within the permissible limit. Hence, the calculated concrete bearing
f b - n(r2o _ r~)


where Pb is the permissible concrete bearing stress; and ro is the outside radius of the
cylinder, and P is the horizontal applied force on the cylindrical rear section.
i.e. P = pnr2o- [the concrete or rock permissible surface resistance over length l* of the front

Combined stress at the interconnection between the face wall and the cylindrical rear section.
The cylinder stress and the bearing stress determined from the above sections act together
at the interconnection to produce a combined compressive stress situation. Care should be

Design o f underground plugs


taken to ensure that the calculated combined compression and bearing stress,
f~c = (a 2 + f~)1/2 <~Pc.


Punching shear o f front wall. The punching shear resistance of the front wall against the
cylindrical rear section (Fig. le) must also be adequate. Therefore, the calculated concrete
punching shear stress
fp = pnr~/2nril* ~ pp
where pp


is the permissible concrete punching shear stress.

Forrnulae for designing steel load transfer cylinders

Load transfer to concrete by flanges. The concrete bearing stress,
fb -- nn(rZf _ r E) <- Pb


where rof is the outside radius of the load transfer cylinder flange; ro is the outside radius of
the steel cylinder wall; and n is the number of flanges.
Flange bending.
Bending moment

~" (rof- ro)(rof - ro + t).


Steel bending stress,

~ -- ro + t) ~ Pm~
fms = 73fb (r of -- ro)(rof


where Pms is the permissible steel bending stress and tf is the flange thickness.
Compression resistance to radial grouting pressure. This aspect is important for the sealing
in of the steel load transfer cylinder into the concrete plug to prevent leakage along the
If d is the distance between the centres of the flanges, then the flange cross-sectional
area is (rof - ro)tf and the cross-sectional area of the steel cylinder wall between the flange
centres becomes td.
Evaluating the effective membrane thickness for both the cylinder wall and the flange
results in the following formula:
Effective membrane thickness per unit length, te = [n (rof - ro)tf + (n - 1)td]/l.


The hoop stress for the steel load transfer cylinder, fcs, can be evaluated using Equation 28
f~s = pro/te ~ Pcs


where Pcs is the permissible steel compression stress. To enable the cylindrical wall and
flanges to act as a composite structure, any welding of flanges to the cylinder must be
capable of carrying the interaction stresses.



Direct bearing of end load on cylinder wall. The bearing area of the cylinder wall must be
capable of transferring the end load from the bulkhead door to the bearing flanges without
overstressing, i.e. steel bearing stress,

where Pbs is the permissible steel bearing stress.

Resistance to axial compression. In addition to end bearing, the cylindrical wall must be
capable of acting as a column between the flanges to allow flange bearing to be effective.
Timoshenko and Gere (1961) give the critical load Pcr for a column with built-in ends,
which is a conservative approach for a cylinder wall as it neglects additional strength due to
curvature, as

where E is the modulus of elasticity for steel (2.1 1011 Pa); and I is the moment of inertia
of the cylinder wall equal to t3/12 per unit length.
For the cylinder, multiplying Per by the circumference and dividing by the total applied
end pressure will produce the factor of safety of

Provided the flanges are not spaced too far apart, satisfying the criterion of the section
on 'Compression resistance to radial grouting pressure' will automatically produce a large
factor of safety in Equation 32.

Bulkhead door design

Generally bulkhead door pressures will be relatively large and therefore the best shape to
resist the load is a spherical segment. The shell thickness for such doors can be determined
on the basis that the meridional and hoop forces per unit length of the shell are equal to
pa/2 (F1/igge, 1967) Where a is the radius of curvature of the shell. Dividing this value by
the shell thickness t gives the compressive stress in the steel, fc~, as

It should be noted that thin shell domes are prone to buckling, and stiffening for the door
should be provided to avoid any possibility of instability under load.
The subject of steel bulkhead door design lies in the specialist field of pressure vessels
and is outside the scope of this paper. Operation and sealing of such doors are prime
parameters to be considered in design and recourse should be made to specialist design and
fabrication manufacturers for the supply of such .elements.

Design o f underground plugs


Rock, concrete and steel permissible stresses

Permissible shear and bearing stresses for rock and concrete at the plug interface. The
proposed formulae for determining the length of plugs, either on the basis of shear strength
or on one of the two bearing strength philosophies are a very simplified form of a much
more complex stress system. Both the rock and the concrete are in a confined state along
their interface. The compression strength of concrete in the UK is quoted on the basis of
150 mm cubes tested at 28 days in an unconfined compression testing machine (British
Standards Institution, 1970). It is known that concrete when tested in a confined state
shows an increase in strength over the unconfined condition (Jaeger and Cook, 1979). The
confining action of the surrounding rock against the concrete plug could modify the bearing
force calculated by the formulae in the section entitled 'Plug length based on bearing
strength of concrete or rock at the interface'. However, the true resistance probably lies
somewhere between that given by the bearing capacity and the resistance provided by
shear. Shearing in this context would be of a punching nature, as opposed to the traditional
structural engineering form of beam shear, and even this could be modified depending upon
the magnitude of the interface confining stresses. Hence the ultimate validity of the
permissible stress values for shearing and bearing will depend upon the effectiveness by
which the concrete of the plug is confined by the surrounding rock.
The plug concrete can be considered as a homogeneous material on the assumption that
good construction practice has been observed. However, the surrounding rock will be anything but homogeneous, being cracked and fissured before excavation takes place. Destressing also occurs during and subsequent to excavation and therefore, when grouting and
hydrostatic pressures are applied to the rock, movement inevitably will occur. The direct
strains will be accompanied by movement in the direction of cracks and bedding planes and
the effectiveness of the confining action will be dependent on this movement.
Irrespective of what theory is applied to define the stress conditions, the governing factor
remains the stress in the rock. As indicated previously in this paper more research is needed
to understand how the stresses in the surrounding rock are modified by confined plugs
subjected to end pressure. Until this aspect is investigated in detail the validity of any
formulae utilized in defining plug and rock stress conditions will be in question. At the
present time, with the formulae available, it will be necessary to check the shear and bearing
stresses for both the concrete and the rock and to base the design on the weaker material.
Concrete permissible stresses are contained in Table 1 based on the current UK Codes of
Practice (British Standards Institution, 1969b, 1972). The values are all related to the
concrete characteristic strength, this being the lower limit below which not more than 5% of
the cube test results would fall based on a statistical analysis of samples tested. Both of the
Codes of Practice are specifically for reinforced concrete and neither treats the unreinforced
concrete situation realistically, particularly with regard to punching shear philosophy. However, Manning (1961) quotes the safe punching shear stress to be about one-fifth of the safe
compressive stress and this has been included in Table 1. The maximum allowable values
for pc, Pb, Pbe, Pp and ppe are heavily outlined in Table 1 as these are the suggested values to
be adopted in design. The reason for using a factor of safety equal to 4 for Pbe and Ppe is
explained later.

