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SME Annual Meeting

Feb. 28-Mar. 03, 2010, Phoenix, AZ

Preprint 10-013


R. Pakalnis, Univ. of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

M. Roworth, Univ. of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
C. Caceres, Univ. of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
L. Martin, Spokane Research Labs., Spokane, WA
B. Seymour, Spokane Research Labs., Spokane, WA
P. Lourence, Kencana Mine, Newcrest, Indonesia

ABSTRACT Surface support requirements for temporary and permanent

(storage rooms, crusher chambers and maintenance shops) support
This paper compiles the research work conducted by the correspond to an “Excavation Support Ratio” (ESR) of 3 and 0.6 - 1.3,
Spokane Research Laboratories in the investigation of shotcrete within respectively (Grimstad and Barton,1993). This is shown in Figure 2
underground mines to the applied design of ground support for the with the range of weak rock masses observed within Nevada
operator. It looks at the design methodology in terms of employing operations (20%-45%) and associated spans of 6m (20ft).
shotcrete as a fabric to confine the rock mass between the individual
bolts as dictated by empirical charts. The failure mechanism in terms of
its implication on design is presented with respect to the design of 6m
wide tunnels for temporary and permanent openings within weak rock
masses. This is reflected by field observations that relate laboratory
tests to the onset of failure for the operator in order to provide
guidelines for design and monitoring. This is coupled with guidelines
for safe entry in terms of cure times as well as the understanding of the
behaviour of the shotcrete in terms of fibres and the overall strengths
that result with respect to the design of the mine openings. This
enables the operator to better understand his workplace thereby
provide a safer work environment.
This paper is part of a study that has been undertaken by the
Spokane Research Laboratory (SRL) over the past year in determining
the design parameters that govern the application of shotcrete within
weak rock masses for underground metal mines. This paper compiles
information particularly relevant to design that the author has employed
within metal mines over the past thirty(30) years and the approach
towards support design detailed in “Methodology Towards Ground
Support” (Pakalnis, 2008). The paper identifies the use of shotcrete as
confining the rock mass fabric as a single support unit, shown in Figure
1. It must be recognized that a weak rock mass will likely result in the
individual rock blocks falling between the bolts and therefore surface
support is required to confine the rock mass as a single support unit. It
is also critical to bolt through the shotcrete membrane within a weak
rock mass (RMR76 < 45%) to ensure that the bolts and surface support
are confined as a single support unit and do not act independently of
each other.
Figure 2. Surface support (after Grimstad and Barton, 1993)
The major concern of the author is that the use of the empirical
design chart shown in Figure 2 is derived for “monolithic support” from
civil engineering case studies and is largely restricted to a small area
of conditions, detailed in Figure 3. The figure below is summarized in
Table 1 which largely reflects the practices employed in weak rock
masses in Nevada operations. It must be recognized that the shotcrete
is reinforced with bolts which confine the potential block. The
significance of shotcrete as a support element has been studied by
SRL in terms of its strength, cure times, quality control, fibre
implications, and adhesion among others in order to understand its
behaviour as a support element (Martin et al, 2010).

Figure 1. Shotcrete as confining the rock mass into a single unit

1 Copyright © 2010 by SME

SME Annual Meeting
Feb. 28-Mar. 03, 2010, Phoenix, AZ

Figure 4. Design Methodology

Figure 3. Empirical support for SRL study – weak rock masses for
temporary and permanent 6 m wide mine tunnels (after Grimstad and
Barton, 1993)
Table 1. Fabric support requirements (after Grimstad and Barton,
1993) for 6 m (20 ft) span.
Q RMR Permanent Support Temporary Support
ESR=1.3 ESR=3
0.07 <20% Spiling + (Actual) Spiling + (Actual)

