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Rock Mass Classification

Geomechanics (EBS 417/3)

Rock Mass Classifications

It is not always convenient to make a definitive test in support of engineering decision involving rock Most of the problem in rock mechanics in mining is being solved from previous experiences in a mine or experiences in other mine An attempt was made to relate these experiences to be used in any mine, so various classification schemes were derived for the rock masses

What are rock mass cassification schemes?

Very little detailed information obtained during preliminary design As a check-list to ensure all relevant information has been considered Consider them as aids to design. THEY ARE NOT DESIGN METHODS Geomechanics classification

Rock Mass Rating (RMR) system Q-system

Their objectives are:

1) Idenify the most significant parameters influencing the behaviour of a rock mass 2) Partition a rock mass into cones of similar quality, and hence behaviour 3) Provide a basis for understanding the characteristics of each rock mass class

3) Relate experience at one site to others 4) Derive quantitative data and guideline for engineering design 5) Provide a common basis for communication between engineers and geologists

Benifits of using them include:

1)Improved quality of site investigation. 2)Provide quantitative data for design. 3)Enable better engineering judgement and improved communication.

Rock Mass Rating (RMR) system

Bieniawskis geomechanics classification system Developed in South Africa by Bieniawski (1976) The system provides a general rock mass rating (RMR) increasing with quality from 0-100

Bieniawskis scheme is based on five parameters: 1.Strength of the intack rock material
Compressive strength can be obtained from the rock core samples. For weak rocks, the point load index can be used

2. Drill core quality/RQD

It is rated according to Rock Quality Desigation (RQD) It is determined by the percentage recovery of core in lengths


Xi = length of every rock core that is equal to or exceed 100 mm length (4 in.) L = total length of the drill

3. Spacing of joints
Evaluated from drill core. Spacing of the joints that include all types of discontinuities

4. Conditions of joints
This parameter are the distance of the opening of the discontinuity, continuity or persistence, surface roughness, condition of the wall rock (soft or hard) and the conditions of any infilling

Geometrical properties of discontinuities

5. Groundwater conditions
Groundwater can greatly influence rock mass behaviour. It is recorded as the flow rate that enters the excavation or The ratio of the water pressure that emits from the joint to the major principal stress of the rock or The qualitative of general observation on the condition of the groundwater

All the parameters are entered - get the rating. -Section (a) in Table 1

The provision for the ratings shows that every parameter does not give the same effect on the behaviour of the rock mass The total of RMR is obtained by adding all the ratings from all the parameters

Since the orientation of the joints relative to the work can have an influence on the beheviour of the rock, Bieniawski recommended adjusting the SUM of RMR according to the effect on the orientation of the discontinuity. -Section (b) of Table 1

The range of orientation is specified in Table 2.

The rock classes according to the rating and the description of the rock mass is given in Section (c) Table 1
The meaning of the total rating is described in accordance to the tunnel or the underground excavation stand-up time as given in Section (d) Table 1.

Example problem
A tunnel is to be driven through slightly weathered granite with a dominant joint set dipping at 60 against the direction of the drive. Index testing and logging of diamond drilled core give typical Pointload strength index values of 8 Mpa and average RQD values of 70%. The slightly rough and slightly weathered joints with a separation of <1 mm, discontinuity length is 2m, are spaced at 300 mm. Tunnelling conditions are anticipated to be wet.

A.1. Point Load index A.2. RQD A.3. Spacing of discontinuities E.4. Conditions of discontinuities

Value or description
8 MPa 70%

12 13

300 mm
Discontinuity length (1-3m) = 4 Separation (0.1 1.0mm) = 4 Slightly rough = 3 No infilling = 6 Slightly weathered = 5 Wet Driven against the dip, dipping 60 = fair conditions Total RMR



A.5. Groundwater B. Adjustment for joint orientation

7 -5

Guideline properties of rock mass classes

RMR = 59 (Fair rock quality) Initial construction = advisable to utilize the support system suggested, as the good construction & support progressing ; reduce the support requirement

RMR system & properties of rock mass

Geomechanics system of rock mass rating

The stand up time of an unsupported openings in granite with a span of 3 m would last for about 1 month.

Immediate Collapse

Support required

No support required

The relationship between the stand-up time of unsupported underground excavation and RMR (Bieniawski).

Excersice 1 A 3 metre wide tunnel is to be excavated towards the east. Information about the rock mass: Uniaxial compressive strength -180 Mpa Rock Quality Designation - 95% Average joints spacing - 2.2 m Condition of joints - hard joint wall rock, separation < 1 mm Condition of ground water - slightly dry

There are 3 sets of joint within the tunnel as the following. Joint set dip dip direction 1 300 700 2 800 1700 3 700 800
Q : Obtain the rating using the Bieniawski Geomechanics Classification. Describe the condition of this rock mass.


