Multidisciplinary rock mechanics
Dr Joung Oh is combining his deep knowledge of geotechnical engineering and mine-geomechanics to improve safety, productivity and sustainability in the Australian resources sector.
In 2006, Dr Joung Oh gained his PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois, where he specialised in rock mechanics, underground excavations and numerical simulations.
This led him to join Parsons Brinckerhoff [WSP since 2017] at their office in New York City, where he worked for several years as a registered tunnelling and geotechnical engineer. But, in 2013, Joung decided that academia was calling once again so left the USA to join the School of Mining at UNSW.
Today he is a senior lecturer in the School of Minerals and Energy Resources Engineering with a well-defined mission: to draw the strings together from his background as a civil engineer, his PhD research and his experience in industry to better understand fundamental rock mechanics with the aim of improving safety, productivity and sustainability in the Australian resources industry.
“During my time in the United States I was involved in many big, interesting underground projects which gave me valuable hands-on experience into real geotechnical problems,” says Joung.
“This knowledge has been incredibly useful for my transition into mining research where I’m focused on similar things – i.e. fundamental rock mechanics, underground excavation, tunnelling and underground support system design.”
Joung explains that he is currently involved in several ACARP (Australian Coal Association Research Program) projects and is the lead investigator on one project that is focused on understanding the fundamentals of rock failure mechanisms under different geotechnical environments.
“The aim of this project is to develop a reliable, simple and cost-effective technique that can be used to estimate the magnitude of in-situ stresses based on borehole breakout data,” says Joung. “This requires a good understanding of fundamental rock mechanics, and knowledge of in situ stresses as an essential element in the management of support for underground excavations.”
The bottom line is about providing industry with with significantly improved knowledge on rock behaviour, particularly underground rock failure mechanisms, and also providing tools or methods for industry to use.
Dr Joung Oh, Senior Lecturer, School of Minerals and Energy Resources Engineering
According to Joung, in addition to making stress measurement more cost effective, the project will contribute to better control by using naturally occurring borehole breakouts in existing boreholes.
“Although my research is fundamental, the bottom line is about providing industry with significantly improved knowledge on rock behaviour, particularly underground rock failure mechanisms, and also providing tools or methods for industry to use for their own purposes,” Joung continues. “In a nutshell, I can say my research is about delivering discoveries into practice.”
So far, Joung has concentrated on solid rock mechanics, but, following the merger of the Schools of Mining and Petroleum Engineering, he has now started collaborating with his petroleum engineering colleagues.
“I am keen to expand my research to incorporate the role of fluid movement in rock mechanics. Water can always be found in the underground environment and it is important to know how water impacts the stability of the mine, for obvious safety and productivity reasons,” he continues.
“But it is also crucial to know, from an environmental perspective, how mining activities impact water and fluid behaviour. Especially in Australia where water is a scarce resource.”
Joung explains that working with his petroleum colleagues will improve the outcomes of both disciplines because they can bring complementary knowledge to the table.
“Mining engineers have great knowledge on rock excavation and the solid, macro-scale part, while petroleum engineers have more knowledge on the fluid behaviour and the micro-scale part. Because rock failure at the macro-scale is initiated from the micro-scale, exploring the problem from an interdisciplinary point of view makes great sense,” says Joung.
“One of the reasons I decided to join UNSW was to combine my knowledge of civil engineering, mining engineering and my geotechnical expertise. The University has a huge focus on multidisciplinary research and creating synergies by bringing together different knowledge from different disciplines, and it feels great to be a part of that.”