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CHAPTE R

59

The Stability Graph Method for Qpen-Stope Design

Yves Potvirt* and John Hadjigeorgioist

60*1

INTRODUCTION!

In the late 1970s to early 1980s, the underground metal-mining industry shifted its extraction strategy from highly selective "entry" methods, such as cut-and-fill, to "non-entry" methods such as open stoping. A review of Canadian practice has shown that 90% of the total production of underground metal mines, based on reported tonnage, rely on open-stope mining methods (Poulin et al. 1995). The popularity of open-stope operations can be attributed to the higher productions levels achieved by employing larger excavations and using mechanised equipment. Considering the high cost of developing each stope, there is a significant incentive to produce a smaller number of large open stopes. The consequences, however, of exceeding the maximum critical stable dimensions of a stope can be disastrous. Instability around open stopes may require large remedial costs for ground rehabilitation, production delays, mining equipment loss, ore reserves loss, and, at the extreme, injuries or fatalities to mine workers. Pakalnis (1986) reports that in a survey of 15 Canadian mines, almost half (47%) of the open-stope mines had more than 20% dilution with one fifth suffering excessive dilution of over 35%. Based on field data from 34 Canadian mines, Potvin (1988) demonstrated that open-stope design was based on past experi- ence of mine operators in similar mining conditions and on trial and error. Consequently, it can be argued that the reported high dilution rates in the early 1980s could be attributed to the absence of comprehensive engineering design tools. It follows that there are significant economic gains to be made by improving open-stope stability.

@Q d 2

EXCAVATION STABILITY

Evaluating the stability of a non-entry excavation such as a stope can be subjective. Unlike entry excavations in which mine workers have access, isolated rock falls in stopes are generally of no consequence, providing that they can be handled by mucking units. Therefore, a stope can be considered to be stable if it yields low dilution (less than 5%) and if there are no ground-fall- related operational problems. It has been argued (Pakalnis, Poulin, and Hadjigeorgiou 1995) that there is a unique accept- able dilution rate for every mine operation. This is defined as a function of ore grade, costs, grade of dilution material, and metal prices. Consequently, provided the operation remains safe and economical, it is possible to tolerate a level of dilution and a degree of instability for every stope. Open stopes that display excessive dilution and/or unmanageable stability problems are often referred to as caved. In this context, the term "caved" indi- cates major stability problems and should not be confused with the cave mining interpretation where it refers to orebody failure (cavings) after undercutting. This overlap of terminology has,

*

Australian Center for Geomechanics, Nedlands, WA, Australia,

t

Laval University, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

from time to time, been the source of confusion amongst people not familiar with open-stope mining. There are multiple and interrelated factors that potentially contribute to the instability of excavations. For convenience, they can be divided into two groups: the ones related to the in-situ conditions prevailing before mining, and the factors related to the disturbance of these conditions induced by mining. The premining conditions can be characterised by rock-mass classification schemes and supplemented with structural geology data and an estimation of the in-situ stress field. The major factors related to mining are the size, shape, and orientation of excavations as well as the ground support used (including back- fill). Blast damage and the effect of time in highly convergent rock may also affect the stability of excavations.

513

S0a3 DESCRIPTION OF TH E STABS LITY-

mAP U

The stability-graph method is an empirical method for open-stope design (non-entry excavations). It aims to account for and quantify the major factors influencing the stability of open stopes. A stability index for each stope surface is subsequently traced against its dimensions. A series of empirically derived guidelines allow for predictions on the overall stability of a stope. Since its introduction (Mathews et al. 1981), it has gained wide acceptance and is used worldwide as a design tool. There are documented case studies of the method being used in Africa, Europe, and the United States, and extensive databases of case studies in Canada and Australia. In practice, the stability graph can be employed during three distinct mining stages. Its primary use is during the feasibility stage but it has also been found useful during individual stope planning. Finally, through the use of back analysis, it provides an index of stope performance and allows the mine operation to develop reme- dial strategies where warranted. The method traces its origin to the recognition that tradi- tional rock-mass classification and design tools were based on tunnelling case studies. A review of some case studies and engi- neering judgement resulted in the first version of the method, whereby a stability number (N) was traced against the hydraulic radius of a stope surface. The stability-graph method uses the NGI tunnelling index Q (Barton, Lien, and Lunde 1974) as a basis for estimating rock- mass quality.