r x

) 0",


~ z





~ m m ~ m
o .=

,.~ < , . . ,

0"~ ',1

.o .o

~s~ z

0", c'~ ~

o~ o

oO ("q ~,"~


~ . =

t--i ~: ~6 o6 o

t"q t~ ec'a ,,~- '~ t~ tr~



~ "U "U

' ~ ""e



Design o f underground plugs


It is much more difficult to propose realistic permissible stresses for rock. The strengths
of rocks are normally determined by testing cylindrical samples and, as a result of the nonhomogeneity of the material, normally it is only the best pieces from which the samples are
obtained. It must always be remembered that strengths of rocks which are determined from
such testing will not be typical of the actual strength in situ and appropriate adjustments
should be made to allow for this.
Assuming the grouting process for strata water sealing is carried out methodically and
conscientiously, most of the rock bedding planes and fissures local to the plug interface
should be filled and consolidated. This, allied with the confining action of the surrounding
rock, could allow the lower strength concrete permissible stresses to be taken as being
representative of the rock also. For the purposes of design, this would be an alternative if
no actual data was forthcoming. The practice in South Africa is to use a permissible shear
stress value of 0.59 N mm -2 (85 lb in -z) for concrete placed in the normal manner and
0.83 N mm -2 (120 lb in -z) for grouted concrete where positive contact between the
concrete and the surrounding rock is assured by subsequent grouting (Lancaster, 1964).
This is a general rule and is not related specifically to concrete or rock strength neither
does it take into account the rock condition. The values are therefore unrealistic, particularly with regard to the increased concrete strengths currently being achieved in
underground construction due to the improved workability and quality control procedures
adopted in conjunction with better batching, transportation and placing techniques.
Therefore it is considered that the values in Table 1 are more appropriate.

Permissible concrete stresses other than at the plug interface with the rock. These are also
covered by Table 1.
Permissible steel stresses for load transfer cylinders and bulkhead doors. Typical permissible
steel stress values for steel (Grade 43) are contained in Table 2. These are taken from the
current UK Code of Practice for the use of structural steel in building (British Standards
Institution, 1969a).

Table 2. Steel (Grade 43) permissible stresses (BS449:

Part 2:1969; British Standards Institution, 1969)

Type of

(N mm -2)

Pcs (N mm -z)

Pbs (N mm -2)

Up to and
40 mm thick




Over 40 mm






Factors of safety
The factors of safety for structural concrete quoted by the UK Codes of Practice (British
Standards Institution, 1969b, 1972) are given in Table 1. CP114:1969 introduces a value of
2.73 to relate the characteristic strength to the permissible compression stress in bendingpc.
CPl10:Part 1:1972 is more specific in its breakdown of safety factor. The actual compression strength of concrete in a structure is equivalent to 0.85 characteristic cylinder
strength (Comit6 Europ6en du Beton, 1970), where for plug construction the 0.85 factor
takes account of the difference between instantaneous loads on cylinders at an age of 28
days and loads applied for a longer duration on specimens of the same age. Since British
Standard practice (BS 1881:Part 4:1970) uses the 28 day cube test as a means of strength
control, a correction factor of 0.8 is needed to convert the cube strength to the equivalent
cylinder strength. Hence, in relation to the characteristic cube strength, fcu, the actual in situ
strength of concrete is represented by 0.68 characteristic cube strength, the value of 0.68
being equal to 0.85 0.8. A figure of 0.67 is employed in CPll0:Part 1:1972.
Partial safety factors for load rf and strength ~m are used in the ultimate limit state
approach to the design of concrete structures which was adopted for CP110:Part 1:1972.
On the basis of it normally being of a long-term permanent nature, the value of yf for hydrostatic loading can be taken as 1.4. For Ym, which is introduced to account for possible
strength differences between test specimens and the actual structure caused by such aspects
as insufficient compaction and differences in curing, the specified value is 1.5. The effective
factor of safety in accordance with CPll0:Part 1:1972 is therefore 1.4 z 1.5 = 2.1 when
related to the actual strength of concrete in situ, or (1.4 z 1.5)/0.67 = 3.13 when compared
against the characteristic strength as given by 28 day cube test results.
For the steel stresses in Table 2, the factor of safety to yield will be approximately 1.5
with probably the same again to failure. This gives a probable minimum factor of safety to
failure equal to 2.25. The factors of safety for concrete and steel which have been built in to
the permissible stresses, in the 2-3 region, are acceptable because the performance of the
material under load is well established and quality control ensures consistency. For the
mechanism of resistance at the plug to rock interface, the true behaviour is not understood
fully and the rock shear and bearing permissible stresses cannot be established realistically.
On this basis, and because plugs are normally installed as a safety measure, it would be
prudent to adopt a higher safety factor when determining plug length using the shear or
bearing resistance criteria. A minimum factor of safety of 4 is recommended in line with
South African practice (Lancaster, 1964) and this has been introduced into Table 1 for the
Pb~ and pp~ values.

