Overburden Movement Due to Underground Mining

Peng, Syd S. ; Centofanti, K. ; Luo, Yi ; Ma, W. M. ; Su, Daniel W. H. ; Zhong, W. L.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 8
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1992
1.1 INTRODUCTION When underground mining involves total extraction, it induces overburden strata movements. If not properly planned it causes surface subsidence and affects surface environmental conditions. Total extraction usually refers to longwall mining and room and pillar mining with pillar extraction. Surface subsidence has long been a subject of intensive research for scientists all over the world and considerable achievements have been obtained. However due to its difficulties and complicated nature, research into overburden movement has been thus far incomplete as compared to that into surface subsidence. Since surface subsidence is a manifestation of the results of overburden movement, the processes and mechanisms of overburden movement must be fully understood in order to establish the mathematical prediction models of surface subsidence. In this chapter the processes of overburden movement and its zones of movement in the overburden will be discussed. 1.2 PROCESSES OF OVERBURDEN MOVEMENT When total extraction is used, it produces a large void in the coal seam and disturbs the equilibrium conditions of the surrounding rock strata. The roof strata bend downward while the floor heaves. When the excavated area (or gob) expands to a sufficient size, the roof strata will cave. As a result, the overlying strata continue to bend and break until the piles of the fallen rock fragments are sufficiently high to support the overhanging strata. At this tie the overhanging strata no longer cave, but bend and rest on the underlying strata. Strata bending and subsidence develop upward until reaching the surface and forming a subsidence basin. The whole overburden strata and the surface subsidence basin will further go through a period of compaction and gradually become stabilized. Current knowledge regarding the process of overburden movement has been derived from several sources. One is the direct observation of the mined sections and their surfaces, another from field monitoring of strata movements in the overburden, and others from computer modeling and scale modeling in the laboratory. For example, Figs. 1.1 and 1.2 show the results of a borehole monitoring experiment (Borehole B-2) using the full profile borehole inclinometer and full profile borehole extensometer for lateral displacements and vertical subsidence, respectively (Conroy and Gyarmaty, 1983). The panel, 400 ft wide by 5000 ft long and 630 ft deep, was extracted from the Pittsburgh No. 8 seam which had an average thickness of 54 in. The face advanced from east to west. Curve A in Fig. 1.1 shows the inclination of the borehole when it was 45 ft ahead of the face at Position A (i.e., on the solid coal side). The total deviation of the borehole was 1/7000. The first shear movement occurred at 130 ft above the coal seam and appeared to have occurred along the bedding plane with large contrast of rock strata on both sides, i.e., sandstone vs. shale. When the face had passed the borehole 79 ft at Position B, the borehole deformed to assume a bow shape with a maximum deviation of 2.8 in. from the center line. Numerous shearing planes occurred and extended further upward. When the face had passed the borehole by 75 ft at position C, strata subsidence was measured. Fig. 1.2 shows that a strata separation as large as 4 ft occurred at 40 to 100 ft above the coal seam. Above this level, the strata subsided more uniformly with bedding separations within 1 to 2 in. Another example is the longwall mining with complete caving in the Soviet Union's Karaganda Coalfield (Kolebaeva, 1968). The coal seam was 6 ft thick and 154 ft deep. The immediate roof was the fine-grained sandstone interbedded with coarse-grained sandstone. Above this, there was sandy shale and shale. In order to monitor the process of overburden movement, 15 stations were established in a borehole (Fig. 1.3). The elevations of those stations were measured when the face was at various distances from the borehole. Fig. 1.3 shows the movement history of each station. For convenience of comparison, the movement history of each station was plotted on a common reference point as shown in Fig. 1.4. Clearly, the movements of strata from Station # 1 to #6 were nearly simultaneous, i.e., they behaved as a single unit. The strata from Station #7 to # 15 had differential separations, the maximum of which was 40 in. As the face passed by and moved away, strata separations in general reduced gradually. But strata separation between Stations #12 and #13 remained the same until the end of the monitoring period. The total bed separation between Station #7 and # 15 reached 11 in., approximately 18% of seam thickness, when the face was 132 ft beyond. Based on the above observations, the author developed a conceptual model of overburden movement due to underground longwall mining (Fig. 1.5). The above-mentioned two case studies illustrated that subsidence in the overburden strata propagates upward and subsidence velocity decreases from the bottom to the top. When the subsidence velocity at the surface reaches the maximum value, the subsidence velocity at the bottom portion of the overburden strata has decreased considerably and the strata have begun to compact. Bed separation occurs within a certain distance above the coal seam and reduces from the bottom to the top. When the face has moved away, bed separation reduces gradually, so that eventually some beds completely close and others partially close. Bed separation reaches the highest level when the subsidence velocity at the surface is at its maximum value. For instance in Fig. 1.4 surface subsidence velocity was maximum when the face was 38 to 44 ft past the point. At this time the total bed separation was maximum. Overall the strata directly above the opening are subjected to tension in the vertical direction. But above a certain level, all strata move nearly simultaneously. There is also significant shear movement along some bedding planes. 1.3 ZONES OF MOVEMENT INTHEOVERBURDEN After the extraction of a longwall panel or room and pillar section of sufficient width the strata in the overburden are subjected to various degrees of movement from the bottom to the top. According to the movement characteristics, the damaged overburden can be divided into four zones (Fig. 1.6). Caved Zone. After the extraction of coal, the immediate roof caves irregularly and fills up the void. The strata in this zone not only lose their continuity completely, they also lose their stratified
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