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STABILITYANALYSESOFFOOTWALLSLOPESINOPENPIT

MINING

ANLISISDEESTABILIDADDETALUDESDEMUROEN
EXPLOTACIONESMINERASACIELOABIERTO
LEANDROR.ALEJANO
DepartamentodeIngenieradelosRecursosNaturalesyMedioAmbiente,UniversidaddeVigo, Espaa,alejano@uvigo.es

ABELSNCHEZJUNCAL
DepartamentodeIngenieradelosRecursosNaturalesyMedioAmbiente,UniversidaddeVigo,Espaa

ReceivedforreviewMay20th,2009,acceptedDecember6th,2009,finalversionDecember17th,2009

ABSTRACT:Inthispaperweanalysedifferentfailuremechanismstypicallyassociatedtofootwallslopes,inorder
toevaluateitsstabilityusingthenumericcodeUDEC.Theseresultswillthenbeanalysedandcontrastedagainstthe
LimitEquilibriumMethod(LEM)todeterminetheuseof UDECasavalidtoolinfootwallslopeanalysis.Two
real cases, where the footwall slope failure took place through complex mechanisms, are finally analysed using
UDEC.

KEYWORDS:Rockengineering,Stabilityanalyses,Footwall slope,UDEC.

RESUMEN:Ensteartculoseanalizandiferentesmecanismosderoturatpicamenteasociadosataludesdemuro,
conelobjetivodepoderevaluarsuestabilidad,medianteelcdigonumricoUDEC(CdigodeElementosDistintos
Universal). Se analizan, tambin, mediante mtodos de equilibrio lmite (MEL), comparndose los resultados
obtenidosporambosmtodos,afindedeterminarlavalidezdelcdigoUDECcomoherramientadeanlisisdela
estabilidaddetaludesdemuro.Seincluyeadems,elanlisisdedoscasosreales,enlosquelaroturadeltaludse
produjopormecanismoscomplejos.

PALABRASCLAVE:Mecnicaderocas,Anlisisdeestabilidad,Taludesdemuro,UDEC.

1.INTRODUCTION These types of phenomena do not only take


placeinsedimentaryrockwheretheyaremore
In mineral deposits associated with sedimentary common(seeforinstanceCoulthardetal.[1]or
rock,theeconomiclimitiscommonlydefinedby Hawleyetal.[2])butithasalsobeenobserved
the footwall of the deeper seam to be mined. in metamorphic rocks like slate whenever a
Where open pit mines are developed in dipping slope is designed parallel to cleavage and in
strata,ahighfootwallslopemayresult,whichis any type of opencast seam mining in which
usually designed with an angle equal or less behind the footwall slope any persistent
steep than that of the bedding planes to avoid discontinuityorweakmaterialisencountered.
planarfailure(seeFigure.1).
This design is sometimes appropriate, but some This lastcase has beenreported for instance, in
failure mechanisms associated with bedding the case study of a quartz mine [3] and in the
planes or any other persistent discontinuity casestudyoftheBrendaMine,whereclaygouge
parallel to the slope may occur producing zonesinducedwallslopeinstabilitiesinaquartz
undesirableinstabilityeffects,whosestudyisthe dioritehostrock[4].
objectofthispaper.

Dyna,year77,Nro.161,pp.6170.Medelln,March,2010. ISSN00127353
62 AlejanoandSnchez

factorofsafety(FoS)canbeestimatedforthese
mechanisms according to limit equilibrium
methods (LEM) [8]. This FoS can also be
calculated according to the shear strength
reduction technique (SSRT) and by means of
numerical models. For the failure modes where
discontinuities play a significant role, it is very
appropriatetousedistinctelementcodessuchas
UDEC[5].