20%- 5-9cm (2"-4") Fibre Figure 5. “Dead Weight” Design

0.07-0.4 9-12cm (3"-5") Fibre
35% Reinforced
Reinforced Shotcrete Figure 5 shows that a 6m wide opening with a 75mm thick layer of
shotcrete, having a shear strength of 2MPa, would result in a potential
slab shear strength for sides “A/C” of 90tonnes and 15tonnes for the
0.4-1.1 5-9cm (2"-4") Fibre 4-10cm(2"-4") end slices “B/D”. The “dead weight” wedge for the 6m opening would
Reinforced Shotcrete Unreinforced Shotcrete be equal to 0.5 times the span or 3m in height. This results in a loading
of 27tonnes employing a specific gravity of 3.0 for the rock mass. The
shotcrete itself assuming no cracks formed within the slab has a
METHODOLOGY support capacity well in excess of the loading. However, the potential
shotcrete slab if unreinforced either through metal screen and/or fibres
This paper is an extension of the methodology identified in
will result in potential failure as it will not fail as a monolithic (single
Pakalnis (2008) where stress, structure and rock mass are quantified
unit) structure since typical mining applications are not fully enclosed.
with respect to confining potential blocks as summarized in Figure 4.
The closure associated with a tunnel in a weak rock mass and typical
Within Nevada underground mines shotcrete use is in excess of shotcrete applications will result in shotcrete panel type support. The
250 000 m per year with an average design thickness of 75mm (3”). purpose of the shotcrete in terms of design is to confine the fabric
Figure 5 looks at the shear strength associated with a weak shotcrete between the bolts as design requires the weak rock mass to be
placed and the support resistance that it would provide. This is detailed confined as a single unit and in turn contained by tendons passing
in Martin et al (2010). through the potential failure zone (Figure 6).
Recent research conducted at SRL on round determinate panel
(RDP) tests and field scale tests has enabled one to further understand
the failure mechanism associated with placed shotcrete.

2 Copyright © 2010 by SME

SME Annual Meeting
Feb. 28-Mar. 03, 2010, Phoenix, AZ

was recommended to reduce the fibre content from the existing

6kg/m3 to 3kg/m3 of the synthetic fibre largely due to the “1 ” crack
appearing irrespective of the dosage. It was expected that rehab may
be required earlier in the cycle as the crack approaches 10-20mm
which generally involves placement of 6 gauge screen over the
cracked shotcrete. This resulted in a savings of $50 000 US per month
and “no observable difference” in shotcrete performance was evident.

Figure 6. FRS confines rock mass between bolts

The term fibre reinforced shotcrete (FRS) as referred to in this
paper refers to synthetic fibre unless specifically referenced as steel
Fibre Content of FRS
The dosage of commercially used (6-7kg/m ) synthetic fibre
reinforced shotcrete was found to have minimal affect on the 1 break
strength for FRS whereas steel fibre affects the 1 break strength. In Figure 8. Shotcrete RDP test with no fibres; results in no residual
addition, synthetic fibre dosage below 6kg/m results in an increase of strength
the 1 break strength as the mix approaches the strength of shotcrete.
An increase in the amount of fibre reduces the overall combined

Figure 9. Morgan’s Relationship between energy/deflection with

respect to rockmass (after Papworth, 2003)
Critical Crack Width
Figure 7. Bag strength equivalent of synthetic FRS with varying The critical crack width of the shotcrete round determinate panel
dosage is defined as the first visible crack observed at the bottom of the panel.
The dosage residual strength is compared to the equivalent bag Martin et. al. (2010) relate the center and edge crack width to the
strength for screen and shows that generally the residual FRS strength applied load and ram travel displacement to the available strength of
approaches that of 12 gauge welded wire mesh (under 1.4tonne bag the shotcrete for two design mixes, SCAPT-100 and SCAPF. Peak
strength). It must be recognized that the energy (Papworth, 2003) strength of the FRS round panel occurs before the first visible crack is
associated with an increased dosage will result in greater deformation; observed after which the residual load is rapidly reached and a hairline
however, associated with this will be greater deformation and cracking, crack appears. The critical design for SCAPF, which is just a visible
which the operator will be working underneath. The absence of any crack width, supports 6-KN @ 4.8-mm displacement. The critical
fibres will result in complete failure as shown in Figure 8. design for SCAPT-100, which is just a visible crack width, supports 6-
KN @ 3-mm displacement. Figure 10 plots the location of the average
The above was employed to understand the significance of the first visible crack on the 28 day strength panels for SCAPF and
energy associated with the RDP tests as typically presented in Figure SCAPT-100.
9 and the equivalent bag strength of screen. Newcrest’s Kencana
Mine, in Indonesia, is an underground gold mine that employs 1800m
3 The crack width at a corresponding RDP residual strength reflects
per month of synthetic fibre reinforced shotcrete for ground support. It the support capacity of the FRS panel which is generally under 1tonne
and is equivalent to 9 gauge weldmesh (Martin et al, 2010). It must be
3 Copyright © 2010 by SME
SME Annual Meeting
Feb. 28-Mar. 03, 2010, Phoenix, AZ