Construction aspects
Batching, transporting and placing concrete
In any concrete construction work it is necessary to have the right batching plant, geared to
the demand. This is particularly important for underground construction where pours must
be completed with minimum interference from external factors. Rates of pouring are

Design of underground plugs


governed by the physical restrictions in particular areas underground and by the problem of
access for materials to those areas. A surface batching plant is preferred because aggregate
and cement weighing, together with the metering and addition of water and admixtures,
can be controlled in the most effective manner. However, such a system depends on being
able to transport the pre-mixed concrete underground and, in some circumstances, an
underground batching plant may be necessary. This does not relieve the problem of having
to transport the concrete mix constituents underground as separate items. For grouted
concrete, again a surface grout mixing set-up would be preferred. Normally with surface
batching plants large quantities of concrete or grout can be mixed and transported underground rapidly to give a constant uninterrupted supply. This is particularly advantageous
for the construction of emergency plugs.
Current trends in UK mining development have favoured the employment of established
ready-mixed concrete suppliers. By adopting such suppliers high quality is achieved through
the utilization of their specialist expertise in the production of concrete. Quality control
measures for the use of concrete underground are the same as those for surface works and
are in accordance with the relevant Code of Practice (CP110:Part 1:1972). Independent
approved organizations (British Ready Mixed Concrete Association, 1978) are normally
employed for cube testing, or any other testing of the hardened concrete which is required.
The preferred method of transporting and placing concrete underground is pumping.
With shaft access, concrete can be dropped down a vertical pipe for further transportation
underground by pumps situated at the bottom of the shaft. Drift access allows pumping
from the surface, down the incline and then further underground directly to the point of
plug installation. Once pipelines are installed minimum interference with mining and plug
construction operations is achieved and large volumes of concrete can be delivered and
placed rapidly.

Concrete mix designs

Similar to any concrete construction, care must be taken to provide the right balance of
ingredients, first of all to suit the particular mode of transportation and placing being used,
and secondly to make sure that the optimum design is achieved. In addition to strength,
the most important factor of the mix design is to obtain the correct workability. For underground work, with its restricted placing environment, it is essential that high workability
mixes are used. In the author's opinion (Auld, 1982b,c), successful construction with
concrete underground is entirely dependent upon the inclusion of plasticizing admixtures for
transporting and placing.
Two mix designs which have been used successfully by Cementation Mining Limited are
contained in Table 3. Cement replacement materials were incorporated to minimize the
thermal effects which are discussed in more detail below.

Thermal and shrinkage effects

If it can be achieved, it is preferable to pour a concrete plug in one operation to avoid
construction joints which are potential leakage paths through the plug itself. Although


Table 3. Cement replacement mixes previously used by Cementation Mining Ltd
for underground plugs.

Emergency plug in roadway: Grade 30 (OPC replacement with PFA); 30 N mm -2

Total cementitious content
Sand % of total aggregate
Coarse aggregate
Water/cement ratio
Slump without plasticizer
Slump with plasticizer

British Gypsum Ltd, Sherburn Mine

Topmix Ltd.
400 kg m -3 (250 kg m -30PC, 150 kg m -3 PFA)
770 kg m -3 (Elvaston Zone 2)
1050 kg m -3 (Elvaston Gravel)
180 litres m - 3
50 mm
Flocrete N (Cementation Chemicals Ltd)
160 mm

Temporary consolidation plug in shaft: Grade 55 (OPC replacement with Cemsave

ground granulated blast furnace slag); 55 N mm -2
Total cementitious content
Sand % of total aggregate
Coarse aggregate
Water/cement ratio
Slump without plasticizer
Slump with plasticizer

National Coal Board, North Selby No. 1 shaft

Topmix Ltd
500 kg m -3 (30% OPC, 70% Cemsave)
595 kg m -3 (Blaxton Zone 3)
1150 kg m -3 (Blaxton Gravel)
180 litres m -3
60 mm
Flocrete N (Cementation Chemicals Ltd)
160 mm

normal structural concrete mixes (CP110:Part 1:1972) could be used for plug construction,
the large volumes required for mass filling can be subjected to detrimental thermal effects
during setting. This is dependent upon the amount of cement included in the mix. Internal
build-up of heat within the mass due to the cement hydration process could induce high
thermal stresses. The strength integrity of the structure would be impaired and, on cooling,
thermal cracking may result. By cooling the aggregates and mixing water the ultimate
temperature attained by normal mixes can be reduced but it is preferable where possible, to
use cement replacement materials to minimize heat of hydration gain. Table 3 contains
two such mixes.
An additional factor which assists concrete thermal control is the embedment of service,
water control and grouting pipes in the plug mass. Heat will be dissipated through these
pipes, particularly in the case of temporary or consolidation and emergency plugs if water is
flowing through them. Shrinkage will not normally be a problem with the designed concrete
mixes currently being employed in underground construction. The use of plasticizers

Design of underground plugs


enables the water/cement ratio of the basic mix to be kept to a minimum therefore ensuring
very little water loss during the curing stage which prevents excessive shrinkage. Three
other factors also contribute to shrinkage reduction. These are the underground environment, in which no rapid drying out conditions normally prevail, the limited facial exposure
to drying elements in the environment and the relatively thick concrete sections used.

