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journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/ijmst

strength in highwall mining

Mo S. a, Canbulat I. a, Zhang C. a, Oh J. a,, Shen B. b, Hagan P. a

a

School of Mining Engineering, The University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, Australia

b

CSIRO Energy, QCAT, 1 Technology Court, Pullenvale 4069, Australia

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: This paper attempts to quantify the effect of backfilling on pillar strength in highwall mining using

Received 22 December 2016 numerical modelling. Calibration against the new empirical strength formula for highwall mining was

Received in revised form 15 March 2017 conducted to obtain the material parameters used in the numerical modelling. With the obtained coal

Accepted 1 May 2017

strength parameters, three sets of backfill properties were investigated. The results reveal that the behav-

Available online xxxx

ior of pillars varies with the type and amount of backfill as well as the pillar width to mining height ratio

(w/h). In case of cohesive backfill, generally 75% backfill shows a significant increase in peak strength, and

Keywords:

the increase in peak strength is more pronounced for the pillars having lower w/h ratios. In case of non-

Highwall mining

Backfill

cohesive backfill, the changes in both the peak and residual strengths with up to 92% backfill are negli-

Coal pillar gible while the residual strength constantly increases after reaching the peak strength only when 100%

Strength backfill is placed. Based on the modelling results, different backfilling strategies should be considered

Numerical modelling on a case by case basis depending on the type of backfill available and desired pillar dimension.

2017 Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of China University of Mining & Technology. This is an open

access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

ing old and/or under-designed bord and pillar workings as well as

Highwall mining is a mining method that produces coal from directly achieving higher recovery by increasing pillar height in

the base of highwall in surface mines as illustrated in Fig. 1 [1]. thick seam conditions [7,8]. In Australian coal operations, backfill-

A series of parallel entries are driven into the coal seam using ing has not been widely practised though a case of backfilling into

two types of highwall mining systems, namely, continuous high- pre-driven longwall recovery roadway in weak roof areas in a long-

wall mining (CHM) and auger mining. CHM system uses a contin- wall mine was reported [9]. In another application in Australia, old

uous miner generating typically 3.5 m wide rectangular entries coal mine workings were backfilled to prevent potential subsi-

while auger system excavates single or double holes typically from dence damage to a new road development on surface [10].

1.5 m to 1.8 m in diameter [2]. The penetration depths range from With the wide application of backfilling in the mining industry,

50 m to 500 m depending on the highwall mining systems and research was carried out in the late 1990s to investigate the possi-

mining conditions [3]. The pillars are then left between the mined bility of utilizing backfilling in highwall mining for the purpose of

entries to support the overburden. increasing coal recoveries [5,11]. As illustrated in Fig. 2, a typical

Backfilling technology has been widely used in the mining highwall mining layout incorporates the web pillars, generated

industry. In metalliferous mining, backfilling is typically used to by excavation of a series of entries using CHM system, and the bar-

provide a working platform, usually in cut and fill mining, or a sup- rier pillars that are left between the panels. If the entries are back-

port to the pillars and walls for higher productivity [4,5]. It has filled, the strength of web pillar will increase due to the

been widely applied in underground coal mining. In order to confinement. Therefore, with the use of backfill, potentially it

reduce surface subsidence, longwall goaf is backfilled to reduce may be possible to generate more slender pillars or omit the bar-

the mining void and subsequently the caving height in some Euro- rier pillars in highwall mining panel, which can lead an enhanced

pean mines. In Chinese mines backfill material is injected into part- recovery. In addition, the web pillars are known to fail suddenly

ing planes in the roof strata to prevent the closure of the partings accompanying catastrophic domino failures due to their low resid-

ual strengths [12,13]. Therefore, apart from the potential advan-

tage of an enhanced coal recovery by using backfilling in

Corresponding author.

E-mail address: joung.oh@unsw.edu.au (J. Oh).

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijmst.2017.07.003

2095-2686/ 2017 Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of China University of Mining & Technology.

This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Please cite this article in press as: Mo S et al. Numerical investigation into the effect of backfilling on coal pillar strength in highwall mining. Int J Min Sci

Technol (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijmst.2017.07.003

2 S. Mo et al. / International Journal of Mining Science and Technology xxx (2017) xxxxxx

cases. Therefore, it is noted that the formula is only applicable to

the highwall mining pillars with width to height ratios (w/h) from

0.5 to 2.5.

