Rapid-Yielding Hydraulic Props for Deep Gold Mines

Wagner, H.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 4
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
INTRODUCTION One of the most important tasks facing the opera¬tors of deep-level gold mines is supporting the roof strata in the immediate vicinity of the stope faces. Some of the deeper gold mines operate at depths ex¬ceeding 3.0 km; the extreme mining depths and the tabular nature of the gold-bearing reefs result in high stress concentrations at the abutments of the stope faces. These, in turn, lead to extensive fracturing of even the hardest quartzites. Although most of these fractures develop in a stable manner, there have been many instances where rock failure occurred suddenly, resulting in a considerable amount of damage to the underground workings. Such violent rock failures commonly are known as "rock bursts," and they are typical of many hard-rock mines that are operating at great depths. To safeguard mining personnel and equipment against the effects of stable and unstable rock failures, adequate support must be provided to the fractured roof as quickly and as effec¬tively as possible. Traditionally, timber props and timber packs have been utilized to provide roof support in gold mine stopes up to 1.5 m wide. Both methods of support suffer from the fundamental disadvantage of generating sup¬port only in reaction to movement of the strata. Since unrestrained strata movement often results in a break¬down of the frictional forces that preserve the stability of the intensely fractured roof strata, it is essential that stope supports have rapid load-bearing characteristics. An equally important requirement is that the roof sup¬ports be able to accommodate displacements of the rock mass. A third requirement of roof supports in gold mine stopes is that they must be able to accommodate the high rates of stope convergence typical of rock bursts. The hydraulic prop is the obvious choice for sup¬porting the stope faces in deep-level hard-rock mines. Since hydraulic props can be installed with a positive setting load, they can provide roof support that is independent of strata movement. By equipping the hydraulic props with yield valves, they meet the require¬ment of being able to accommodate rock-mass displace¬ments. However, the requirement of being able to accommodate high rates of stope convergence without overloading or damaging the rock strata was rather difficult to meet. The first introduction of hydraulic roof supports into gold mine stopes showed that conventional hy¬draulic props, such as those used in coal mines, were completely unsuitable for a number of reasons, in¬cluding: 1) Since drilling and blasting are used to break the ore in gold mine stopes, supports installed close enough to be effective are exposed to the vigor of the blast. Conventional coal-mining props suffered extensive blast damage, despite being protected by a blast barricade. 2) The environmental conditions in gold mine stopes favor corrosion. The high quartz content and the abrasiveness of the ore further aggravate the problem by damaging the protective coatings on the hydraulic surfaces. Simply changing the design of gold mine props to have the piston project from the bottom rather than from the top resulted in dramatic improvements in the service life of the props. The improvement was attributable to external water in the stope washing the fine quartz grit away from the hydraulic surfaces, rather than concentrating the particles between the cylinder and piston of the prop. 3) The most obvious deficiency of conventional coal mining props was their inability to yield rapidly enough to accommodate the high convergence rates of rock bursts without overloading the supports. As a result of the first disappointing results with hydraulic supports in narrow hard-rock stopes mined by drilling and blasting, a comprehensive research and development program was undertaken. The hydraulic props resulting from several years of research and exten¬sive field trials are described herein. To date (1978), more than 130,000 of these props have been manufac¬tured and used successfully in a number of mines and under a variety of geological conditions. Although many of the detailed specifications are directed spe¬cifically to gold mining conditions, there are a number of points that are of general importance in the design of underground support systems for tabular excavations in hard-rock mines of any type. SPECIFICATIONS FOR RAPID-YIELDING PROPS Yield Requirements The yield requirements for hydraulic props in deep¬level hard-rock gold mines are summarized in the fol¬lowing paragraphs. Slow Yield Load: The design of the yield valve must allow the yield load to be preset to between 300 and 400 kN. This flexibility is necessary to account for the differences in the strength properties of the roof and floor strata. Drop in Load Under Slow Yield: The drop in sup¬port load during a slow yield should be as small as possible, but it should not exceed 5% of the slow-yield load. Rapid-Yield Load: The load exerted by the prop during periods of rapid stope convergence should be as close as possible to the slow-yield load. The rapid-yield load should not exceed the slow-yield load by more than 15% at yield rates of 1.0 m/s. The limitation of the upper valve of the yield load is important; it deter¬mines the hydraulic performance of the yield valve. The hydraulic props that satisfy this criterion have performed well, even under severe rock bursts. Load Changes Under Rapid Load: On some of the earlier rapid-yielding props, conditions of dynamic in¬stability were observed; these conditions resulted in a complete breakdown of support resistance. It is essen¬tial that the force oscillations during rapid yielding be as small as possible, not exceeding -*5% of the average rapid-yield load at a yield rate of 1.0 m/s. Longitudinal Resilience: During rock bursts, vibra¬tions of the roof and floor sometimes are observed. To
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