Construction points of detail

Excavation. Care should be taken during excavation to minimize damage to the surrounding
strata. Machine cutting and hand trimming is preferred to drilling and blasting.

Plug installation. Two factors assist in reducing leakage paths at the concrete to rock interface. Before commencing to pour concrete for a plug, the floor should be thoroughly
cleaned to remove any debris or construction dust. At the roof of the plug, to ensure a tight
seal, concrete must be discharged as high up as possible and a crown feed pipe, which can
be withdrawn as topping up takes place from one end of the plug to the other, should
preferably be installed. Air bleed pipes, which subsequently can be used for contact zone
grouting, are also beneficial at roof level.

Grout seals. Where mass concrete is cast directly against rock, it is necessary to grout up
the contact zone to prevent leakage through any shrinkage gaps. It is very difficult to obtain
full tig]~t contact with the surrounding rock over a large surface area with grouting. Therefore, it is preferable to also provide one or more narrow chases, surrounding the plug
cross-section completely, in which grout can be injected and pressurized to provide a tight
ring seal.

Temporary water control. For temporary or consolidation plugs and emergency plugs,
contro]l of shaft water is essential to allow good construction. In roadways, flood water will
need to be temporarily dammed upstream and the water led off through valved pipes cast
into the plug. Debris grills will need to be installed at the upstream ends of pipes. Temporary
consolidation plugs in shafts also need to include vertical steel rising mains through which
shaft inflow water can be withdrawn during construction, to prevent pressurizing of the
underside of the plug during hardening.
Services. Pipes need to be installed in precautionary plugs to carry services. These pipes
should be fitted with sealing glands at each end for plug watertightness when the bulkhead
doors need to be closed.

Plug sealing and resistance to leakage

Grouting procedure
Design calculations can be carried out as shown previously to determine plug dimensions.
However, an integral part of the successful installation of an underground plug is the means



by which leakage past the plug is minimized or eliminated. Grouting is the process by which
this is achieved.
The science or 'art' of grouting depends very much upon the knowledge and experience of
mining development contractors, and cannot be discussed in detail here. As a process,
grouting consists of the pressurized injection of cement or chemical grouts into the strata
to fill voids, fissures, bedding planes and any other anomolies in the rock surrounding a
plug. Its purpose is to seal off all water paths and grouting of the plug itself may be needed
depending upon whether construction joints are incorporated and also upon the standard of
Injection of grout at the contact surfaces between the plug and the rock is also necessary
to fill shrinkage gaps, porous zones due to placing difficulties and cracks in the rock adjacent
to the plug due to destressing. Pressures of up to twice (Garrett and Campbell Pitt, 1958)
and two and a half times (Garrett and Campbell Pitt, 1961; Lancaster, 1964) the pressure
which the plug has to resist have been recommended for this grouting. These pressures are
used in the deep gold mines of South Africa where generally strong rocks and relatively
high water pressures are encountered. Even with localized fracture zones around such
excavations, opening up of the cracks under high pressures to accommodate the entry of
grout is not detrimental. However, in softer rocks at shallower depths as in the UK coal
measures, such pressures would be damaging and are not to be recommended. Precautionary
plugs of the cylindrical type should only be stressed to a maximum of one and a quarter
times the hydrostatic pressure, related to surface level, this being the value by which the
normal structural concrete permissible stresses can be exceeded for short term loading
(CP114:1969). Hence the post-stressing of the plug and rock, which is advocated for the
South African conditions (Garrett and Campbell Pitt, 1958) will generally not be as
effective in UK practice for enhancing the confining action. The radial Poisson's ratio effect,
resulting from the end pressure, will also be less effective with regard to increasing the
interlocking resistance.
Leakage associated with plugs can occur at the following places: (1) through the plug
concrete; (2) along the concrete to rock interface; (3) through the rock surrounding the
plug; and (4) along the interface between the plug concrete and the steel load transfer
cylinder if access through the plug is provided.

Leakage through the plug concrete

Three possible reasons exist for leakage through the plug concrete: (1) porosity of the
concrete; (2) construction joints; and (3) presence of cracks.
The presence of highly porous concrete is very unlikely due to the dense, impermeable
and durable mixes currently used in underground construction. High workability, achieved
with the use of plasticizers, ensures full compaction and with good quality control and
careful placing techniques no excess porosity problems should occur. Grouting will help to
seal off the more porous zones if they do occur.
Wherever possible construction joints should be avoided but, with the current mix
designs, if they are necessary, very little joint preparation is required. Good bonding should
be easily achieved between consecutive pours.

Design of underground plugs


Cracks in the concrete can be caused by excessive water pressure behind the plug,
thermal effects during setting and maturing or excessive stresses and strains transmitted to
the concrete by the surrounding rock. Provided the design is processed correctly in relation
to the applied water pressure; adequate measures are introduced in the mix design to
minimize the thermal effects and the chosen plug site is competent, then a homogeneous
structure can be constructed free from defects.