¡1ETO0O

where:

Q = NGI tunnelling index with

RQD = rock quality designation

514

FIG URE SO 1

10

15

Hydraulic radios (m)

Stability graph, after Mathews et al. (1981)

J' r = joint roughness number

J w

= joint water reduction number

J

n

= joint set number

J

a

= joint alteration number

SRF = stress reduction factor

Using SRF equal to 1 is a departure from the original system (Barton, Lien, and Lunde 1974). This modified tunnelling index, Q, is further adjusted to account for stress, rock defect orienta- tion, and design-surface orientation factors to arrive at a stability number N. The stability number was plotted against the hydraulic radius (surface area/perimeter) of the studied surface of an exca- vation (Mathews et al. 1981). Three zones of potentially stable, unstable, and caving were proposed with reference to the predicted stability of an excavation (see Figure 60.1). In its early days, a major shortcoming of the method was that it was backed by limited field data—26 case studies from three mines. Once the database was expanded to 175 cases from 34 mines and the stability graph modified (Potvin 1988), the method rapidly gained wide acceptance in the Canadian mining industry. The transition zone from stable to unstable was reduced significantly, thus removing some of the subjectivity in using the design chart (see Figure 60.2). It should be noted that in the Potvin database, the adjustment factors were different than those proposed by Mathews et al. (1981). This resulted in what is commonly referred to as the modified stability-graph method using a stability index AT.

where:

N'

=

AT = stability number

Q'xAxBxC

Q'

= modified tunnelling quality index (NGI)

A

= stress factor

B

= joint orientation factor

C

= gravity factor

A-Factor. The A-factor is used to account for the resulting

induced stress in the investigated stope surface. A series of charts that provided preliminary estimates of induced stresses for

1000

Foundations for Designi

FIGURE 60.2

10

15

Hydraulic radius (m)

Stability graph after Potvin (1998)

1.0

i

42 i

i

W

0.8

0.6

0.4

0.2

0.1

0

10

Gc/Oi

<Jc = Uniaxial compressive strength G/= Induced compressive stress

FIGURE 60.3

Determination of the stress factor, after Potvin (1988)

different stope configurations and conditions were proposed (Mathews et al. 1981 and Potvin 1988) (Figure 60.3). These charts have now been superseded by ready access to 3-D numer- ical modelling stress packages. B-Factor. The B-factor considers the orientation of the most critical structure relative to the stope walls (Figure 60.4). The critical structure could be a joint set, bedding planes, or foli- ation. This is based on the observation that most structurally controlled failures occur when joints form a shallow angle with the stope surface. C-Factor. The C-factor accounts for the mode of failure. In open stopes, structurally controlled failures are recognised as gravity fall, slabbing, and sliding. Figure 60.5 demonstrates the influence of gravity for slabbing and gravity modes of failure. As more case studies became available, it was noted that the adjustment factor for sliding could, under certain conditions, prove inadequate for footwall stability predictions. Following a mechanistic analysis and review of case-by-case field data, the following modifications, shown in Figure 60.6, were made (Hadjigeorgiou, Leclair, and Potvin 1995).

