Mining Publication: Use of Ground Penetrating Radar and Schmidt Hammer Tests to Determine the Structural Integrity of a Mine Seal
Over the years, more than 20,000 mine seals have been erected in underground coal mines in the United States. Seals are used extensively in underground mines to isolate worked-out areas, active mine fire zones, and to control water inundations. Seals are most often built directly in the mine and can be fabricated from blocks made of wood or cementitious material. Recently, several explosions occurred within sealed areas of underground U.S. coal mines. These explosions, believed to be initiated by lightning strikes on the surface, destroyed numerous seals and caused considerable damage external to the sealed area. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is conducting research to develop design guidelines, to investigate noninvasive techniques to characterize seal strength properties, and to evaluate seal test methods. As part of this work, a 30-ft wide, 16.1-ft tall and 4-ft thick seal was built in an underground experimental mine using cement and foamed water. Two types of noninvasive techniques are currently being investigated, namely the Schmidt Hammer for measuring compressive strength and ground penetrating radar (GPR) for detecting the presence of anomalies (e.g., voids, discontinuities) within the seal. Once these noninvasive tests were completed, the seal was subjected to destructive explosion testing. This study presents the results of the Schmidt Hammer tests, GPR scans, and the characteristics of seal failure during explosion testing.