Mining Publication: Analysis of Pillar Design Practices and Techniques for U.S. Limestone Mines
Underground stone mining is an emerging sector of the U.S. mining industry. As this expansion takes mines under deeper cover, and as more efficient mining methods are utilized, effective stone pillar design methods will become even more important. Current design practices are examined and a discussion of safe mine layouts is presented as a first approach towards weighing the demands for increased production against increased risk. Risks to underground stone-mine workers include rib instabilities, pillar failures and roof falls. Seventy-two stone-mine pillar designs were examined. Pillars with width to height ratios of less than 1.5 appear more likely to fail when subjected to excessive stress levels. When width to height ratios fall below 1.0, defects in the pillars, such as through-running discontinuities, can have a significant influence on stability. Discontinuity persistence, dip, material properties and orientation are also important determining factors in pillar strength.