A numerical model simulates reality as it is. In


thisway,ifonemodelsaslope,eitheritisstable
or it falls. Therefore, in order to obtain a FoS
with numerical models, we need to use special
techniques, such as the SSRT. This technique
estimates the factors of safety (FoS) by
performing a series of models with different
Figur e1. Typicalfootwallslopewherethe tentative values of the FoS. These tentative
instabilitiesanalyzedinthisstudy maytakeplace valuesareusedtoreducetheactualvaluesofthe
strength properties of the rock and joints
(cohesion, friction, tensile strength), until the
These instability mechanisms are not veryoften instability of the slope is observed. The final
considered in classic civil or mining rock slope value of the FoS according to the SSRT is that
designtechniques.However,theyhaveproduced corresponding to a limiting state (equilibrium
some important accidents in mines. They are instability).
mainly linked to the sliding of a mass of rock
throughoneofthesepreexistingdiscontinuities, Inthispaper,wepresentaseriesofsimplecases
but they also need either one or more smaller of possible footwall slope failures. We will
discontinuities, or the yield of an area of intact analysethembymeans ofLEM.Thentheywill
rock due to compressive, shear or tensile stress bestudiedbymeansoftheUDECSSRT.
toallowtoebreakout.

In classic rock mechanics literature and in 3.FAILUREMECHANISMSOBSERVED


practice,thesetypesofphenomenawerestudied
by means of standard Limit Equilibrium High slopes with persistent discontinuities
Methods(LEM).However,presentlyanddueto parallel to the slope face are prone to fail
the advances in numerical modeling, distinct accordingto different mechanisms,reviewedby
element codes, such as UDEC [5], have shown Hawley et al. [2] and can be primarily divided
tobeausefultooltounderstandthemechanism according to the full or partial discontinuity
associated with these phenomena and to control. If the failure mechanism is totally
calculate the safety factor of the designed controlled by preexisting discontinuities, the
footwall slope, based on the shear strength instability phenomena presented in the next
reductiontechnique[6].Thenumericalapproach section may take place. If no secondary joints
tostudytheseproblemswasfirstlyintroducedby enablinginstabilityexist,then,thediscontinuity
SteadandEberhardt[7] controlisonlypartialandthefailurephenomena
necessitatingthecrushingorshearingoftherock
mass. The instability mechanisms resulting in
2.METHODOLOGY this case are geometrically similar to the
previously mentioned ones, but they are
We have analysed different problems with obviouslylesslikelytooccur.
different footwall slope failure mechanisms. A
Dyna161,2010 63

b) Ploughing slab failure, which takes place


when slab sliding along a primary discontinuity
combines with sliding along a joint, which
strikessubparalleltotheslopeface,causingthe
toe block to be lifted by sliding and eventually
rotatedoutoftheslope(Fig.2.B).Althoughthis
mechanism is not very common Ramrez
Oyanguren[9]reportedvariouscases,wherethis
typeoffailurewasobserved.

c) Three hinge buckling, described by Cavers


[10],isthethirdknownmechanismofthistype.
It assumes the presence of at least three joints
normal to bedding in the slopes lower part.
Failure is initiated when enough water pressure
exists in the basal plane to induce rotation or
shearingalongcrossjointscausingtheextrusion
ofblocks.(Fig.2.C).

There are other kinematically possible failure


modes but they have not been reported or
observedasfarastheauthorsareconcerned.

3.2 Par tially joint contr olled failur e


mechanisms

The three basic mechanisms of this type


analogous to those fully controlled by
discontinuitiesandpresentedinFigure3are:

a) Bilinear slab failure with shearing and/or


crushing in the toe of the slope, similar to the
oneallalongdiscontinuities,butwiththefailure
Figur e2. Totallydiscontinuitycontrolledfailure of the rock mass penetrating through the slope
mechanismsobservedonfootwallslopes,including toe. Recently Fisher [10] has studied in detail
A)Bilinearslabfailure,B)Ploughingslabfailureand thesemechanisms.
C)Threehingebuckling
b) Ploughing slab failure, with shearing of the
rock mass in the slope face and shearing or
3.1 Totally joint contr olled failur e
tensileseparationinthetoeoftheslope.
mechanisms
c) Euler buckling of the first rock bed as
The most commonly encountered mechanisms, presentedbyCavers[11].
presentedinFigure2include:
Due to the higher strength of the rock mass
a) Bilinear slab failure, which involves sliding versus the rock joints, these mechanisms are
along a basal plane in combination with sliding muchlesscommonthanthepreviouslypresented
along a secondary shallow dipping joint, which ones,buttheyshouldnotbeaprioridiscardedin
is undercut by the slope face (Fig. 2.A). In adesignanalysis.
reference[2]this type offailure is reportedina
mine.
64 AlejanoandSnchez

