Instability in stope panels in shallow mines manifests itself as rockfalls from the hangingwall. Rockfalls from unstable stope panels vary in size from rockfalls between support units, to rockfalls spanning between pillars or solid abutments, to rockfalls bridging several panels and pillars. A suitable and reliable design methodology for stable stope panels at shallow depths is therefore required. This methodology must consider all manifestations of instability in stope panels and take account of the factors governing the stability. Very few mines design stope panels according to a systematic design procedure or methodology. Rock mass characterisation, estimation of rock mass properties, identification of potential failure modes, appropriate stability analyses and other elements of the rock engineering design process are often neglected. Instead, panel lengths are often dictated by the equipment in use and by previous experience under similar conditions. Consequently, unplanned stope panel collapses occur on most near-surface and shallow mines. Although these incidents often occur during blasting, they pose a major threat to the safety of underground workers and the economic extraction of orebodies. Hence, a rock engineering design methodology for the design of stable stope panels between pillars is of vital importance for optimum safety and production in shallow mining operations. Using the proposed design methodology, rock mechanics practitioners and mine planners should be able to identify and quantify the critical factors influencing the stability of stope panels. The critical factors should then be used as input to the design of stable stope panels that will provide the necessary safe environment for underground personnel working in stopes. It is concluded that the design of stable stope panels should be a process of defining the means of creating stable stope panels for the safety of underground workers and optimum extraction of the orebody. Therefore, a method is required whereby all rock properties, their variability, and an understanding of all rock mechanisms affecting the stability of stope spans are used as a fundamental base. A procedure for identifying the mechanisms and rock properties relevant to the specific problem is then required. In this way, existing knowledge should be used in an optimal way to design site specific stable stope spans. Hence, it is proposed that the design methodology for stable stope panels is a process consisting of the following steps: 1. Define objective. 2. Rock mass characterisation. 3. Estimation of in situ rock mass properties. 4. Consider an “ideal” stope panel. 5. Identification of potential failure modes. 6. Stability analyses. 7. Identify all significant hazards and assess the significant risks. 8. Geometric optimisation. 9. Determination of support requirements. 10. Design of support. 11. Evaluation. 12. Recommendation and implementation. 13. Monitoring of excavation and support behaviour to validate design and permit modifications.
Dissertation (MEng (Mining))--University of Pretoria, 2006.