Safe Pillar Extraction Practice - Some Geotechnical Principles Based on Australian Experience

Hebblewhite, Bruce K
Organization: International Conference on Ground Control in Mining
Pages: 7
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2011
Underground pillar extraction continues to be practiced in Australia in various forms, in spite of the dominance of the longwall method, which accounts for over 90% of underground production. Australia has been a leader in various forms of pillar extraction, particularly since mechanisation was introduced to the industry during the middle of the 20th century. Historical developments have included a range of thick seam mining pillar extraction methods; the widely adopted Wongawilli method; early adoption of the use of mechanized breaker line supports; and a number of more recent partial extraction systems including what is known as rib stripping. Current pillar extraction practice varies from total extraction panels to various forms of partial extraction, driven by either surface subsidence constraints or by underground conditions. This paper reviews a number of different pillar extraction methods and mining layouts, and also highlighting a number of fundamental geotechnical principles which have been found to be critical for safe pillar extraction ? often through lessons learned the hard way, as a result of back analysis of different accident scenarios. These principles include the all-important understanding of the location of the goaf (gob) edge at any point in the operation, and the management of that goaf edge; the impact of geological structures on local and regional stability; the critical importance of extraction lifting sequences; the role of stooks (remnant pillars); and a number of other factors. The paper will also briefly reference the educational and training practices adopted in Australia aimed at the continuous improvement of pillar extraction safety.
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