hypotheses determines the reliability of the


results obtained. If, as in the case of fully
discontinuity controlled cases, failure is due to
movementsofblocksfullylimitedbygeological
discontinuities, the geometry and joint shear
strength are the key parameters in the analyses
and, when no untrue assumptions are taken,
LEM are accurate enough to obtain reliable
results.

4.1 Discontinuity contr olled bilinear slab


failur e

Thestabilityanalysisisdonedividingthesliding
elements into an active block (1) or slab and a
passive block (2) in the toe (Figure 4). For the
sake of simplicity, the calculations that follow
assumenullcohesionjointsandnounderground
water.

BLOQUE1
BLOCK1
S1

q W1

N1

SA
NA NA

q2 SA

BLOCK2
BLOCK2
BLOQUE2

S2 W2

N2

Figur e4. Bilinearslab failureanalysisgeometry

Figur e3. Partiallydiscontinuitycontrolledfailure First, the normal external force needed by the
mechanismsobservedonfootwallslopes,including activeblockto bestable (NA) is calculated,and
A)Bilinearslabfailurewithshearing,B)Ploughing then, this force is transferred to the resisting
slabfailurewithshearingandtensilefailureandC) blocktocalculatethesafetyfactor.Theanalysis
Eulerbuckling needs anassumption concerningthestateofthe
interface between the active and the resisting
blocks. If we assume that this boundary is
4. LIMITEQUILIBRIUMMETHODS frictionless,itcanbefoundthat:

LEMs are based on the force and moment N A = W1 s i n (q ) - c o s (q ) t a n(f 1) (1)


equilibriuminarockmassorindifferentsliding W2 c o s (q 2 ) + NA s i n (q - q 2 ) t a n(f 2)
or toppling blocks in a mass. The method may F o S = (2)
require some more or less realistic assumptions W2 s i n (q 2 ) + N A c o s(q -q 2 )
be made. The degree of realism of these
Dyna161,2010 65

Ifweassumethatthereisfrictionactingonthis Second, the passive block may move out of the


interface, and that the upper block is in limit slope by either sliding through the upper and
equilibrium,itcanbefoundthat: lower limiting discontinuities or rotating freely
outofthetoeoftheslope.Itturnsoutthen,that
W1 s i n (q ) - c o s (q ) t a n(f 1) a different factor of safety should be computed
N A = (3) for both types of mechanisms, finally selecting
1 -t a n (f A ) t a n(f 1) thesmallerFoS,whichwillalsomarkthetypeof
W2 c o s (q 2 ) + NA s i n (q - q 2 ) + c o s (q - q 2 ) t a n (f A ) t a n(f 2 ) (4) behaviourtobeexpected.

F o S =
W2 s i n (q 2 ) + N A c o s (q - q 2 ) - s i n (q - q 2) t a n(f A )
Assuming friction acting on the interface, we
find:
The realism of these assumptions varies W s i n (q ) - c o s (q ) t a n(f )
1 1
according to the case, so no one can be N =
A
s i n (q - q ) 1 - t a n (f ) t a n (f ) + c o s (q - q ) t a n (f ) + t a n(f )
A A 1 A 1 A
considered a priori better. However, the actual
(5)
value of the factor of safety has to be one in
between the values obtained according to the
TheFoSfortheslidingmodeiscalculatedby:
presented hypothesis. According to our N s i n (q - q ) + c o s (q - q ) t a n (f ) + W s i n (q ) t a n(f )
experience,wesuggestforpracticetheuseofthe F o S =
A A A A
2 2

N c o s (q - q ) - s i n (q - q ) t a n (f ) - W c o s(q )
average value safety factor (frictionless and A A A A 2

frictionassumptions). (6)

4.2 Discontinuity contr olled ploughing


slabfailur e

Themethodofanalysis issimilartothebilinear
slab failure (see Figure 5). But in this case two
further topics should be considered in greater
detail.

