Design Methods To Control Violent Pillar Failures In Room-And- Pillar Mines - Synopsis
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Design Methods To Control Violent Pillar Failures In Room-And- Pillar Mines - Synopsis

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      The sudden, violent collapse of large areas of room-and-pillar mines poses a special hazard for miners and mine operators. This type of failure, termed a 'cascading pillar failure' (CPF), occurs when one pillar in a mine layout fails, transferring its load to neighbouring pillars, which causes them to fail, and so forth. Recent examples of this kind of failure in coal, metal and nonmetal mines in the U.S.A. are documented. Mining engineers can limit the danger presented by these failures through improved mine design practices. Whether failure occurs in a slow, non-violent manner or in a rapid, violent manner is governed by the local mine stiffness stability criterion. This stability criterion is used as the basis for three design approaches to control cascading pillar failure in room-and-pillar mines-the containment approach, the prevention approach and the full extraction mining approach. These design approaches are illustrated with practical examples for coal mining at shallow depth. Cascading pillar failure {CPF) in room-and-pillar mines can go by many other names, such as `progressive pillar failure', `massive pillar collapse', 'domino-type failure' or 'pillar run'. In this kind of failure when one pillar collapses the load that it carried transfers rapidly to its neighbours, causing them to fail, and so forth. This failure mechanism can lead to the rapid collapse of very large mine areas. In mild cases only a few tens of pillars might fail; in extreme cases, however, hundreds, even thousands, of pillars can fail. CPF can have catastrophic effects on a mine, and sometimes these effects pose a greater risk to health and safety than the underlying ground-control problem. Usually, the CPF induces a devastating air blast as a consequence of the displacement of air from the collapse area. An air blast can disrupt the ventilation system totally by destroying ventilation stoppings, seals and fan housings. Flying debris can seriously injure or kill mining personnel. The CPF might also fracture a large volume of rock in the pillars and immediate roof and floor. In coal mines and certain other mines this can lead to the sudden release of large quantities of methane gas into the mine atmosphere; a methane explosion might result from the CPF. CPF is at the far end of the spectrum of unstable pillar failure. At the other end are slow `squeezes' that develop over days to weeks and, because of their slow progress, do not pose an immediate danger to mining personnel. There is ample warning time for men and machinery to get out of the way of the failure. In a CPF, however, the failure progresses so rapidly that men and equipment cannot be evacuated in time. Significant seismic energy is released as a consequence of the rapid failure and collapse. CPF should not be confused, however, with coal-mine bumps and rockbursts. In some cases the damage can appear similar, but the underlying mechanics are completely different. As will he shown later, the mechanics of CPF depend on the applied vertical stress and the post-failure, i.e. strain-softening, behaviour of the pillars. In a CPF pillars shed their applied load rapidly and have very little residual strength after failure. The collapse itself may release significant seismic energy, but otherwise the mine is seismically quiet. Alter a CPF the openings in the affected mine workings have usually closed completely. In contrast, coal-mine bumps and rockbursts occur in seismically active mines. Research has shown that coal-mine bumps and rockbursts are seismic events induced by mining that damage underground mine workings. Bumps and bursts are thus a subset of a much larger set of mining-induced seismic events.[ Only some of these seismic events damage mine workings; fortunately, most do not. The mechanisms by which a mining-induced seismic event can lead to a damaging coal-mine bump or rockburst is still a significant research area.2 After a bump or rockhursr the affected mine workings may or
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