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Roof and pillar failure associated with weak floor at a limestone mine

Transactions of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration , 2015, Vol. 338, No. 1, pp. 502-509

Murphy, M.M.; Ellenberger, J.L.; Esterhuizen, G.S.

A limestone mine in Ohio has had roof instability problems that have led to massive roof falls extending to the surface. This paper describes a collaborative study of these events undertaken by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the mine owners. The study focuses on the roles that weak, moisture-sensitive floor and weak bands in pillars play in a general instability that led to roof falls at this mine. The NIOSH Stone Mine Pillar Design software (S-Pillar) does not include analysis for weak floor or weak bands and recommends that when such issues arise they should be investigated further using a more advanced analysis. It is important to recognize that without the impact of the floor or weak bands, the calculated inherent stability factor for these pillars is within the recommended design range. Therefore, to further investigate the observed instability occurring on a large scale at the Ohio mine, FLAC3D numerical models were employed to help determine the failure mechanism. Roof-to-floor convergence monitors were also installed in the areas predicted to have further instability. This case study will provide important information to limestone mine operators regarding the impact of weak floor causing the potential for roof collapse, pillar failure, and subsequent subsidence of the ground surface. This recent case demonstrates that weak floor can be a significant factor in pillar stability and should be assessed during the design stage of the mine.