BLOCK1
BLOQUE1
S1
W1

q SA

N1

NA

NA
qA
a SA BLOCK2
BLOQUE2

W2

Puntosobreelque
Figur e6. Detailofblock2forthetopplinganalysis
Pointaroundwhich
setomanmomentos
S2 N2 rotationmaytakeplace
rotationmaytakeplace

Figur e5. Ploughingslabfailureanalysisgeometry For the limit equilibrium of the toppling case,
some geometric values are needed, which are
defined in Figure 6. Finally, the FoS for the
First,theonlykinematicallyavailablepossibility topplingmodeis:
fortheresistingblocktomoveinvolvesthatthe l A t l t

NA t a n (f A ) lS + WA + lB c o s (q ) + s i n (q ) + WB B c o s (q ) + s i n(q )
interface inbetween blocks should be in limit F o S = 3 3 2 2
NA lS t a n(y )
equilibrium,sothesecondassumptionproposed
for the previous case should not only be used, (7)
butitisalsoahighlyrealisticone.
66 AlejanoandSnchez

Where: Table1.Factorsofsafetyfortheproposedexamples
1,2&3
l
y = a r c t a n B - (q A - q ) lS =
t
( )
l B2 +t 2 c o s(y ) Example&
(LEM) (eq.)
UDEC
mechanism. SSRT
t Example1. 0.40(frictionless) (1&2)
& l A = (8) Bilinearslab 1.45(friction) (3&4) 1.03
t a n(q A -q ) withsliding 0.92(average)
Example2.
1.76(sliding) (5&6)
Ploughingslab
2.59(toppling) (5,7&8)
1.21
(sliding)
Example3.
10.0(sliding) (5&6)
5. THEORETICALEXAMPLES Ploughingslab
2.0(toppling) (5,7&8)
1.78
(toppling)

To deepen the understanding on these


mechanisms some theoretical examples are 5.2Example2.Ploughingslabfailur e(sliding)
analysed according to LEM and numerical
model(UDEC)andtheSSRT.Anothergoalisto The analysis studies a 25 m slope, dipping 50
contrast these techniques and highlight their
(q=50), formed by 1.5 m strata (t=1.5m), and
advantages and drawbacks. The examples
withajointstrikingparalleltotheslopeinitstoe
concerntotallyjointcontrolledmechanismsfor
whichonlyrigidblocksareneeded. and dipping towards the slope with qA =95,
according to Figure 5. There is also a joint
5.1 Example1.Bilinear slabfailur e normaltobeddingpassingthroughtheslopetoe.
For bedding planes f1 =30 and for the rest of
The analysis focuses on a 50 m slope, dipping
the joints f A = f 2 =20. The distance so called
50(q =50),formedby3 mstrata(t=3m),and
withajointstrikingparalleltotheslopeinitstoe lB inFigure6is lB =2.293m.
and dipping q 2=30. The example includes
another joint normal to bedding and located as TheresultsareshowninTable1.Alowervalue
showninFigure4.Thefrictionangleofbedding of the FoS is obtained for the sliding case than
is f 1=30andthatoftheotherjointsis fA=f2= for the toppling case. This can be read in terms
40. The specific weight for examples 1 to 5 is ofthemechanismofinstability,whichshouldbe
g = 25 kN/m3. Under these circumstances and sliding.AlsotheintheanalysiswithUDECand
applying LEM and UDEC & SSRT, the results the SSRT a sliding mechanism is observed.
areshowninTable1. Howevertheaccuratenessoftheobtainedfigures
isnotverygood.
Itcanbecheckedthatintheinterfacethereisnot
onlynormalforcefrictionlessmodel,butalso 5.3 Example 3. Ploughing slab failur e
shear one which is smaller than that needed to (toppling)
produce the movement of blocks along this
interface friction LEM. Then it seems, that The study focuses a 25 m slope, dipping 60
even if a shear force appears, it is smaller than ( q=60), formed by 1.5 m beds (t=1.5 m), and
thatneededforlimitequilibrium,sotheFoSwill withajointstrikingparalleltotheslopeinitstoe
be smaller than that obtained for that case, but and dipping towards it, with q A=95. There is
larger than the frictionless one. The factors of also a joint normal to bedding in the slope toe
safety obtained by means of UDECSRRT are and lB =3 m. The friction of bedding planes is
usually not far from the average (friction
f1 = 30and for the rest of the joints f A =f2 =
frictionless)LEMvalue.
40.
Dyna161,2010 67

