Subsidence Control by Backfilling

Allen, Alice S. ; Paone, James
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 17
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
SURFACE SUBSIDENCE IN MINING The consequences of subsidence are becoming progressively more serious as the consumption of an ever- increasing quantity of minerals conflicts with the needs of an expanding population for surface land area. The inevitable result will be an increase in the amount of land area on which undermining is restricted because surface subsidence must be prevented. Designation of land areas that may be undermined, provided that subsidence is controlled and kept within specified limits, also will increase. The decisions as to which land is to be used for urban, agricultural, or other purposes clearly involve considerations that go far beyond the scope of mining technology. Under the authority assigned to the US Bureau of Mines (USBM) by the Organic Act (May 16, 1910) and its succeeding amendments and pursuant regulations (30 U.S.C. 1-1 1 ), the Bureau conducts scientific and technologic investigations concerning mining and its related problems. Subsidence-control demonstrations that have been conducted under this authority include projects in Wyoming, West Virginia, Illinois, and the Pennsylvania anthracite region. The problenls for technology arc to devise methods for extracting minerals with controlled subsidence in varying geologic settings and for calculating or predicting the amount, extent, and characteristics of the subsidence that accompanies the extraction of our principal minerals mined by high-tonnage methods so that logical choices can be made from the possible alternative approaches. Where underground minerals and fuels are mined and removed, the voids that are created underground generate strong imbalanced stresses in the surrounding and overlying rock strata. The resulting readjustments in the rock masses may cause subsidence of the ground surface. Subsidence implies vertical collapse, because the most conspicuous component of movement is downward. However, the downward component is accompanied by differential horizontal strains that may be more damaging to man-made surface structure.; than the more apparent vertical displacements. SUBSIDENCE CONTROL The most widespread method of alleviating potential subsidence problems in undermined areas has been to backfill mine voids with mine refuse or some other in- expensive material that provides lateral support to the remaining mine pillars and vertical support to the mine roof and overburden. Most USBM backfilling work has been conducted jointly with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources in the anthracite region of northeastern Pennsylvania. These joint projects were conducted under the authority of the Anthracite Mine Drainage Control Act of July 15, 1955 (Public Law 84-162, as amended), and the Appalachian Regional Development Act of 1965 (Public Law 89-4. as amended). In addition to the Appalachian and mine-drainage projects, the Bureau has either conducted or participated in demonstration projects to develop the "pumped- slurry" method of backfilling mine voids. Three of these projects were conducted in Rock Springs, WY. The first was a field test of the pumped-slurry technique, conducted in 1970 under the combined participation of the City of Rock Springs, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Dowell Div. of the Dow Chemical Co., and USBM (Candeub, Fleissig, 1971). The objective was to demonstrate that a large quantity of sand could be hydraulically injected under pressure through a single borehole, and that filling of the mine voids would be essentially complete. In the earlier "blind-flushing" methods, involving sluicing material through boreholes by gravity, quantities per injection hole ranged from 15 to 765 m3 (20 to 1000 cu yd), and the mine voids were only partially filled. In the first test of the pumped-slurry method, approximately 14 900 m (19,500 cu yd) of sand were injected success- fully through a single borehole. Subsequent information obtained through 43 monitoring boreholes indicated that mine voids below 11 330 m2 (2.8 acres) had been filled. As a result of the successful initial test of the pumped-slurry process, USBM conducted additional backfilling demonstration projects using the new technique. The first full-scale demonstration was carried out in the Green Ridge section of Scranton, PA, between 1972 and 1974. This project proved the feasibility of using the new hydraulic-injection technique to back- fill dry mine voids, as well as flooded voids, and it demonstrated that crushed anthracite refuse could be used as easily as sand in the process. Stabilization was pro- vided for about 202 300 m2 (50 acres) of Scranton, having a population of approximately 1000. Additional demonstration projects at Rock Springs, WY, between 1973 and 1975, resulted in the stabilization of about 364 200 m2 (90 acres). The work was necessary to preserve the physical and economic well- being of the city, because there have been numerous occurrences of subsidence during recent years. A demonstration project completed in 1976 in Rock Springs brought the total stabilized area in that city to 647 500 m2 (160 acres). At a cost of about $3,000,000, a population estimated at 7000 persons and property values exceeding $18,000,000 were protected. Presently. USBM is participating in subsidence- control projects involving backfilling in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and West Virginia. Eleven demonstration projects were in progress by USBM in 1977-eight in the Pennsylvania anthracite region and three in bituminous areas of West Virginia (one) and Illinois (two). The estimated total property value is over $100,500,000, and the total cost of the projects is expected to be nearly $20,000,000. The demonstration projects are designed to adapt the pumped-slurry technique to a variety of subsurface conditions, to increase efficiency, and to reduce costs.
Full Article Download:
(1643 kb)