The Stability Graph Method for ©pesi-Stope Design

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

Relative difference in dip between the critical Joint and slope surface

FIGURE 60A

Determination of the Orientation Factor, after Potvin

(1988)

 

1

1

l

30

40

50

inclination of :

FIGURE 60.5

Influence of gravity for slabbing and gravity fall modes

of failure

©0=4

DISCUSSION OF THE INPUT FACTORS

As a result of wide dissemination in a number of textbooks (Hoek, Kaiser, and Bawden 1995, Hutchinson and Diederichs 1996) the input factors for the calculation of N' described above have now gained broad acceptance from practitioners and researchers. The applicability of the input methodology on a case-by-case analysis was reviewed and, with the exception of the minor modifications to the C factor shown in Figure 60.6, were found to be appropriate (Hadjigeorgiou, Leclair, and Potvin 1995). On the other hand, some authors (Stewart and Forsyth 1995; Trueman et al. 2000) have indicated their preference for the formulation of the input factors as originally proposed (Mathews et al. 1981).

critical joint > F/W

i

1

1— n

r

 

10

20

30

40

50

Inclination of critical joint

515

FIGURE 60 6 Influence of gravity for sliding mode of failure, after Hadjigeorgiou Leclair and Potvin (1995)

Several other modifications to the stability graph have been proposed during the last decade. The following offers a brief historical review. It should be noted that most of these proposals have not yet been extensively tested by case studies nor are they widely employed by practitioners. Scoble and Moss (1994) suggested that there was merit in adding two further adjustment factors, D for blasting and E for sublevel interval rating with some tentative factors proposed. A fault factor was been developed that can be incorporated into the stability factor (Suorineni, Tannant, and Kaiser 1999). This fault factor accounts for the angles between fault and stope surface and the position where the fault intersects the stope surface. The fault factor was derived based on modelling and demonstrated that it could be critical for a series of documented case studies in Canada and Africa. At the Golden Giant Mine in Ontario, Canada, it was shown that under high-stress environments the introduc- tion of a stress-damage factor merited attention (Sprott et al. 1999). Based on 3-D numerical modelling, they used the "extra stress deviator," the uniaxial resistance of the rock, and the hydraulic radius to define a stress-damage factor. It has been argued that the stability predictions of the stability-graph method may prove inaccurate due to the influence of rock-mass degrada- tion and relaxation (Kaiser et al. 1997). It was recommended that stope sequencing be used as a tool to minimise stress-induced rock-mass degradation and to minimise stress relaxation. In their work, they defined rock-mass relaxation as stress reduction parallel to the excavation wall—not to stress reductions in the radial or a reduction in confinement. Rock-mass degradation was quantified as loss of rock-mass strength.

S0 o S HYDRAULI C RADIU S

The term "hydraulic radius" has been used in the past to charac- terise the size and shape of stope surfaces (Laubscher 1977). This is the area over the perimeter of a given stope surface. It has also been demonstrated that, despite the advantages of hydraulic radius over span, it still has important limitations (Milne, Pakalnis, and Felderer 1996). In particular, when applied to irregularly shaped stope surfaces, it is possible to arrive at the

516

FIGURE 60.7

Determination of the radius factor, after Milne et at.

(1996)

same hydraulic radius. It has been put forward that a better way to describe the geometry of an irregularly shaped excavation is the radius factor (see Figure 60.7). This is determined by identi- fying the centre of any excavation and by taking distance measurements to abutments at small regular increments:

where

RF

=

°- 5 Iyn=i i n ^ Q

r 0

re = distance from the surface centre to the abutments at angle q

n = number of rays measured to the surface edge

In principle, the radius factor can be determined at any point on a surface. If the centre cannot be determined, a series of calculations are possible with the maximum value assumed to be the radius factor. Despite its somewhat cumbersome definition, the radius factor can easily be calculated by a routine integrated into a computerised design package.

8©oS BEBi m chart s

In reviewing the proposed chart, Figure 60.1 (Mathews et al. 1981), it can be seen that the developed guidelines were some- what vague for design purposes. This was because there was insufficient data to provide more accurate zone definition. As more case studies became available, a narrower transition zone and a "support requirement zone" were defined (Potvin 1988). This has allowed for a calibrated and more versatile design tool (Figure 60.2). A more comprehensive statistical analysis further modified the support zones by introducing lines indicating where cable bolting could be used (see Figure 60.8) (Nickson 1992). A review of a larger database (Hadjigeorgiou, Leclair and Potvin 1995) confirmed the general validity of previous work (Potvin 1988, Nickson 1992) within statistical limits.

