State of the Art of Shotcrete

Connell, James P.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND The American Concrete Institute defines shotcrete as "mortar or concrete conveyed through a hose and pneumatically projected at high velocity onto a surface." This definition thus includes what is traditionally known as gunite, which is a pneumatically applied mortar. In mining practice, the term shotcrete is restricted to pneumatically applied concrete, and this differentiation will be used in this chapter. In 1914, following the invention of the mortar gun in 1907, then chief engineer of the US Bureau of Mines (USBM) George Rice developed the gunite process for underground test work at the USBM facility at Bruceton, PA. After World War I, gunite was used extensively in American mines and was also utilized for underground civil works such as the San Jacinto tunnel in California. The greatest development was in Europe where, as early as 1911, gunite was successfully used as an overlay for deteriorated tunnel linings. In 1951, the Swiss firm Aliva developed a pneumatic gun capable of handling coarse aggregate, thus making possible the first use of shotcrete at the Maggia hydropower development. Initially, shotcrete was used to reduce manpower requirements for forming and placing conventional concrete. However, by 1954 Sonderegger was reporting that the structural advantages of shotcrete were derived from its flexibility and from the fact that it could be applied almost immediately after the opening had been made. The incorporation of wire mesh into the shotcrete led to the new Austrian tunnel method or NATM. The use of shotcrete in American mines has been implemented more recently. This delay seems to be due to previously unsuccessful experiences with gunite as a structural material and to the US reliance on wood or steel supports in main-line haulageways. The long experience with the apparently more substantial rigid supports led mine operators to be reluctant to accept the new and seemingly unrealistic lighter shotcrete support. APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS Shotcrete is a relatively new material for use in underground support systems. Consequently, experienced miners are not always available who are capable of applying the material effectively. Shotcrete, particularly in the small cross sections typical of mine shafts or haulageways, is applied in cramped quarters under less than ideal conditions. Adequate lighting should be made available. The surface should be clean and free of running or dripping water. It may be necessary to collect flowing water in plastic pipes or water collection devices. Any dry cement dust from previous shotcrete applications should be washed from the surface in order to assure a good bond. The US Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) while shooting test panels at the Cunningham tunnel in 1974, found that experienced shotcrete operators were able to obtain up to three times greater compressive strengths than were obtained by unskilled operators using the same equipment and shotcrete mix. ENVIRONMENTAL AND SAFETY REQUIREMENTS Since sodium and potassium hydroxide, as well as other moderately toxic compounds, are often contained in shotcrete (particularly where accelerators are used), safety precautions must be taken to prevent skin and respiratory irritation. Nozzlemen and helpers are required to wear gloves, protective clothing, and ventilation hoods with a filtered air supply. Respirators approved by USBM, equipped with chemical filters that will not pass the caustic mists, may be permitted in lieu of hoods if goggles or safety glasses are worn. Protective ointments are available to reduce skin irritation. All air and shotcrete feed hoses should be equipped with safety-type couplings and secured with safety chains at each coupling to prevent whipping in the event of a hose or coupling failure. Some environmental effects can take place down-stream from the development face being supported. The accelerator compounds, as well as the portland cement used in the shotcrete, will be found in the rebound material which falls to the invert of the heading. Since these compounds may be leached from the rebound material and carried by the drainage system, it may be necessary to install neutralizing or other water treatment facilities. Investigations may find that the final reaction with other compounds being leached from the mining operations may result in a more or less environmentally acceptable end product. USES OF SHOTCRETE General Uses Shotcrete, as a combination of cement, aggregate, and accelerator, is utilized for underground openings such as shafts, adits, haulageways, and service chambers for the following general purposes : (1) primary supĀ¬port; (2) final lining; (3) protective covering for excavated surfaces that are altered when exposed to air (the protective covering may be of a temporary or final nature); (4) protective covering for steel or wooden supports, rockbolts and rockbolt plates, heads, nuts, and other mats, including wire fabric, used to prevent rock-falls; and (5) as a lagging material in place of timber, steel, or concrete between steel or wooden supports. These applications can be grouped into three general use categories: shotcrete used as a rock sealant, shotcrete used as a safety measure, and shotcrete used as a structural support. Use as a Rock Sealant Thin applications of shotcrete can reduce or prevent slaking of shales or other rocks that are altered when exposed to the wetting and drying cycles created by mine ventilation circuits. While shotcrete may be effective in preventing such rock alteration, at the present time it is not as economical or efficient as other commercial sealants. However, if the sealant property can be incorporated into the structural support capability, the added contribution is usually helpful. Thin applications are not usually sufficient if the alteration of the
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