It is considered that as the new formula has been developed

from an actual database of highwall mining, it represents the best

in-situ behavior of coal pillars in highwall mining. Due to the nat-

ure of long pillars in highwall mining conditions, plane strain anal-

ysis was conducted using the two-dimensional numerical software

FLAC [19]. The constitutive law for coal pillars was the strain-

Fig. 1. Highwall mining operation using CHM system [1].

softening model based on the Mohr-Coulomb failure criterion.

Therefore, the calibration process aimed to back calculate a set of

input parameters including the cohesion, angle of internal friction

and corresponding plastic strain range.

Fig. 3 shows the pillar model incorporating half of coal, roof and

floor along the symmetrical centerline of the pillar system which is

a repeating geometry in a highwall mining panel. The height of the

Fig. 2. Typical geometry of highwall mining panel with backfill.

roof and floor was 20 m and the mining height was fixed at 3 m

while the pillar widths varied in order to simulate pillars with w/

h ratios from 0.5 to 2.5. The uniform element size of 0.25 m was

highwall mining, pillar stability will be increased significantly if

applied to the coal and a smooth variation of zoning from the coal

there is an increase in residual strength with the use of backfill.

to the boundaries was used for roof and floor with appropriate

A number of forms of backfilling for highwall mining were pro-

aspect ratios to avoid numerical instability. Roller boundaries were

posed and relevant filling methods and indicative costs were pre-

applied along the side of the roof and floor, the bottom of the floor

sented in the past studies [5,11]. Even though backfilling is

and the vertical line.

thought to be effective in increasing coal pillar strength, it was

In this study, the roof and floor were considered to be an elastic

challenging to predict the behavior of the pillars with backfill

material with the stiffer material property [16,2022]. The inter-

due to the difficulties in modelling slender coal pillars and the

faces between coal and the roof and floor were taken from recent

interaction between pillars and different backfill materials.

coal pillar design studies [21,23]. The material properties used

This paper aims to quantify the effect of backfilling in highwall

for the calibration of model are provided in Table 1.

mining on pillar strength using numerical modelling. While few

After generating the grid and assigning the boundary conditions

numerical analyses of the effect of backfilling in highwall mining

and material properties, the model was stepped to an equilibrium

can be found, a limitation of the studies was the modelling of coal

state to develop in-situ stresses. The second equilibrium was then

pillars used in highwall mining [11,14]. In this paper, modelling of

achieved by excavating the entry. The entry width was fixed at

coal pillars is based on a recent study into a pillar design for high-

1.75 m which is a half width of a typical entry width of 3.5 m used

wall mining, which proposes a new empirical pillar strength for-

in the CHM method. Up until this point, very high cohesion and

mula for highwall mining [15]. The numerical investigations into

tensile strength values for coal were initially used to minimize

the interaction between the coal pillar and backfill in bord and pil-

the inertial effects so that more static solutions can be obtained.

lar mining were attempted by Ryder and Wang et al. [7,16], and

similar approach is used in this study. In Section 2, coal pillar prop-

erties are calibrated to represent the behavior of the slender pillars

in highwall mining. In Section 3, different types of backfill are

placed into the entry and the strength of coal pillar is monitored

with increasing backfill. The significance of the numerical results

is discussed in Section 4. It should be noted that only the consider-

ations for CHM system are included in this paper.

2. Calibration of model

strength formulae can be a reliable way to explain the average

behavior of a pillar model [17]. In this regard, calibration of coal Fig. 3. Geometry of coal pillar model.

parameters was conducted against the proposed linear formula

for highwall mining recently developed by Canbulat et al. [15]:

Table 1

rp 4:660:56 0:44w=h 1 Material properties used for calibration of model.

where rp is the pillar strength, MPa; w/h is the pillar width to min- Material Youngs modulus (GPa) Poissons ratio

ing height ratio. Roof/floor 10 0.25

This new formula has been developed using the maximum like- Coal 2.5 0.30

lihood method, which is similar to how the UNSW pillar strength Interface Normal stiffness = 100 GPa/m; shear

formulae were originally derived [18]. The difference is that only stiffness = 50 GPa/m; cohesion = 0.5 MPa; Internal

friction angle = 30

a highwall mining pillar database has been used, which includes

Please cite this article in press as: Mo S et al. Numerical investigation into the effect of backfilling on coal pillar strength in highwall mining. Int J Min Sci

Technol (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijmst.2017.07.003

S. Mo et al. / International Journal of Mining Science and Technology xxx (2017) xxxxxx 3

Table 2

Coal properties calibrated against Eq. (1).

Material Youngs modulus (GPa) Poissons ratio Cohesion (MPa) Friction angle () Plastic strain

Peak Residual Peak Residual

Coal 2.5 0.3 0.9 0.1 35 12 0.012

Table 3

Peak strength results calibrated against Eq. (1).