Leakage along the concrete to rock interface

Interface leakage could result from: (1) shrinkage gaps at the interface; (2) shear cracks at
the interface due to plug movement under high water pressure; (3) cracks caused by
excessive ground stress; (4) poor contact with the surrounding rock, caused by debris and
construction dust not removed from the floor prior to casting and also as a result of air and
water pockets trapped at the underside of the roof.
As discussed in the section on thermal and shrinkage effects, shrinkage in underground
concrete should be minimal. The grouting process also enables gaps caused by shrinkage to
be sealed up.
The possibility of plug movement will only occur if the plug length is too short and, as
mentioned previously, the capacity to seal leaks is the prime factor in determining plug
length. A longer length is needed to provide leakage resistance than is required for structural purposes. This will ensure that the interface shear stresses are sufficiently small to
avoid any plug movement under high hydrostatic pressure.
The radial adhesion between the plug concrete and the rock at the interface will be small
and highly stressed rock conditions could damage the intimate contact. Judicious choosing
of the plug site could avoid such failure.
Good workmanship will prevent problems such as construction debris not being removed
prior to casting the plug concrete. Provision of the correct concreting facilities should assist
in attaining close contact with the roof.

Leakage through the rock surrounding the plug

Leakage through the strata can occur as a result of: (1) geological fissures or other discontinuities in the rock; and (2) cracks in the rock formed by ground stress or by strain from
mining operations.
If possible, plugs should be sited away from faults in the rock. However, if they are
unavoidable, the grouting process will help to seal and stabilize conditions.
The problem of rock failure under high stress is experienced when other mining excavations encroach too closely or at great depth where overburden pressures become excessive.
Every effort should be made to avoid overstressed areas.

Determination of plug length required for sealing

The problem of leakage associated with underground plugs has been discussed previously
on the basis of where it occurs and how it can be minimized or stopped by grouting. To


A uld

determine the plug length which conforms to the permissible punching shear and bearing
stress values at the concrete to rock interface is relatively straightforward. Quantifying
exactly the length which is required for a leakage free plug is much more difficult. Published
data concerning the subject is scarce and what is available is related to specific ground
conditions which cannot be applied on a general basis.
Garrett and Campbell Pitt (1958, 1961) published the results of tests on an experimental
plug, 1.220 m (4 ft) square by 3.350 m (7 ft 8 in) long and situated in sound quartzite, at
West Driefontein. The static water pressure was approximately 20.7 N mm -2 (3000 lb
in-2). An extensive system of tapping points and holes in the rock were incorporated for
studying leakage at the steel load transfer cylinder interface with the concrete, at the
concrete to rock interface and through the strata. Leakage quantities were observed before
grouting and after various stages of pressure grouting were completed. From the test
results, Garrett and Campbell Pitt (1958) proposed certain concepts which are given below.
1. The resistance of a plug to passage of water either along its contact with rock or
through the adjacent fractured rock depends on two factors, the length of the plug and the
resistance of the rock to the passage of water.
2. The latter, being a condition of the rock which varies greatly with different types and
mining conditions, can be regarded as the practical consideration for determining plug
3. The two factors can be interrelated using the pressure gradient through the rock as the
linking medium.
Results from the West Driefontein test plug form the basis for the graphs contained in Fig.
4 which are reproduced from Garrett and Campbell Pitt (1958). These results only refer to
the rock and pressure conditions described. The graphs are: (A) the minimum length of
plug that would be required if the contact between plug and rock was ungrouted [p/l =
0.23 N mm -2 m -I (20.8 lb in -2 ft-1)]; (B) the minimum length when the contact is grouted
but before the rock is grouted [p/l = 3.64 N mm -2 m -1 (161 lb in -2 ft-1)]. (C) The minimum
length when normal grouting of the rock was 41.4 N mm -2 (6000 lb in -2) [p/l = 9.14 N
mm -2 m -1 (404 lb in -2 ft-1)]. This is normal to South African practice, being twice the
hydrostatic pressure. It is not normal to the UK. (D) This graph is similar to C but with the
addition of chemicals to seal rock fissures. C is applicable in South Africa to a normally
grouted plug but has no safety margin.
Garrett and Campbell Pitt (1958) suggested from this that plug length should be such
that a leakage factor of safety should not be less than four and may be as much as ten. The
choice depends on an assessment of many factors which include fracture of rock during
excavation and subsequent destressing, porosity of the rock and its acceptance of grout. I n
Fig. 4, the graphs show plug lengths when factors of safety of 4, 6, 8 and 10 are applied.
These depend on the plug to rock contact and the rock being grouted to at least the same
pressure as that which the plug is designed to resist. Plug lengths for various square section
sizes based on an Pbe value of 4.14 N m -2 (600 lb in -2) are also included on the basis of
Equation 8d (shown by dotted lines). The value of 600 lb in -2 was used by Garrett and
Campbell Pitt (1958).
As far as the author is aware this is the only published information which attempts to

Design of underground plugs






~: JO





1,000 feet units





fame to p[ug)

Fig. 4. Required plug lengths to resist hydrostatic pressure based on leakage resistance and
bearing (Garrett and Campbell Pitt, 1958). Results in imperial units are used as presented
by these authors. Dotted lines are based on bearing (Equation 8d), all other lines relate to
leakage resistance of the test plug.

quantify directly leakage resistance in relation to plug length apart from records of past
plugs which have been successful. It has been emphasized throughout this section that the
data put forward relates only to the particular test conditions. This leaves the plug designer
very much to his own initiative and experience for determining the plug length which will
provide adequate sealing. Further research is therefore necessary into this area. However,
if a plug i~ constructed with sufficient length to resist movement but cannot prevent leakage
through the surrounding rock, the length can always be increased. In an emergency this may
be important, because the plug could be constructed to prevent flooding and subsequently
lengthened to reduce leakage.
Case studies

British Gypsum Ltd, Sherburn Mine, England, 1980 (Emergencyplug)

In 1980 a pressure pad was constructed by British Gypsum Ltd (see Section A-A of Fig. 6)
in an ',attempt to seal off water inflow into the area of the pump sump (1 East 5 South in


1 In4 odif ]'o



I South

3 South

RisEng mclin borehole

to surfnce


10 15 20



Fig. 5. British Gypsum Ltd, Sherburn Mine, England. Underground layout showing position
of emergency plug. Information reproduced by permission of British Gypsum Ltd.
Fig. 6. Emergency plug at British Gypsum Ltd, Sherburn Mine, England, 1980. General
arrangement p Jan (a) and sections A-A(b), B-B(c) and C-C(d) showing proposed
concreting sequence. Design of plug and grouting scheme for sealing leakage by
Cementation Mining Ltd who also provided construction assistance to the mine and carried
out the sealing. Information published by permission of British Gypsum Ltd.





