Mining Publication: Shear Mechanism for Mining-Induced Fractures Applied to Rock Mechanics of Coal Mines
Two examples of en echelon mining-induced fractures seen in hardrock mines provided a basis for inferring that fracture zones and bedding plane separations immediately surrounding mine openings are promoted by oblique shear into the openings. It is hypothesized that initial fractures or separations form at the corners of openings as a result of high stress and physical constraint on the rock's ability to deform elastically toward the opening. These conditions result in a locally preferred direction of shearing. The shearing, in turn, generates tensile stress that initiates a progression of systematically offset fractures approximately parallel to the direction of greatest compressive stress. The fractures or bedding separations create tabular rock layers that amplify shearing displacement through bending and dilation. Such shearing effectively reduces and redistributes the compressive stress, but significant dilation is an inevitable consequence. The combination of dilation and shearing and the progressive development of fracture zones have important implications with respect to ground support. The concept of mining-induced fractures forming as a result of shear is illustrated by two examples from coal mines. First, fractures seen at longwall faces probably result from shear associated with subsidence. The fracture zone that develops approximates or possibly defines the draw angle of subsidence. As the face advances, fractures extend downward along the lower edge of the fracture zone, while upper extensions of the fractures are pressed closed. Fracture zones in entry roofs provide a second practical example. Here, mining-induced fractures typically follow bedding planes. The shear zone model suggests that the first bedding separations develop near the edges of the roof and successive separations progress upward and toward the center. However, if the direction of greatest stress is inclined with respect to the roof, a fracture or bedding separation zone may propagate from one side only and also extend higher. Because coal ahead of the face provides some support against lateral shear deformation, bedding separation is inhibited near the face. Rock bolts installed close to the face ultimately become more strained and bent than bolts installed a few meters from the face, and bolts installed through the more remote part of a separation zone may ultimately experience the greatest tensile and bending strains. This model is supported by field data documenting progressive bolt failures that rapidly propagated downward across the roof during face advance.