Subsidence and time

Aughenbaugh, N. B. ; Elifrits, C. D.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 3
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1987
Introduction Federal and state laws enacted to regulate coal mining and the accompanying public concern about the adverse effects that mining might have on land use have focused much attention on the subsidence of the land surfaces over underground mines. Some questions asked are • Will abandoned mines subside in the future even though they have exhibited no surface adjustment to date? If so, when will subsidence take place? • Can a specific surface area be affected by subsi¬dence more than once? • What surface form will the subsidence feature take? • Is there any way to predict when subsidence will occur and end? An attempt is made here to address these questions insofar as it is possible with available data and experience of evaluation of subcritical extraction conditions. Mining that results in subsidence features can be classified as supercritical, subcritical, and critical with respect to the minimum span lengths of the worked-out rooms (Fig. 1). A complete basin will not develop fully immediately over subcritical conditions because the span lengths of the entries are less than the critical dimension (Wardell, 1983). Passageways, entries, and room-and-pillar panels are all included in the subcritical category. Because of the short span lengths, subcritical mining conditions tend to be stable over the life of the mine unless adverse geologic conditions exist (Gray et al., 1974; Dunrud, 1976). Various roof control and support procedures are employed to maintain entry stability during mining. Little information exists concerning the time factor of subsidence over areas of subcritical extraction. Data that have been collected relate to longwall mines, whereby the cavity sizes are designed large enough to induce caving behind the working faces so that complete subsidence at the surface occurs within a short period of time. The UK's National Coal Board (1975) has reduced the enormous amount of data it has collected to empirical correlations and has published these correlations in its Subsidence Engineers Handbook. The handbook states that "None of the foregoing remarks applies to pillar and stall working," with respect to the section discussing the time factor of subsidence caused by longwall mining (National Coal Board, 1975, p. 40). To understand and evaluate how time relates to subsidence above room-and-pillar mines, one must first recognize how mine cavities deteriorate and fail. The propagation of failure to the surface must then be studied, and, finally, the failures that are manifest at the surface in the form of depressions accompanied by both compressional and tensional movements must be investigated. Failure of mine cavities Any cavity beneath the earth's surface represents a condition of nonequilibrium and tends to close with time. Failure of cavities in a subcritical mine can be classified as failure of the roof, failure of the floor, failure of the supports (pillars, cribs), and elastic rebound of the rock. One mode of failure may dominate, but generally combinations of the four will occur. Also, initial instability of geologic materials and structural features and in situ stress may be unknown factors that can contribute to cavity failure. Roof failure is the most obvious opening stability problem in most operating mines. The bridging capabilities of the roof rock are dependent on the rock's material strength, geologic discontinuities, and reaction to humidity changes in the air of the mine. This type of failure may vary in magnitude from gradual flaking to massive roof falls. Mine floor instability can be manifest in the form of a general heave over a broad area or of individual pillar punching. The weaker and thicker the immediate floor material, the more prone a mine is to experience floor problems. Water seeping into an area can soften the underclay, reduce its bearing capacity, and precipitate failure of support for the overburden.
Full Article Download:
(248 kb)