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Retrospective study of room-and-pillar mining at Beehive Mine

Transactions of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration , 2014, Vol. 336, No. 1, pp. 449-456

Pariseau, W.G.


A study of coal pillar strength at the Beehive Mine in central Utah was done in the 1970s. This study was a cooperative effort by the University of Utah, RE/SPEC, Inc., and the American Coal Company and was funded by the U.S. Bureau of Mines. Mine measurements of closure at 117 points and pillar stress using 119 vibrating wire stress gauges were made during retreat mining in this room-and-pillar operation. Laboratory testing for the strength and modulus of 372 coal cylinders up 0.3 m (1 ft) in diameter and 0.6 m (2 ft) in length was also done. Two-dimensional finite element model analyses complemented the study. However, the real world of mining is three-dimensional and in consideration of the significant advances in computing power since the time of the original study, a revisit of the data seemed warranted. In this regard, a novel finite element method was used that allows for the whole-mine analysis of tabular excavations on the kilometer scale and yet enables details to be obtained at pillar walls on the meter scale. The effects of material properties variability in situ and of joints can also be taken into account. Results that compare computed two- and three-dimensional seam-level closures with mine measurements show noticeable differences; three-dimensional results are reasonable, while two-dimensional results overestimate closure by nearly a factor of two.