I\ '







A uld

Fig. 5). The general dip of the strata was from left to right in Fig. 5 (West to East) and it
was considered that water was following the interface between the gypsum, in which the
roads were driven, and the marl bed below and making its way down the strike. Excavation
of the gypsum appeared to have encroached on the marl bed and allowed water to come up
through the floor. The main access to the mine was via the 1 in 4 adit which was close to
the inflow position. Upon failure of the pressure pad during grouting operations Cementation
Mining Ltd were asked on 21 October 1980, to design a new scheme for sealing off the
water. The water inflow at that time was estimated to be 182 litres s-1 (2400 gal min -1)
(Fig. 7). Various structural schemes for pressure pads and combinations of pads and plugs
were considered and discarded in favour of the complete plug solution shown in Fig. 6 for
simplicity, speed of construction and permanency.
Urgency was the main criteria as, within six days of Cementation Mining Ltd being called
in (27 October), the water inflow had risen to 379 litres s -1 (5000 gal min -1) and it was
rapidly becoming obvious that there was a danger of losing the mine.
The plug scheme adopted is detailed in Fig. 6. It was deemed prudent not to disturb the
remaining sections of the original pressure pad. Another gravel bed was laid over the top in
which six more water control pipes were placed in addition to the two pipes (one 200 mm
diameter and one 100 mm diameter) previously installed below the original pressure pad.
The additional pipes were four 200 mm diameter and two 300 mm diameter and carried the
water to a new sump position adjacent to the proposed plug site. Additional rising mains
were installed in the shaft to cope with the increasing inflow.
The first concrete was poured on 28 October and Fig. 6 shows the concreting stages.
Because of the large mass of concrete involved, construction joints were necessary, and a
low heat of hydration mix, incorporating a cement replacement material, was used (Table
3). Concrete was pumped from the surface down the 1 in 4 adit, through a 100 mm pipe,
directly into position in the plug. The four week time period for placing the concrete
resulted from various equipment, labour and general construction problems but once
concreting had commenced the water inflow was controlled at a peak level of 606 litres
s-1 (8000 gal min -1) (Fig. 7).
Minimal true design was required for the Sherburn Mine plug. The depth below ground
level was 48 m which resul(ed in a hydrostatic pressure of 0.47 N mm -2 (68 lb in 2). This is
not excessive and the length of the plug was extremely long. However, length in this case
was governed by practical considerations to suit the particular situation. The pressure
gradient from one end to the other was only 0.47/35.300 = 0.013 N mm -2 m -1 ( 0 . 5 9 lb
in -1 ft -1) and the 35.3 m (116 ft) length (see Plan in Fig. 6) was eventually extended out to
the adjacent access roadway.
Fig. 7 indicates how effective the plug was in stopping water. On completion of the
various concrete stages, the control pipe valves were closed and the inflow almost
completely stopped. Final sealing by grouting commenced after the valves were shut off and
involved a combination of grout pipe positions. Some were previously cast into the plug to
reach places which would have been inaccessible by drilling from the two plug faces. These,
in addition to injection at the inflow point through the water control pipes and to the contact
zones through other holes drilled from both faces, enabled the water to be completely
sealed off on a permanent basis. Only cement grout injection was necessary.

Design of underground plugs



10, 000

_8,00ojauons_ per_mi~e_


Vo.rlous concreting

~_ .


5, 000
G, 000

I, 000


22 2'7 2

1'2 1'7 22 2'7 1


1'1 1'6 21 26 Z

;1 1'6


Fig. 7. British Gypsum Ltd, Sherburn Mine, England. Water inflow quantities related to
concrete poured in emergency plug, showing effectiveness of water stopping (water inflow
quantities in imperial units as recorded). Reproduced by permission of the Mine Manager,
Mr R. Hird, and British Gypsum Ltd.

Proposed precautionary plug, 1981, for overseas contract

Fig. 8 contains recent proposals (1981) for three precautionary plugs to be installed near
the bottom of a shaft for access protection in the case of an inrush. Construction of the
plugs would be in a thin limestone bed, 15 m thick, situated above and below weak, waterbearing strata zones at a depth of 542.5 m (1780 ft) [5.43 N mm -2 (787 lb in -z) hydrostatic
Design of the plug, load transfer cylinder and bulkhead door was carried out in
accordance with the design calculation section, Grade 35 concrete being specified. Concrete
to rock interface calculated punching shear stress was 0.63 N mm -2 (91 lb in -z) and the
pressure gradient 5.43/12 = 0.45 N mm -2 m -1 (19.9 lb in -2 ft-1).
The proposed grouting scheme would depend on the actual ground conditions at the level
of the plug when the shaft is sunk. However, care must be taken above and below the plug
not to encroach too close to the water-bearing zones.