Set 1
Strength 180 Mpa RQD Joint spacing 0.9 m Condition of joints Conditions of g/w 12 20 20 25 10

Set 2
12 20 20 25 10

Set 3
12 20 20 25 10 87 V. Favour. 0 82

Total 87 87 Rating adjustment for Favour. V. unfavou. joint orientation -2 -12 Total overall rating 80 70

From the three rating, take the lowest value which is in this case is 70.

Rating = 70 = good rock = Class II

With rock type of class II, a tunnel of 3 m span can stand-up for 6 months.

Further, Bieniawski(1989) published a set of guidelines for the selection of support in tunnels in rock accordings to RMR value.
Note: this guidelines is for a 10 m span horseshoe shaped tunnel, constructed using drill and blast methods, in a rock mass subjected to a vertical stress< 25 Mpa = a depth below surface of <900 m.

Guidelines for excavation & support of 10 m span rock tunnels in accordance with RMR system (Bieniawski, 1989)

RMR = 59

Bieniawski suggests that a tunnel

1. Could be excavated by top heading and bench with 1.5 to 3 m advance in the top heading. 2.Support should be installed after each blast and the complete support should be placed at a maximum distance of 10 m from the face.

3. Systematic rock bolting, using 4 m long 20 mm diameter fully grouted bolts spaced at 1.5 to 2 m in the crown and walls, is recommended. 4. Wire mesh, with 50-100 mm of shotcrete for the crown and 30 mm of shotcrete for the walls, is recommended.


Developed by Barton, Lien and Lunde (1974) of the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute
Q for the rock mass characteristics and tunnel support requirements Q varies on logarithmic scale from 0.0011000

Defined by:

Jw RQD J r Q Jn J a SRF
Where RQD = Rock Quality Designation Jn = joint set number Jr = joint roughness number Ja = joint alteration number Jw = joint water reduction factor SRF = Stress Reduction Factor

Defined by:
RQD = Rock Quality Designation Jn = joint set number (no. of discontinuity sets)

Jr = joint roughness number (roughness of the discontinuity surfaces)

Ja = joint alteration number (degree of alteration or weathering of the discontinuity surfaces) Jw = joint water reduction factor (pressures and inflow rates of water within the discontinuities)

SRF = Stress Reduction Factor (presence of shear zones, stress concentrations, squeezing & swelling rocks)

RQD/Jn representing the structure of rock mass; Q increases with high RQD & decreases with high Jn (higher value = better mechanical quality) Jr /Ja represents the roughness and frictional characteristics of the joint walls or filling materials; in favour of rough, unaltered joints in direct contact Thin clay mineral coatings & fillings significant reduced in strength

Jw/SRF 2 stress parameters; Jw - a measure of water pressure SRF 1- loosening load in the case of an excavation through shear zones and clay bearing rock 2- rock stress in competent rock 3- squeezing loads in plastic incompetent rocks

A 15 m span crusher chamber for an underground mine is to be excavated in a norite at a depth of 2,100 m below surface. The rock mass contains two sets of joints controlling stability. These joints are undulating, rough and unweathered with very minor surface staining. RQD values range from 85% to 95% and laboratory tests on core samples of intact rock give an average uniaxial compressive strength of 170 MPa. The principal stress directions are approximately horizontal with magnitude 1.5 times that of the vertical principal stress. The rock mass is locally damp but there is no evidence of flowing water.

Jw RQD J r Q Jn J a SRF

RQD = Average = 90 Jn = two joint sets = 4 Jr = rough and undulating = 3 Ja = unaltered joint walls with surface staining only = 1.0 Jw = minor inflow = 1.0

Stress, Generally, the vertical stress for the lying rock = 0.027 MPa/m So for a depth below surface of 2100 m, the overburden stress = 57 Mpa = v The major principal stress = 57 MPa x 1.5= 85 MPa = h = 1

Given the compressive strength of norite, UCS = 170 MPa = c SRF = 170/85= c/ 1 = 2

Expected to produce heavy rock burst conditions ,

SRF = 15 (Between 10-20)

Q = 90 x 3 x 1 = 4.5 4 1 15 In relating the Q value to the stability and support requirements of underground excavations, Barton defined an additional parameter called Equivalent Dimension, De. De = Excavation span, diameter of hights (m ) Excavation Support Ratio, ESR

Excavation Support Ratio, ESR Barton (1974)

The crusher station permanent mine openings, ESR = 1.6 De = 15/ 1.6 = 9.4
From the graph, the crusher falls into category 4 which requires a pattern of rockbolts (spaced at 2.3 m) and 40-50 mm of unreinforced shotcrete