It should be noted that the work of Hadjigeorgiou et al.

(1995) demonstrated that, for larger stopes with a hydraulic radius greater than 15, the design curve was in fact flatter (see Figure 60.9). More recent work in the United Kingdom by Pascoe et al. (1998) and in Australia by Trueman et al. (2000) has confirmed the same trends.

A series of design guidelines were proposed (Stewart and

Forsyth 1995) that allowed for a finer definition of the types of

Foundations for Designi

FIGURE 60.8

Stability graph, after Nickson (1992)

FIGURE 60.9

Stability graph design lines as developed by

Hadjigeorgious et al. (1995)

stope failure, distinguishing between potentially unstable, poten- tially major, and caving failure separated by transition zones (see Figure 60.10). In their experience, the boundary between stable and unstable is clear cut, while the transition between unstable and major failure is not as well defined. It is of interest that the transition between a "potentially stable zone" and a "potentially unstable zone" is identical to Potvin's transition zone. In practice, it could be argued that, for open-stope design purposes, it is somewhat irrelevant to subdivide the area defining stope failure into three zones as the objective is to design stable stopes. Cavity monitoring laser surveys have been employed to back- analyse the resulting volumetric measurements of overbreak/

The Stability Graph Method for ©pesi-Stope Design

1000

5

10

15

 

Hyaraulic r diu

(m)

FIGURE 60=10

Stability graph

 

after Stew

rt & Forsyth (1993)

 

Stope

 

„ Width

 

s?

s*

 
 

¡4

I

Cross-Sections

 
 

Length

j

.

y

.

.

 

l/\

\

Generated Gì from IMS Survey

 

Equivalent Linear Overbreak/Slough (Expressed in Meters

E

l

Slough from Stope Wails

I

Equivalent linear overbreak/Slough

FIGURE 60.11 Schematic definition of the ELOS parameter, after Clark and Pakalnis 1997

slough and underbreak, and a new index has been proposed (Clark and Pakalnis 1997) (see Figure 60.11):

ELOS

equivalent linear overbreak slough

volume of slough from stope surface stope height x wall strike length

In Figure 60.12, ELOS has been integrated in the stability graph, providing a series of design zones (Clark and Pakalnis 1997). Although this data presentation does not account for the influence of support, it provides a useful back-analysis tool for hanging walls and footwalls in a low- or relaxed-stress state and with parallel geological structure being present. All of the above graphs rely on arbitrarily drawn design curves. The first comprehensive statistical analysis of the then- available field data (Nickson 1992) clearly demonstrated the applicability of the modified stability graph (Potvin 1988) and laid the foundations for further statistical work (Hadjigeorgiou,

1000

517

10

15

Hydraulic radius (m)

FIGURE 60.12

hangingwalls and footwalls, after Clark and Pakalnis 1997

Estimation of overbreak/slough for nonsupported

Leclair, and Potvin 1995, Pascoe et al. 1998, and Suorineni

1998).

Successful applications of the stability graph recognise that the method remains subjective. Despite using quantifiable values, the precise degree of inherent conservatism is not known. It reflects "current and past practice," which may have been influ- enced by legislation, local practices, or geological peculiarities, and does not necessarily constitute an optimum design methodology.

80. 7

It has been argued that the design of non-entry excavations lends itself to risk analysis much more than the design of access ways where worker safety is the major concern (Pine et al. 1996, Pascoe et al. 1998, Diederichs and Kaiser 1996). There are two basic elements in risk analysis. The first one deals with input vari- ability and the second deals with calibration uncertainty. For practical purposes, the major challenge lies in defining how much risk is acceptable for design purposes. Using risk probability procedures for fine-tuning or calibrating site-specific design guidelines, while attractive, is hindered in that site-specific cali- brated guidelines will be validated only towards the end of mine life. At that time, their impact will be limited to providing a better understanding of particular field conditions, but it may be too late to implement major design changes.