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National Coal Board North Selby Mine, England, 1982 (temporary consolidation plug)
Cementation Mining Ltd are currently (December 1982) sinking two shafts at North Selby
for the National Coal Board Selby project. Both shafts have reached the stage of sinking
through the Ackworth Rock, which is a Coal Measures sandstone and an aquifer, No. 1
shaft sump (Fig. 9) standing at - 5 4 0 . 2 m (1772fl) below surface level [hydrostatic
pressure 5.4 N mm -2 (783 lb in-Z)]. The previous sump level in No. 1 shaft stood 13.8 m
(45 fl) above the present sump level and strata cover grouting was carried out from that
During the period of strata cover grouting, problems of grout standpipe installation were
experienced due to the poor rock conditions and deterioration and heave of the sump took
place. The length of cover grouting was also long (over 40 m) whereas the preferred
maximum length is approximately 30 m. To enable the wall of the cover grouting cone to be
less prone to leakage at the lower level of treatment and to guarantee satisfactory grout
standpipe installation, it was decided to sink to the - 5 4 0 . 2 level and install a concrete plug.
This would be closer to the zone of strata requiring the major grout treatment and, by casting
the grout standpipes into the plug, a pressure pad for the next cover of strata grouting could
be provided.
Due to the potential water inflows for sinking below the plug, it was necessary to install a
pump lodge (Fig. 9) for stage pumping to surface. No choice of position was available for_
the pump lodge other than immediately below the last cast section of the shaft wall.
At the time of placing the plug, shaft water inflow to the sump was approximately 11
litres s -1 (150 gal min-1). Fig. 10 shows the framework for supporting the grout pipes and
the water control rising mains during casting of the plug. The concrete mix design for the
plug is given in Table 3. Minimal heat of hydration existed in the concrete mass due to
using the cement replacement material (Cemsave) and additional heat removal occurred
through the rising mains and grout pipes. The Grade 55 concrete was the same as the shaft
lining concrete. However, designing the plug on the basis of the seven-day cube test results
32- 55 = 36.7 N m m -2 (5317 lb in -z) allowed pressurizing of the plug for water stopping, at
the earliest opportunity. The benefit of the 28 day strength was taken for the wall bearing
resistance. The recommendations given in the design calculation section for cylindrical
plugs were followed for the plug design.
Neglecting the bearing resistance of the tapered plug, the calculated punching shear stress
for the concrete to rock interface was 0.89 N mm -2 (129 lb in -2) and the pressure gradient
5.4/17.3 = 0.31 N mm -2 m -1 (13.7 lb in -2 ft-1).
Grouting up of the plug started from the bottom through 50 mm grout pipes installed in
the rising mains. These pipes were grouted in, leaving the bottom free for injection into the
gravel bed, and also secured by high-pressure flanges bolted together at the top of the rising
mains. The bottom injection was phased to follow backwall injection of the shaft wall above
the plug, and controlled using the standpipes as 'tell-tales' before closing off for final
The shaft water make was reduced to approximately 0.45 litres s -1 (6 gal rain -1) before
final tightening up, this amount being predominantly from behind the shaft lining above the
pump lodge. The pump lodge was restricted to a position close to the plug and remained a

Design of undergroundplugs


Pump Lodge

1200 * 200









holes Qnd


sto.n d p l p e s


/ ....

' i"

; ~









:.!:" , ;









Fig. 9. National Coal Board, North Selby Mine, England, Section through shaft, showing
temporary consolidation plug (a) and plan at pump lodge level (b). Design and construction
by Cementation Mining Ltd (1982). Information published by permission of the National
Coal Board.



potential source for strata water to penetrate the shaft if it could not be sealed off by
To enable the plug to be subsequently broken out without damaging the shaft wall, the
bottom surface of the wall was painted with a bond breaking agent Setcrete 11 (Cementation
Chemicals Ltd), the hanging rod ends were sleeved and two water bars incorporated, the
inner one protected and the outer one sacrificial for plug sealing.

Conclusions and recommendations

The first objective of this paper was to review underground plug design for the purpose of
bringing the subject to prominence and more up to date. As an additional objective, design
rationalization was attempted on the basis of current practice.
The author considers the first objective to have been achieved. However, much more
work needs to be carried out to quantify, in greater detail, strata leakage resistance in
relation to plug length before the design procedure can be regarded as being completely
The philosophies of design included in the paper are based predominantly on the
excellent work of Garrett and Campbell Pitt which was reported in 1958 and 1961. In
addition to the normally accepted punching shear stress concept of design for plug interaction
with the surrounding rock, they proposed a bearing stress concept which was related to the
surface roughness and also carried out tests on both experimental and service plugs to
quantify plug length in relation to leakage resistance. This is the only published work
known to the author which relates to the latter factor. However, the work carried out by
Garrett and Campbell Pitt is specifically applicable to the gold mines of South Africa where
hard rocks of the quartzite type are encountered at deep levels and high water pressures
are experienced (Fig. 4). The quoted data is not directly applicable to any other rock
conditions, particularly those of the softer sandstone, limestone, marls and coal measures
experienced in the UK (Fig. 4), where the aquifers are closer to the surface and the hydrostatic p~essures are much less. A study of the Garrett and Campbell Pitt work was essential
in the paper to form the basis for applying their principles to other rock conditions, in line
with modem construction Codes of Practice, as it appears that very little forward progress
has been made in the subject of plug design during the last two decades.
Considering the two parallel plug length design theories, one based on punching shear
stress and the other on bearing stress, which have been proposed for resistance to horizontal
thrust at the concrete to rock interface, it would appear that they are incompatible.

Fig. 10. National Coal Board, North Selby Mine, England. General arrangement elevation
of temporary consolidation plug (a) and sections A-A(b), B-B(c) and C-C(d) showing
supporting framework for cast in grout stand pipes and water control rising mains. Design
and construction by Cementation Mining Ltd. Information published by permission of the
National Coal Board.





