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Mechanized Excavability Rating For Hard-Rock Mining; Proceedings Of The International Workshop On Rock Mass Classification In Underground Mining
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    After emphasizing the importance of quantitative rock mass classifications in mining, originally directed to selection of rock support measures, but subsequently to estimates of rock mass properties such as rock mass strength and rock mass modulus of deformation, current attention calls for a classification specifically for rock mass excavability by tunnel boring machines (TBMs), which are used extensively in tunneling as well as in the mining industry. This paper introduces the Rock Mass Excavability (RME) index for predicting excavability of rock masses by TBMs using a quantification of machine performance and rock mass conditions. The RME index is based on five input parameters aimed at relating rock mass behavior and machine characteristics: (1) uniaxial compressive strength of the rock material, (2) drillability/abrasivity, (3) rock mass jointing at mine drift face, (4) standup time of the excavation, and (5) groundwater inflow. Development of the RME index entailed the collection of extensive data from more than 28 km of tunnels and some 400 case records from projects in Spain involving double-shield TBMs. In the process, a number of statistical correlations have been established between RME and such output parameters as degree of machine utilization, advance and penetration rates, thrust and torque of the cutterhead, and the specific energy of excavation. It was found that the RME index provides a particularly significant correlation for predicting the average rate of advance (m/day). In essence, the RME index is a classification system that features interaction of rock mass conditions with boring machine characteristics for use in the early stages of a project. It should be noted that the RME index does not replace the Rock Mass Rating (RMR) or Q-systems as used in mining and tunneling; indeed, one of the RME input parameters, standup time, is determined from the RMR. However, the approach presented introduces a specialized tool relevant to excavating tunnels and drifts. Possible applications to hard-rock mining are explored.

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