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|Failure and fracturing are often regarded as synonymous. While this is obviously true in an environment dominated by tensile stresses, it is still not clear how failure and macro fracturing are related in a compressive stress environment. Excavations at great depths are typically subjected to compressive stresses only. The fracturing observed around such excavations is therefore commonly assumed to be induced by such compressive stresses. The physics of such a phenomenon have unfortunately never been explained properly, so that the formation of these so-called extension fractures still remains a mystery. As the presence of fractures is an important factor affecting the stability of underground excavations, it is of practical relevance to understand their formation. In this paper, a possible explanation is proposed. It is argued that fracturing in a compressive stress environment is a secondary effect. Primary failure, in the form of micro fracturing and associated damage is assumed to precede the major fracture processes. The fractures are thus generated in response to material failure and may not directly be the cause of failure. The implications for material response and behaviour are discussed. Keywords: micro fracturing, macro fracturing, extension fractures, failure, compressive stresses, damage, excavations.|