¡RISK

ANALYSI S

60. 8

Potvin (1988) first addressed the influence of support on the stability of open stopes. The area of the graph that could success- fully be supported by cable bolts was refined, and a series of design recommendations made on cable-bolting patterns (Nickson 1992). The basic concept is that there is a zone where support cannot be effectively used to stabilise the excavation. It has been shown (Hadjigeorgiou, Leclair, and Potvin 1995) that the actual support- able zone was smaller than predicted (Nickson 1992). A design chart is available to select a suitable cable-bolt density as a function of relative block size (RQD/J n ) and the hydraulic radius (Potvin and Milne 1992). This graph, slightly modified in Figure 60.13, is most appropriate for stope backs. It has also been employed for hanging-wall reinforcement design, provided a systematic and regular cable-bolt pattern is used.

RECOIVIIVSENDATSONS

SUPPOR T

518

FIGURE 60.13

(RQD/Jn)

Hydraulic radius

Determination of cable bolt density

At the time when the design curves for cable reinforcement were developed, support often consisted of single plain-strand cables. Recent years have seen a shift towards double-strand and modified-geometry cables as they provide higher support capacity. This is achieved in the presence of sufficiently high ground deformation whereby the strength of the steel is being mobilized. In other words, pattern reinforcement is designed to help the rock support itself and not necessarily to support the dead weight of the rock. A series of semi-empirical design charts to determine the design spacing for both single- and double- strand cable bolts has been proposed (Diederichs, Hutchinson, and Kaiser 1999). It should be noted, however, that there are no documented case studies confirming their application.

SQ3

All empirical methods are limited in their application to cases that are similar to the one used in the developmental database. Therefore, the stability graph is inappropriate in severe rock- bursting conditions, in highly deformable (creeping) rock mass, and for entry methods. Since its introduction, the stability graph method has been the subject of extensive efforts to expand its applicability to better account for the presence of faults, blast damage, and stress damage. Unfortunately, some of the proposed modifications are not supported by field data. Furthermore, when merging databases from diverse sources, it is necessary to verify the quality of collected data. In particular, the practice of using empirical correlations to convert from one rock-mass classifica- tion system to another should only be used as a last resort and even then with great caution. For all practical purposes, the stability graph can be used during the feasibility stage, during individual stope planning, and for stope reconciliation or back analyses.

LIMITATION S

©F TiHE STABILIT Y

QiRAPU

D 10

DESDGN

CONSIDERATION S

T H E

FEASIBILIT Y

STA©E

The determination of adequate stope dimension is one of the

most critical decisions to be made at the feasibility study stage of

a mine. The profitability of an operation is directly linked to

productivity, which in turn, is influenced by stope dimensions. Validation of stope-design methodology can begin once the first

