Mining Publication: Toward Pillar Design To Prevent Collapse of Room-and-Pillar Mines
In some instances, extensive room-and-pillar workings can collapse with little warning and pose a serious risk to underground miners. Traditional strength-based pillar design methods applicable to coal or hard-rock mines use a factor of safety defined as pillar strength divided by pillar stress. Factor of stability, defined as local mine stiffness divided by post-failure pillar stiffness, may offer a way to design room-and-pillar mines and eliminate collapses. Three alternative design approaches to decreasing the risk of large-scale catastrophic collapses are described: the containment approach, the prevention approach, and the full-extraction approach. Until good data on the post-failure behavior of pillars become available, the containment and full-extraction options are the safest. The limitations in our ability to evaluate both the stability of old workings and the long-term performance of room-and-pillar mines are described.