Peak strength calculated by (MPa) w/h = 0.5 w/h = 1 w/h = 1.5 w/h = 2 w/h = 2.5

Eq. (1) 3.63 4.66 5.69 6.71 7.74

Model in Fig. 3 3.48 4.62 5.92 6.80 7.29

Then the cohesion and tensile values were set to their original val- strain-softening for the pillars with lower w/h ratios to strain-

ues and the model was stepped to equilibrium again. Finally, the hardening for the pillars with higher w/h ratios. The curves in this

increasing load was generated by applying constant velocity of figure describe the general behavior of in-situ coal pillars as agreed

106 m/s on the top of the roof in the model. by many researchers [6,12]. As field measurement data for high-

The coal pillar stress was estimated by taking the average of wall mining pillars are rarely available, the modelling of a series

vertical stresses generated in the elements located at the mid- of coal pillars, with w/h ratios from 0.5 to 10 in this study, can

point of the pillar. The vertical strain was calculated based on the be a practical way to validate the coal properties [24]. Overall,

ratio of the difference between the average vertical displacements the set of coal properties can be used for highwall mining pillars,

at the top and bottom of the coal pillar and the mining height. which follow the peak strengths calculated by Eq. (1) as well as

the general post-peak behaviors of coal pillars.

It is worthy of note that the obtained set of parameters may not

2.2. Determination of coal parameters

be the unique because different constitutive models, different

combinations of material parameters and different boundary con-

The input parameters for coal were calibrated against Eq. (1), by

ditions can produce the same calibration results [6,21]. It is also

monitoring the peak stresses with various sets of input parameters,

worth noting that the obtained values are dependent on mesh size,

which are shown in Table 2. The peak strengths of coal pillars with

therefore, those values can be changed if different mesh sizes are

w/h ratios of 0.5 and 1, as in this case, were mainly determined by

used [21,22].

the peak values of cohesion and internal friction angle, in contrast

to the pillars with w/h ratios of 1.5, 2 and 2.5 determined by both

the peak and residual values of them. The calibration results are 3. Numerical modelling of backfilling

given in Table 3 and Fig. 4.

While the peak strengths were modelled, the validation of the A few types of backfill, such as a dense fluid of unconsolidated

post-peak behaviors of the modelled pillar was attempted by con- rejects, a partially consolidated deposit of rejects and a saturated

structing coal pillar models with w/h ratios of up to 10 using the cement backfill paste were proposed for the application of backfill-

obtained set of coal properties. The stress-strain curves are ing in highwall mining [11]. In this paper, three sets of backfill

illustrated in Fig. 5, which shows the range of behaviors from properties were adopted to investigate the effect of backfilling on

coal pillar strength. These properties, as listed in Table 4, were

adapted from a study of mine remediation using fly ash backfilling

[25]. The mixture of fly ash and water was referred to as non-

cohesive backfill while the combination of fly ash, cement, water,

etc. was termed as cohesive backfill [25]. Two types of cohesive

backfill were considered with the unconfined compressive

strength (UCS) of 0.5 MPa and 1 MPa. The Mohr-Coulomb strength

criterion was used for the inelastic behavior of backfill. The input

parameters given in Table 4 are regarded as typical backfill proper-

ties [16].

For each type of backfill, the percentage fills from 8% to 100% of

Fig. 4. Stress-strain curves of modelled highwall pillars with w/h ratios from the pillar height were placed into the entry and the coal pillar

0.5 to 2.5. strengths with varying amounts of backfill were monitored. While

using the same pillar model and modelling process as in the pre-

ceding section, the entry was backfilled and the model was equili-

brated right before applying the increasing load in the model. The

geometry of the coal pillar model with backfill is provided in Fig. 6.

are listed in Table 5. In case of cohesive backfill, the increase in

peak strength is generally more pronounced as the w/h ratio of

the pillar decreases and the results can be grouped by the w/h ratio

Fig. 5. Stress-strain curves of coal pillar model with w/h ratios from 0.5 to 10. of the pillars. The peak strength of the pillars with w/h ratios of 0.5

Please cite this article in press as: Mo S et al. Numerical investigation into the effect of backfilling on coal pillar strength in highwall mining. Int J Min Sci

Technol (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijmst.2017.07.003

4 S. Mo et al. / International Journal of Mining Science and Technology xxx (2017) xxxxxx

Table 4

Backfill properties used for modelling [25].