stope is extracted. By this time, however, the mine infrastructure

is already in place, allowing for no or only minor modifications to

FoyoiidatBOinis for Design

design stope dimensions. This emphasizes the importance of developing a reliable stope-design methodology at the earliest possible stage. Many practitioners have reported on the reliability of the stability-graph method during the last 12 years (Reschke and Romanowski 1993, Bawden 1993, Pascoe et al. 1998, Dunne et al. 1996, and Goel and Wezenberg 1999). When properly used, the method provides a good "ball park" estimate of stable stope dimen- sions under different conditions. The major limitation at the feasi- bility study stage is the availability of quality geotechnical data. This is a concern for all design methods. Consequently, it is essen- tial to optimise all available data while being fully aware of any limitations. The following guidelines can facilitate the estimation of realistic stability numbers during the feasibility stage. An integral part of the stability method is the quantification of rock-mass quality based on the Q system. At the "green field" stage, the majority of geomechanical data are derived from boreholes. Consequently, it is possible to develop a comprehensive database of RQD readings, which can easily be integrated into geological models easily accessed by both planning and rock mechanics. It is strongly suggested that the number of joint sets be determined by using oriented diamond-drill cores in the orebody. There are several case studies where core data were used to derive representative Q readings for underground mines (Milne, Germain and Potvin 1992, Germain, Hadjigeorgiou, and Lessard 1996). This has included a simplified approach to determine joint alteration, J a . If the joint cannot be scratched with a knife, J a is assumed to be equal to 0.75, and if it is possible to scratch, it varies from 1.0 to 1.5. When a joint feels slippery to touch and can scratched with a fingernail, J a is equal to 2; and when it is possible to indent with a fingernail, J a is equal to 4. The joint roughness parameter (J r ) is more difficult to assess on a small exposed surface of a core. However, in most cases, it is possible to estimate whether the surface is smooth or rough. In the absence of reliable data, joints are assumed to be planar. This allows for J r values of 0.5 for slickenslide planar, 1.0 for smooth planar, and 1.5 for rough planar joints. Factor A can generally be assumed to be equal to 1 for all stope walls, unless mining is to proceed very deep (say 1,000 m and deeper). As a first-pass estimation, the stress induced in stope backs could be assumed to be around 1.5 times the pre- mining horizontal stress for transversal mining (mining across the strike of the orebody). In longitudinal mining (mining along strike), a rough estimate of the induced stress in the back can be obtained by doubling the premining horizontal stress perpendic- ular to the orebody strike. The premining stress can be measured if underground access is available or otherwise based on regional data. The uniaxial compressive strength of rock is easily obtained by standard laboratory tests on cored rock. A larger database of UCS values can also be gathered at low cost using a standard point load test. When at least some oriented core is available, Factor B can be estimated. In the absence of joint orientation data, a minimum value of 0.2 is assumed. The estimation of factor C is independent of ground conditions and is, therefore, straightforward to determine, even at the feasibility stage. A good methodology for the construction of a geomechan- ical model and the application of the stability graph method for mine feasibility assessment exists (Nickson et al. 1995). Stability numbers are calculated for back and walls and displayed on mine sections. For each stability number (N), a hydraulic radius (S) is determined from the stability graph in Figure 60.14, using the upper section of the transition zone. The option of increasing stope dimensions exists if a systematic pattern of cable-bolt support is to be used. This can be assessed using Figure 60.8. Unless the ground conditions are consistent throughout the orebody, a number of stable hydraulic radii will be produced, which can be grouped into domains and displayed on a longitu- dinal section. Because most mines employ systematic layouts, a

The Stability Graph Method for ©pesi-Stope Design

519

3CQQ EL

HW Q : =

10

A

B

C

= 1

= 0.3

= 3.5

N'= 10.5

3=6

z @©„1±

o

Q

ROD

>= 0%

S

i

El > = 60%

> = 20%

= 40%

l

>

a

> =

75%

DESIG N

CONSIDERATION S

PLANNIN G

FO R

INDIVIDUAL STOP E

It is good engineering practice to employ the stability graph at the

planning stage to evaluate the stability of each stope. At this stage

of development, there is usually underground access that allows

for a revaluation of the rock-mass data collected during the feasi-

bility study. Direct underground mapping can provide more

reliable information than diamond-drill hole data. Another advantage of underground observations is that it can reveal early signs of stress. This can be complemented by stress measure- ments allowing for a better assessment of stress influence on the stopes. At this point, it is possible to integrate numerical model- ling to investigate optimum sequencing.

Access to more quality data can allow for greater confidence

in stope stability estimates than allowed during the feasibility

study. Consequently, it is possible to consider modifications or

fine-tuning to the ground support and extraction strategies. At

this stage, it is also important to assess the influence on stope stability of some of the factors not well accounted-for in the stability-graph method. These can include faulting, shear zones,

or areas susceptible to rock bursts.

