Ore Body Ground Conditions

Hansen, Douglas E. ; Lachel, D. J. ; Kennedy, Bruce
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 31
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
The very high cost of exploration and development for new mines requires that a carefully planned, complete, and technically competent geotechnical evaluation be applied to the ore body and the surrounding rock. The ground conditions must be predetermined sufficiently so that, during the development and exploitation stages, unexpected conditions will be of minor consequence. Ground conditions are a major factor affecting the cost of excavated items such as shafts and inclines. For example, shafts cost less to sink in tight dry ground than in highly pervious ground below the water table, with all other factors being equal. The proper mining methods also is dependent upon the ground conditions. Bad ground for room-and-pillar mining may be ideal for caving methods; whereas, ideal ground for room-and-pillar mining would be extremely difficult for a caving operation. To do a proper engineering design, the parameters of strength, deformability, and permeability must be determined, in addition to the loads that will be applied as a result of the mining activity. The required degree of accuracy for each parameter depends upon the individual case. For example, the strength of massive rock in which openings of small cross-sectional area are to be driven at shallow depths needs to be resolved only within several thousand kilopascals (pounds per square inch). Under such conditions, the rock strength is not likely to be of great economic importance unless the rock is very weak. Large openings at great depths require a much more accurate appraisal of rock strength and deformation characteristics. Ground water conditions are important at any depth. Today, a number of techniques exist for evaluating conditions before opening up the ground for development. These techniques and their applications are described in more detail later in this text. The evaluation of ore body ground conditions should start at an early stage, as soon as the deposit has been proven viable for a mine. Economic geology investigations mainly serve to define the value and limits of the ore deposit. To do this properly, the geology of the site is determined in at least as much detail as is necessary to define the "controls" for the ore body. The ground-condition evaluation must determine the engineering properties of the ore body and the surrounding material. This includes the structural geology as it relates to rock strength; i.e., the frequency, extent, and orientation of discontinuities such as faults, joints, bedding, etc. Ground water conditions also must be determined. It is important that the detailed geology of the site be determined at an early date. Reasonable geotechnical parameters must be established during this time period, so they can be used in mining model studies that include both physical and mathematical models. The ultimate goal bf-the geotechnical evaluation is to predict the ground behavior as the excavations are made and how the ground behavior will affect the safety and economic well-being of the mine. The formulation of a ground-condition evaluation program should be planned carefully to determine the particular geotechnical parameters only in as great a detail as will have a bearing on the mine design. For instance, it is not necessary to make numerous triaxial tests in strong rock when the mining will be conducted within a few meters (feet) of the surface in a regime of gravity loading and an absence of tectonic stresses. Similarly, it is not necessary to invest large amounts of time and effort in the determination of joint strengths if the orientations of the joints are such that the failure could not occur along them. Generally, the determination of ore body ground conditions can be divided into four main steps: 1) The general and structural geology of the site must be determined; this is determined primarily during the economic evaluation. 2) The material behavior characteristics of the deposit and the vicinity must be determined. 3) The ground water hydrology of the deposit and the vicinity must be determined. 4) Miscellaneous ground support considerations must be established. Gross features are defined first, followed by a series of increasingly detailed investigations. Specifically, the geology study should start by utilizing techniques such as remote sensing, topographic map interpretation, geologic mapping, etc. After the gross features, such as major faults, have been delineated, the studies are directed toward defining the more detailed elements of jointing, rock strength, ground water hydrology, and other characteristics. This information is used to formulate an assessment of the strength of the ore body and the surrounding rock. Finally, all of the gathered information is integrated to make an assessment of the rock behavior in relation to the types of openings, the excavation methods, the support requirements, etc., that should be used for the rock conditions that are present. The mine design and the geotechnical assessment should be an iterative process. General conclusions about the rock conditions will dictate a type of mine plan. The specific mine plan then should be modified by specific geotechnical considerations. For example, an initial assessment may conclude that the ore body is strong and that a strong rock unit is present over the ore body. Thus, one definite possibility is to mine the deposit by room-and-pillar methods. However, subsequent investigations may reveal faults through the deposit, requiring relocation of the mine openings so that pillars and other structures are in sound rock. In other words, the final mine plan should be compatible with the geotechnical aspects of the ore body.
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