The results are shown in Table 1. In this case due to the following: every factor of safety
LEM and UDECSRRT compare well, for they compares two figures, one related to the forces
bothindicatetopplingfailure,andtheFoSvalues or moments tending to stability and the other
are similar in both cases. Figure 7 shows the related to those tending to instability. Since the
UDECmechanismsofexamples1to3. approachesaredifferent,theymustonlycoincide
forthecaseoflimitequilibrium(FoS=1,00)and
theycandivergeaslongastheFoSisfarfrom1.
FoS is not an actual variable, but it is an
indicativevalueoftheriskengineersarereadyto
assume.Thisisstudiedinthenextexamples.

5.4Examples4and5.Ploughingslabfailur e

We analyse two examples, 4 and 5,


representative of the failure mechanisms of
ploughingslabfailure,withslidingandtoppling
of the resisting block respectively. In both of
them,theLEMFoSobtained is 1.00,that is to
saytheyareinlimit equilibrium.Theresultsof
theanalysisareshowninTable2.

Table2.Factorsofsafetyfortheproposedexamples
4&5

Example& UDEC
(LEM) (eq.)
mechanism (SSRT)
Example4.
1.00(forsliding) (5&6)
Ploughingslab 1.00
1.93(fortoppling) (5,7&8)
failure(sliding)
Example5.
1.74(forsliding) (5&6)
Ploughingslab 0.90
1.00(fortoppling) (5,7&8)
failure(toppling)
Example5.
Ploughingslab 1,74(forsliding) (5&6)
0.9994
failure(toppling) 1.00(fortoppling) (5,7&8)
Roundness=0.0005

For the case of sliding (example 4) the safety


factor obtained by UDEC and the SSRT is
exactly 1.00, demonstrating the accurateness of
bothmethodstodetectlimitequilibrium.

However, for the case of toppling (example 5),


even if the FoS is close to one, it differs in 0.1
Figur e7. UDECresponseofexamples1to3,where unities.This inaccurateresult was surprising,so
thedifferentmechanismscanbeobserved weinvestigatedthepossiblereasons.Wefinally
found out that this was due to the roundness of
the corners of the UDEC blocks. The program
One can be surprised at the differences in FoS selects a small value of this roundness
obtained by both methods. In the case of automatically. When changing this value to a
example1,thisisduetothefactthatneitherthe very small one (r= 0.0005 m), the FoS for
frictionless nor the friction assumptions are topplinginexample5became0,9994,andthen,
strictlycorrect.Inexamples2and3,thiscanbe practically 1.00. So it can now be stated that,
68 AlejanoandSnchez

when performing very detailed geometrical


models and close to limit equilibrium, both
techniques (LEM & UDECSRRT), yield the
sameresponse.

6.PRACTICALCASE STUDIES

Two real cases studies are briefly presented. In


both cases theLEMapproachis not easy,since
not onlyonebut variousstratawereinvolvedin
the failure processes. Therefore, an approach
Figur e9. Pictureofthetensioncrackintheupper
basedonnumericalmodels(UDEC)ispreferred
partoftheslope
in order to understand the evolution of the
instabilitymechanisms,whichtookplace.