Backfill type Youngs modulus (GPa) Poissons ratio Cohesion (MPa) Friction angle () Dilation angle () Tensile strength (MPa) UCS (MPa)

Cohesive 0.57 0.40 0.12 40 10 0.1 1

Cohesive 0.57 0.40 0.06 40 10 0.05 0.5

Non-cohesive 0.02 0.15 0 42 7.5 0 0

with w/h ratios of 2 and 2.5 increases less than 10% with backfill

up to 67%.

In almost all of the cases, the peak strength significantly

increases with 92% backfill height compared to 83% backfill. When

the entries are completely filled with backfill (i.e., 100%), the pillars

show an elastic behavior. The stress-strain curves of the pillars

with w/h ratios of 0.5, 1.5 and 2.5 with 1.0 MPa cohesive backfill

are illustrated in Fig. 7.

The residual strengths of pillars with varying amounts of back-

fill were also monitored, as shown in Table 6. As the values of post-

Fig. 6. Geometry of coal pillar model with backfill.

peak strength are not exactly converged over strain to the residual

strengths, those values at 2% of strain were taken, where the resid-

ual strengths are deemed to be reached.

and 1 generally increases with increasing backfill. Those pillars Considering the range of residual strengths without backfill, in

show an approximately 50% increase in peak strength when the order of 0.5 MPa, the residual strength increases considerably

backfill is placed up to 75%-83% of the pillar height. The pillar with with increasing backfill for the pillars with w/h ratios from 1 to

a w/h ratio of 1.5 also shows an increase in peak strength with 2.5. The rise in residual strength is more pronounced as the w/h

increasing backfill, but the percentage increase is nearly 20% with ratio of the pillar increases. The residual strength of the pillar with

Table 5

Peak strength with cohesive backfill (MPa).

Backfill Percentage of backfill (%) Peak strength (percentage increase compared to non-backfill value)

w/h = 0.5 w/h = 1.0 w/h = 1.5 w/h = 2.0 w/h = 2.5

Cohesive 8 3.50 (1%) 4.79 (4%) 6.07 (3%) 6.83 (0%) 7.27 (0%)

UCS 1 MPa 17 3.54 (2%) 5.04 (9%) 6.31 (7%) 6.98 (3%) 7.33 (1%)

25 3.63 (4%) 5.34 (16%) 6.55 (11%) 7.12 (5%) 7.36 (1%)

33 3.78 (9%) 5.67 (23%) 6.80 (15%) 7.23 (6%) 7.44 (2%)

42 4.00 (15%) 6.00 (30%) 6.98 (18%) 7.34 (8%) 7.52 (3%)

50 4.33 (24%) 6.30 (36%) 7.13 (20%) 7.44 (9%) 7.57 (4%)

58 4.52 (30%) 6.41 (39%) 7.14 (21%) 7.42 (9%) 7.64 (5%)

67 4.78 (37%) 6.57 (42%) 7.08 (20%) 7.41 (9%) 7.69 (5%)

75 5.04 (45%) 6.93 (50%) 7.41 (25%) 8.17 (20%) 8.30 (14%)

83 5.51 (58%) 7.39 (60%) 7.51 (27%) 8.05 (18%) 9.24 (27%)

92 5.98 (72%) 9.07 (96%) 9.76 (65%) 10.40 (53%) 11.69 (60%)

100 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

Cohesive 8 3.50 (1%) 4.75 (3%) 6.03 (2%) 6.76 (-1%) 7.17 (-2%)

UCS 0.5 MPa 17 3.53 (1%) 4.95 (7%) 6.26 (6%) 6.94 (2%) 7.31 (0%)

25 3.61 (4%) 5.24 (13%) 6.40 (8%) 7.22 (6%) 7.67 (5%)

33 3.75 (8%) 5.50 (19%) 6.67 (13%) 7.27 (7%) 7.62 (5%)

42 3.94 (13%) 5.74 (24%) 6.79 (15%) 7.24 (6%) 7.50 (3%)

50 4.20 (21%) 5.97 (29%) 6.85 (16%) 7.21 (6%) 7.38 (1%)

58 4.40 (26%) 6.13 (33%) 6.92 (17%) 7.22 (6%) 7.82 (7%)

67 4.62 (33%) 6.36 (38%) 7.01 (18%) 7.35 (8%) 7.83 (7%)

75 4.84 (39%) 6.69 (45%) 7.27 (23%) 7.87 (16%) 8.73 (20%)

83 5.14 (48%) 7.13 (54%) 7.59 (28%) 7.74 (14%) 8.54 (17%)