One of the great benefits of using such a method at the plan- ning stage is that it brings geomechanical considerations into stope design and increases the awareness of mine planners to ground-control issues. Modern stope designs require the close cooperation of geology, mine planning, and rock mechanics.

FIGURE 60.14

Nickson et ai. 1995

A case study during the feasibility stage, after

unique stope dimension is usually determined for each mine domain. Engineering judgement must be used in selecting the appropriate hydraulic radius. Selecting the smallest hydraulic radius would ensure that all stopes would be stable, but would not likely be the most economical option. Notwithstanding the value of ore, the impact of dilution, acceptable risks, and the operating philosophy, a good starting point for selecting a mean hydraulic radius for an entire domain would be to ensure that approximately 80% of the stopes are stable. The remaining 20% or so can then be dealt with individually using specific ground support or different extraction strategies. The stope height, length, and width within each domain can be determined from the mean hydraulic radii (roof and walls). The orebody geometry obviously has an important influence on the determination of the stope geometry. In many cases, there will be an economic advantage to maximising the stope height as it has a major influence on the sublevel interval, and therefore, on the mine infrastructure cost. As more and more operations integrate backfill in the extraction process, its impact on stope stability must be accounted for. The main function of mine backfill is to limit the exposure of stope surfaces during extraction by filling adjacent mined-out stopes. Provided a good quality-control program is followed, it can reasonably be assumed that backfill provides adequate support of adjacent mined out stopes. Consequently, the stability-graph method treats backfill as a rock material when calculating stope-wall dimensions. In practice, however, it is rare that a tight fill can be established against a stope back. As a result, in stope-back analysis, the influence of backfill is assumed to be minimal and ignored.

60 12

STOPE

RECONCILIATION

Using the stability graph to assess and document stope perfor- mance is useful to build site-specific empirical knowledge that can be used in future design. Once a sufficient number of case

histories have been collected, it may even be possible to refine the stability graph for a given site or extend its predictive capability to dilution (Pakalnis, Poulin, and Hadjigeorgiou 1995) or to quantify the probability of failure (Diederichs and Kaiser 1996).

A major aid in stope reconciliation has been the introduction of

cavity-monitoring systems. These refinements are interesting and contribute to a better understanding of stope behaviour. However, the value added to operations from this effort remains limited in many cases because the initial stages of mining are completed, the mine infrastruc- ture is in place, and opportunities for modifying stopes layout are restricted.

60,13

By definition, empirical design is based on observation and expe-

rience. The stability-graph method owes its popularity in its ease

of use, its application at early stages of mining, and the fact that it

can provide a reference for stope performance. Invariably, it cannot provide a successful prediction for every stope at every

operation because the complexity of ground conditions and oper- ating practices can influence stope performance.

It has been argued in the past that the method only reaches

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

its full potential when it is "site-calibrated." The basic assumption

is that, as more data become available, the design recommenda-

tions can be modified through back analysis. Obviously, this is an important step in better understanding the site conditions. If the reconciliation exercise is done rigorously, it can reveal important information on the efficiency of mine practices such as blasting, prereinforcement, and sequencing. However, this should not detract from the main objective of the method as a design tool at the feasibility stage when no such data is available, but when the critical decision must be made. The extensive calibration of the method worldwide makes it very robust and ideal for designing open-stope dimension at the

520

feasibility-assessment stage. The added value of a very refined site-specific graph towards the end of a mine life can only be limited. Over the years, there has been a proliferation of design charts aiming to refine the method or expand on its applicability. Design charts that are not backed by field data have limited use. Similarly, modifications that rely on limited sites should be viewed with caution. Complex charts bring new and interesting ideas, but one should keep in mind that the method can be no better than the quality of input data available. This is particularly true at the feasibility stage where data are limited by access. Introducing many zones to the graph has limited application at the design stage because the designer has to come up with a hydraulic radius number for each domain. The transition between stable and unstable and the potential for increasing dimensions by using pattern cable bolts remain the basis for stope design

SO „14

REFERENCES

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