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Roof control, pillar stability and ground control issues in underground stone mines

Mining Engineering , 2017, Vol. 69, No. 8, pp. 53-58

Newman, D.



Ground control is critical to the success of a safe and productive underground stone mining operation. The primary focus of the ground control engineer is the stability of the roof or back; development and benched pillar stability; stability of the sill pillar between vertically adjacent mining levels; and floor stability. Roof stability begins with the selection of a stable back horizon based on the presence of a thin shale parting, stylolite or other discontinuity from which the production shot can easily peel away, leaving a stable back stratum. Bed thickness, fracture spacing, jointing and the material properties of the roof strata control the room width; the decision whether to bolt the roof; the bolt length, type and diameter; and the spacing of the roof support. Horizontal stress controls the header and crosscut azimuth. The mine operator should avoid driving perpendicular to the maximum horizontal stress direction. Where this is unavoidable, narrowing the opening width, narrowing pillar centers, increasing the support density and using three-way intersections are alternatives to remediate shearing along the roof-rib interface. Stable pillar dimensions depend upon the interaction of the vertical stress resulting from overburden thickness and multiple-level interaction of overlying level or levels; the mining height during development and the final mining height after floor shots are taken during benching; the presence of faults, folds or joints passing through the pillar; and limestone lithology, recognizing that the presence of oolitic bands, shale partings, joints and bentonite beds creates zones of weakness that can destabilize an otherwise competent pillar. Floor stability is typically not a significant issue for underground stone mines because the bearing capacity of the stone typically exceeds the vertical pressure transferred through the pillar. However, floor heave can be a ground control issue where shale partings, moisture-sensitive strata, weak stone bands or horizontal stress is present. Roof stability and pillar stability problems can be initiated as the floor heave enables the pillar and roof to settle. To illustrate these ground control issues, this paper presents four case histories that are a mix of ground failures and successful mining. The focus is on the geotechnical data required for roof, pillar and floor design and stability analysis.