6.1Casestudy1

Westudytheinstabilityofslopeoccurredduring
the excavation of a highway in northern Spain.
This case was presented in detail by some
authors [12]. The geometric description of the
slopeisshowninFigure8.

Figur e10.UDECmechanismofthefailureofawall
slopefailureasdevelopedbytheauthors

6.2Casestudy2

Anoutstandingfootwallslopefailuretookplace
in Leigh Creek open pit coal mine in Australia.
Theoriginalstudyofthetopicwasdevelopedby
Coulthard et al. [1], which can be consulted for
furtherdetailsonthecasestudy.

Figur e8. Geometryandidentifiedfeaturesofawall TheLEManalysesdeterminedthattheslopewas


slopefailureinroadaccordingto[12] a stable one. Nevertheless, when the slope
attained a depth of 100 meters as shown in
The instability was finally caused by the water Figure 11 the slope failed. Ten very weak 1 m
pressureafteraveryrainyperiod.Adetailofthe thick strata slided through a very weak bedding
upperpartoftheslopeisillustratedinFigure9. planelocated10mbelowtheslopeface.

The UDEC analysis determined that the dry The UDEC model is able to determine the
slopewasstable,whereastheinclusionofwater instability of this slope only partially controlled
induced the instability. The failure mechanisms by discontinuities. The failure mechanism is
as derived from our UDEC approach is showninFigure12,whereitisobservedhowthe
illustratedinFigure10. toe breakout needs shearing of the rock mass.
This topic of the analysis of biplanar dip slope
Dyna161,2010 69

failurestolimitmodelandparameteruncertainty 7.CONCLUSIONS
in the determination of setback distances has
beenaddressesindetailbyFisher[10].
Footwall slope failure mechanisms have been
reviewedanddifferenttechniquesLEMandthe
SSRT with code UDEC to obtain factors of
safety in these cases have been presented and
applied to various examples and two case
studies. As a consequence of all this, the
followingconsiderationshavebeendrawn.

LEM are a good choice to obtain FoS in those


footwall slopes where the failure mechanism
grantslimitequilibriuminallblocksploughing
slab failure with sliding or toppling of the
resisting block. For the case of full
discontinuity controlled bilinear slab failure
results are not sufficiently good and more
realistic assumptions are needed. The role of
Figur e11.Pictureofthefootwallslopefailurein
friction could be further investigated by
LeighCreekmine
analysingpracticalcasesorbymeansofphysical
modelling.Thistopicisapresentresearchlineof
theauthors.

The partially discontinuity controlled bilinear


failuremechanismrequiresshearingthroughthe
rockmassoralongadiscontinuityabovethetoe.
Therefore, the frictionless model proposed by
Hawley et al. [2] is really not appropriate for
theses cases. This is illustrated in Figure 12.
These failure mechanisms are complex and
needs shear failure through the rock mass.
Fischer [10] provides an interesting discussion
onthetopic,whichfalls outofthescopeofthis
study.

LEM, if results are reliable, are preferred than


SSRTinthat it is easiertoperformfurther but
Figur e12. DetailoftheUDECmodelshowingthe commonly needed analysis like parametric
shearingoftherockinthebaseoftheslopefailurein studies, backanalysis, statistical analysis like
LeighCreekmine.Remarkthatshearingoftherock MonteCarloandsoon.
massisrequiredfortoebreakout
The combination of the SSRT with UDEC is a
verystrongtechniqueto estimateFoSfor every
mechanism of footwall slope instability, having
According to this case it is clear that very
the advantages of finding automatic and
complex mechanisms are difficult to analyseby
naturally the failure mechanism and the critical
meansofLEM,andatoolsuchasUDECcanbe
slip or separation surfaces. It should be used
very helpful for understanding and identifying
within the frame of more wide design
wall slope failure mechanisms in actual case
methodologyasproposedbyStarfield&Cundall
studies,aswellastostudyitspossibleevolution.
[13], that is to say as a tool for thinking and
70 AlejanoandSnchez

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