". '.


k;~k. k

~ "


o_~Y-- \



Comparing Equations lc and 8d, giving I = pb/4ppe and l = pb/2pb e respectively, using the
value forpb e = 3.75Pr ~ from Table 1 indicates that the length based on permissible punching
shear stress, as given by Equation lc, will always be the longer by a factor of 1.875. Based
on the concept of length being a priority for resistance to leakage, the bearing stress concept
can be neglected in the design of parallel plugs. It should, however, be pointed out that
although the permissible shear stress concept is recommended for determining length, in
order to assist sealing by increasing the leakage resistance, the acutal strength will be
greater because of the bearing action.
As already mentioned in the design calculations section, the two tapered plug design
theories based on different bearing stress concepts are also not compatible. In this case, the
longer length is given by the Garrett and Campbell Pitt rough surface-bearing resistance
philosophy, as opposed to the smooth-faced wedge principle, and the former is therefore
the recommended approach based on the longer length required for leakage resistance.
With regard to the permissible stresses quoted in Table 1, the values of pc, Pb and pp are
realistic for the current types of concrete now being used underground. The factor of safety
equal to 4 used in connection with the Pb~ and pp~ values at the concrete to rock interface
is also probably realistic. However, care should always be taken to study rock strength and
condition to confirm the values. It is interesting to note that the permissible shear stress
values for the interface, which are quoted by South African practice (see p. 207), are less
than the values recommended in Table 1. Although the South African values are not related
directly to concrete or rock strengths, nor the rock condition, they result in longer plug
lengths which err on the safe side for leakage resistance. On this basis, it can be seen that
the stronger, and better quality, concretes now being employed in underground construction will give shorter plug design lengths for strength but could have inherent leakage
problems if sufficient length is not provided.
At the present time it is-not possible to define the exact length which is needed for
sealing in relation to any particular ground conditions. The pressure gradient concept of
Garrett and Campbell Pitt (1958, 1961) would appear to be a practical means for
quantifying the resistance of rock to the passage of water through specific lengths but
insufficient data is available as yet for general application of the principle. The allowable
pressure gradient of 9.14 N mm -2 m -1 (404 lb in -2 ft-1), which the South Africans would
accept for normally grouted rock, should not be adopted in the UK as it is based on plug
to rock interface grouting pressures of 2 to 2 times hydrostatic. Such high pressures would
not be adopted in the UK, values of 1.25 to 1.5 being more representative.
Comparing the pressure gradients from the case studies with the Garrett and Campbell
Pitt data in Fig. 4, the Sherburn Mine emergency plug value of 0.013 N mm -2 m -1 (0.59 lb
in -2 ft -1) is much less than that given by graph A [0.23 N mm -2 m -1 (20.8 lb in -2 ft-a)]
showing it possessed a satisfactory leakage resistance without grouting.
For the proposed precautionary plug the pressure gradient of 0.45 N mm -2 m -1 (19.9 lb
in -2 ft -1) was much less than that given by graph B [3.64 N mm -2 m -1 (161 lb in -2 ft-~)].
This indicates that although leakage would occur before grouting of the contact zone it
would not leak after grouting the interface. The North Selby temporary consolidation plug
was also in this category, possessing a greatly reduced pressure gradient [0.31 N mm -z m -1
(13.7 Ib in -2 ft-x)] than given by graph B.

Design o f underground plugs


It would appear that the Garrett and Campbell Pitt pressure gradient of 3.64 N mm-2 m-1
(161 lb in -2 ft -~) could be used as an upper limit in the UK for plugs with the contact zones
and strata grouted. However, much lower pressure gradients will result in the ability to seal
off leakage more easily.
Each plug scheme will generally be an individual design tailored to the particular
situation. The above recommendations for pressure gradients should be used with caution
and the rock leakage resistance in situ, which is associated with each design, must be investigated as thoroughly as possible prior to preparing any scheme. Successful plug design
therefore, will rely heavily on the mining contractor's experience and knowledge.
Current concrete mix designs, using plasticizers for high workability, are much more easy
to place and provide much tighter contact with the surrounding rock. Improved sealing will
be achieved and leakage resistance much greater. Increased pressure gradients should be
capable of being withstood by shorter lengths of plug and therefore, in future, the
quantifying of such data by experiment and in situ monitoring is essential to progress and
improve underground plug design.
Understanding of plug mechanisms of resistance to horizontal thrust, when confined by
the surrounding rock, can be enhanced by further studies into rock stresses resulting from
excavations. Modification of these stresses during interface pressure grouting and the
accompanying plug stressing needs to be investigated. Finally study of the effects of end
pressures on such a combined stress system would lead to knowledge of how stresses are
dissipated throughout the whole and possibly a clearer picture of the interface ultimate
behaviour under load would emerge. Future research and experiment are therefore
imperative to advance the state of the art of plug design.

The author wishes to thank Mr J.C. Black, Managing Director of Cementation Mining
Ltd, for permission to publish the paper. Illustrations and details are included from the
Selby New Mine Project and the author is indebted to Mr C.T. Massey, Deputy Director
(Mining) - Selby Project, of the National Coal Board for his permission to use this information. Details of the Sherburn Mine incident are published by courtesy of British Gypsum
Ltd, and thanks are due to Mr W.S. Gibson, Chief Mining Engineer, British Gypsum Ltd,
and Mr R. Hird, the Mine Manager at the time of the incident, for their permission to
include such data. Further thanks are extended to Mrs M. Mordue, who typed the

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