Geotechnical Areas Associated With The Ventersdorp Contact Reef, Witwatersrand Basin, South Africa

Roberts, M. K.
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 10
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1999
The approximately 2800 Ma old Ventersdorp Contact Reef is a unique Witwatersrand orebody, from which about 6% of the world?s gold production is derived. A major portion of this production is mined at depths exceeding 2500 m and deepest levels of mining are at about 3600 m. The orebody?s hangingwall consists of volcanic rocks. This differs from the older Witwatersrand orebodies, which have quartzitic hangingwalls. The thickness of the Ventersdorp Contact Reef is generally about 1.20 m, but is highly variable, at an average dip of about 18°. A pronounced unconformity beneath this orebody is also expressed by varying footwall rock type characteristics and frequent rolling of the reef plane. These rolls follow topographic variations of the palaeo-surface. More geological than rock mechanics studies were performed on the Ventersdorp Contact Reef prior to 1992. Recently, however, a multidisciplinary team comprising various rock engineering and geological disciplines has delineated geotechnical areas by a novel technique. Geotechnical areas are defined by distinct footwall/hangingwall rock assemblages. The presence of three footwall and two hangingwall rock types results in the definition of six geotechnical areas across a distance exceeding 60 km, including about 10 gold mines. Distinct rock mass behaviour has been documented in three of the six geotechnically defined areas. Different rock mass behaviour is expressed by features such as mining-induced fracturing, closure rates, fall of ground characteristics and seismic character. Some geological features override the rock mass behaviour as defined for the individual geotechnical areas. These are undulations of the orebody or the frequency, characteristics and attitude of major discontinuities. It is concluded that the concept of geotechnically subdividing orebodies is not only important for facies delineation and the associated grade, but also needs to be considered for safety aspects, in determining factors such as the appropriate support to be employed.
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