Rock Mechanics and the Analysis of Underground Mine Stability Adjacent to Coal Refuse Impoundments

Newman, David
Organization: International Conference on Ground Control in Mining
Pages: 8
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2003
Coal refuse impoundments and underground mines are frequently sited in close vertical and horizontal proximity in the valleys of the Southern Appalachian coalfield. The steep V-shaped valleys provide the volume necessary for slurry storage against a coarse refuse embankment that is constructed across the valley mouth. The presence of coal outcrops on the valley walls provides economic access to mineable coal seams that may be located under several thousand feet of overburden beneath the adjacent ridges. In some instances where the underground mine precedes the slurry impoundment, the type of mining (partial or complete extraction) and pillar centers were selected without consideration for the potential future use of the valley as an impounding structure. The high standard established for the design and stability analysis of the coarse refuse embankments is clearly illustrated by the absence of an embankment failure in the thirty-one years since Buffalo Creek. However, the recent Martin County slurry spill focused attention on a thorough geotechnical analysis to prevent a connection between the flowable slurry and the mine void. The overburden, roof, pillar, floor, and outcrop barrier stability are examined to quantify the break through potential. The strength and physical properties of the consolidated fine refuse are also important since this material is often the most well-defined and quantifiable barrier separating the slurry and mine void. Because each site is unique, the appropriate analysis ranges from the calculation of roof, pillar, and floor safety factors to detailed numerical modeling of the mine workings and the determination of ground deformation and strains resulting from mine subsidence. The method of refuse disposal may be altered to slurry cells where the accuracy of the mine maps, extent of mining, type of mining (development or retreat) cannot be reliably verified or the break through analysis does not produce an acceptable level of risk. Case histories from the Southern Appalachian coalfield are used to illustrate the application of methodologies to quantify the break through potential of coal refuse impoundments.
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