92 5.45 (57%) 7.77 (68%) 8.45 (43%) 8.98 (32%) 9.69 (33%)

100 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

Please cite this article in press as: Mo S et al. Numerical investigation into the effect of backfilling on coal pillar strength in highwall mining. Int J Min Sci

Technol (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijmst.2017.07.003

S. Mo et al. / International Journal of Mining Science and Technology xxx (2017) xxxxxx 5

Table 6

Residual strength with cohesive backfill at 2% of strain (MPa).

w/h = 0.5 w/h = 1.0 w/h = 1.5 w/h = 2.0 w/h = 2.5

Cohesive 8 0.35 0.37 0.42 0.55 0.69

UCS 1 MPa 17 0.35 0.37 0.46 0.58 0.77

25 0.35 0.40 0.59 0.77 0.91

33 0.45 0.60 0.74 1.05 1.24

42 0.41 0.53 0.67 1.02 1.36

50 0.43 0.80 1.07 1.31 1.35

58 0.53 0.86 1.13 1.23 1.44

67 0.90 0.99 1.35 1.42 1.69

75 1.18 1.51 1.56 1.79 1.96

83 0.98 1.47 2.10 2.30 2.84

92 1.77 2.63 3.23 3.51 3.81

100 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

Cohesive 8 0.35 0.37 0.43 0.55 0.74

UCS 0.5 MPa 17 0.35 0.36 0.45 0.58 0.76

25 0.38 0.43 0.68 0.81 0.98

33 0.39 0.63 0.80 1.00 1.24

42 0.41 0.73 0.89 1.08 1.29

50 0.68 0.72 1.00 1.12 1.32

58 0.77 0.81 1.05 1.18 1.43

67 0.88 1.11 1.09 1.40 1.49

75 0.95 1.47 1.35 1.66 1.90

83 1.04 1.35 1.72 1.98 2.09

92 1.19 1.65 2.04 2.39 2.56

100 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

a w/h ratio of 0.5 is reached at around 1 MPa, only with the excep- Dw is the lateral displacement of pillar after backfill is placed;

tion when 92% of 1 MPa cohesive backfill is placed. In almost all of and B is the width of entry.

the cases, the residual strength significantly increases with 92% As can be seen from Eq. (2), the confining pressure is influenced

backfill compared to 83% backfill, which is similar to the results by the elastic modulus of backfill. With the non-cohesive backfill,

for peak strength. even 92% of backfill makes no substantial difference in terms of

both peak and residual strengths in this modelling study, possibly

3.2. Non-cohesive backfill due to the low elastic modulus of the non-cohesive backfill. How-

ever, non-cohesive backfill may be effective in other cases where

In case of non-cohesive backfill, only 100% backfill is effective the lateral displacement of pillars is sufficiently developed prior

while the changes in both the peak and residual strengths with to reaching the peak stresses. An example of non-cohesive backfill-

8% to 92% backfill are negligible. Moreover, the peak strength even ing in bord and pillar mining is found from Wang et al. [16].

hardly increases with 100% backfill while the residual strength It was also suggested by Galvin that the height of backfill should

constantly increases over strain as shown in Fig. 8. It is believed be more than two-thirds of the height of pillar as the lateral expan-

that confinement is not sufficiently generated before reaching sion is largest at mid-height of pillar [6]. The numerical results are

the peak stress, which will be discussed again in Section 4. generally consistent with the suggestion that the both peak and

residual strengths considerably increase with 75% cohesive backfill

4. Discussion for almost all of the modelled pillars.

4.1. Mechanism of confinement by backfilling 4.2. Consideration for backfilling in highwall mining

Galvin stated that the confinement by backfilling is primarily As predicted by numerical modelling in Section 3, the behavior

generated in response to lateral expansion of pillar [6]. The confin- of pillar varies with the type and amount of backfill as well as the

ing pressure developed by backfilling is given in Eq. (2) [8]: w/h ratio of the pillars. Therefore, different backfilling strategies

should be considered on a case by case basis depending on the type

rF EF eF EF Dw=B 2

of backfill available and desired pillar dimension. Some sugges-

where rF is the confining pressure developed by backfilling; EF is tions and considerations for backfilling in highwall mining are

the elastic modulus of backfill; eF is the lateral strain of backfill; summarized below:

Please cite this article in press as: Mo S et al. Numerical investigation into the effect of backfilling on coal pillar strength in highwall mining. Int J Min Sci

Technol (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijmst.2017.07.003

6 S. Mo et al. / International Journal of Mining Science and Technology xxx (2017) xxxxxx

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