Mining geomechanics

Our mining geomechanics experts focus on improving mine safety through fundamental rock mechanics research as well as applying their findings to issues facing the industry. Key areas of expertise include:

  • Developing and improving ground support technologies;
  • Ground control – i.e. pillar design, ground support design, rock mass classification, rock burst, coal burst, and advanced risk based designs in underground and open cut mines;
  • Advanced visualisation – i.e. the use of virtual reality technology as a tool for a systems approach to understanding seismicity;
  • Mine subsidence behaviour and prediction; and
  • Numerical modelling.

Current main research projects include fundamental coal burst research; avoiding premature cable bolt failure; investigating cable bolt performance under a range of geotechnical conditions; mine subsidence behaviour and prediction; highwall mining pillar design; estimating rock mass strength from laboratory properties; and probabilistic analysis of slope stability.

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Our current mining engineering researchers are focused on working with industry to solve current mining engineering issues and to mitigate risks. They work collaboratively to find innovative ways to ensure environmental, safe and sustainable practices are incorporated in all aspects of mining. Read more about some of the past and current projects in the field of mining geomechanics:

Coal burst control

Our experts are engaged in world-leading research to develop a strategy and scope for ACARP’s (Australian Coal Association Research Program) proposed coal burst project in a structured, step-by-step process based on international knowledge and experience. As part of this project, preliminary coal burst risk identification and control guidelines for Australian underground coal mines will be delivered through a review and evaluation of international coal burst experiences and technologies.

Contact: Professor Ismet Canbulat

Estimating rock mass strength from laboratory properties and slope stability design

UNSW researchers in collaboration with University of Queensland and SCT Operations are developing a quick and reliable methodology to downscale the laboratory strength to rock mass strength for geotechnical design purposes. This objective will be met by exploiting the advantages of both empirical methods of rock classification and numerical methods of rock mass analysis. Ultimately, the project will result in a classification system for coal measure rocks that can be used to downscale properties determined in the laboratory to field scale properties used in design. This project will also deliver a framework for the reliable probabilistic analysis of slope stability.

Contact: Professor Ismet Canbulat

Highwall mining pillar design

The School is Australia’s leading research institute in the design of coal pillars. In collaboration with CSIRO, our experts are leading a research project to develop a simple geotechnical design procedure for highwall mining with an emphasis on geotechnical considerations, mainly on pillar design and backfilling of entries in thick-seam mining and/or under critical surface structures.

Contact: Professor Ismet Canbulat

Evaluating valley closure subsidence

When mining operations occur beneath or in the vicinity of valleys and other forms of irregular surface topography, the observed vertical subsidence at the base of the valley is less than that would be expected in flat terrain, while the observed horizontal movement of valley sides is greater than that in flat terrain. This research is evaluating the developments in mining-induced valley closure subsidence effects, including empirical predictions of valley closure and upsidence; numerical modelling approaches; and the mechanisms behind this behaviour based on field measurements.

Contact: Dr Chenguo Zhang

Optimising cable bolt performance in varying geotechnical environments

This project is part of a strategic research initiative at the School to improve the design, performance and reliability of strata control systems for the benefit of the Australian underground coal mining industry. It resulted in a series of practical outcomes including the establishment of a new axial-load test facility and procedure to test the cable bolts currently used in Australia. A performance evaluation of the MW9 and the Superstrand cable bolts was also undertaken as part of the project.

Contact: Associate Professor Paul Hagan

The Effects of Faults on the Mechanics of Cave Propagation

Evaluation of Fundamental Geotechnical Mechanisms of Valley Closure Subsidence Effects