recognized that this is sufficient load to confine the rock mass between recognized that the surface support is ignored in the Factor of Safety
the individual bolts on a 1.2m x 1.2m pattern. This provides the calculation as the shotcrete cover upon cracking results in negating the
operator a visible measurement of the effectiveness of the shotcrete in overall arch affect provided by the shotcrete layer but does act as a
place. confining plate when a bolt is placed through the membrane.
The SRL shotcrete study has provided quantifiable relationships
in terms of cure times, FRS behaviour, critical design strengths as well
as performance parameters such as crack width. This information
should be implemented, analyzed and assessed in terms of their
applicability to the operation in place.
The work would not have been possible without the partnership
between NIOSH, the University of British Columbia geomechanics
group, and North American mining company personnel. This continued
partnership is critical to the development of safe and cost-effective
mine strategies.
1. Beauchamp, L. 2006. Ground Support Manual. Mines and
Aggregates Safety and Health Association, Ontario.
2. Grimstad, E. and Barton, N. 1993. Updating the Q-System for
NMT. Proc. Int. Symp. On Sprayed Concrete, Fagernes, (eds.
Kompen, Opsahl and Berg), Oslo: Norwegian Concrete
3. Martin, L., B. Seymour, C. Clark, R. Pakalnis, M. Stepan, M.
Roworth, C. Caceres. 2010. “An analysis of fiber-reinforced round
panel strengths as correlated to wire mesh bag strength.” SME
Figure 10. Critical crack width of round determinate panel tests.
2010 – Paper in Session: Design Methodology for use of
Cure Time Shotcrete as Ground Support.
The rate of cure or entry times have been assessed by SRL and
4. Morgan, D. R.; Chen, L.; and Beaupré, D. 1990. Toughness of
reported by Martin et al. (2010) and summarized in Figure 11.
Fibre Reinforced Shotcrete.
Shotcrete compressive strength is important as it directly related
5. Pakalnis, R. 2002. Empirical Design Methods–UBC Geo-mechanics
to the design shear strength. A relationship between compressive
Update. In NARMS-TAC 2002: Mining and Tunneling
strength and shear is 0.25 based upon Mohr-Coulomb and one
underground mining operations. Proceedings of the International
generally requires a 1MPa unconfined compressive strength in order to
Workshop on Rock Mass Classification in Underground Mining,
drill through the shotcrete (Rispin, 2003). A UCS of 1 MPa represents
Mark, C et al. (eds), Department of Health and Human Services,
an equivalent bag strength of approximately that of 9gauge screen
pp. 119-127.
(1.9tonne). The moulded strengths are not shot strengths and do not
represent necessarily the field values; however, can be considered to 6. Papworth, F. 2003. Design Guidelines for the Use of FRS in
be conservative. Ground Support.
7. Pakalnis, R. 2008. Methodology Towards Ground Support.
Strategic versus Tactical Approaches in Mining, Laval

Figure 11. Moulded compressive strength samples for various SRL

shotcrete mixes
The above approach towards ground support for tunnels/exposed
back spans for man-entry operations has been proven to be effective
in determining overall back stability in rock masses where failure
ranges from discrete wedges to smaller rock blocks confined by
surface support which in turn is supported by bolting. It must be
4 Copyright © 2010 by SME