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Rock Mechanics

We provide a comprehensive range of rock mechanics services to the mining and civil engineering industries worldwide. Our philosophy is to base design on measured data and to verify where possible design using in situ measurement.

We provide services worldwide to improve the efficiency of mine and quarry operations. Services offered range from the introduction of advanced rockbolting technology in coal and similar mines to computer modelling of mine layouts and investigations of longwall support performance.

To the civil engineering industry, we offer geotechnical measurement and investigation work, an instrumentation installation service, and testing and advice on reinforcement systems. Specialist measurements available include shotcrete and concrete lining load measurement and monitoring, and in-situ reinforcement integrity testing.

Our range of specialist services include the following (these titles are hyperlinked to the text below):

Mine Roadway Support and Reinforcement Design

A considerable proportion of our work is concerned with support and reinforcement systems for mine roadways and tunnels. The large lengths of tunnels excavated in mining places a premium on the design of efficient support systems. Designs take into account the intended use of the tunnel and possible stress changes due to mining during its life. We have facilities for, and carry out, laboratory testing of the components of support systems to the appropriate recognised standards. Computer modelling is routinely used to characterise roadway conditions, investigate modes of failure or instability and to evaluate alternative support systems. Underground instrumentation is used to monitor strata deformation and the performance of the support system to confirm its effectiveness and stability.

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Rock Tunnel Support Design

We offer a comprehensive Design Service for rock tunnel construction from the Geotechnical Assessment of Ground Conditions through to the Support Design and Implementation. The service can include assistance with:

  • Support consumable selection.
  • On site professional engineers to assess ground conditions on a "shift by shift" basis.
  • Geotechnical instrumentation monitoring systems to confirm support performance and ground movement.
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Introduction of Rockbolt Support

We have unique experience in the introduction of Advanced Technology (AT) rockbolting into coal and other mines worldwide. Projects have been completed in Russia, Eastern Europe, India and Africa. We provide all the consultancy and instrumentation services required for the successful introduction of rock bolting into a new site. This includes the testing and sourcing of suitable local consumables, comprehensive monitoring schemes that can be supplied and installed for safety monitoring and support system design. We also provide training for mine workers and management to assist in the transition to advanced rockbolt technology.

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Mine Layout

Incorporating geotechnical factors in the design of mine layouts is essential for problem free production. Considerations to be taken into account for the planning of mine layouts include the extraction sequence, identification of stress concentration areas and their effects. This includes consideration of factors such as horizontal stress effects and interaction with adjacent mine workings. We use underground stress measurement to determine the in-situ stress regime at a site and numerical modelling to investigate alternative options for the layout of future workings in conjunction with mine management.

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Pillar Design

Correct pillar geometry is essential for maximising mine safety and efficiency. Pillar behaviour and pillar requirements vary depending upon mining conditions and method. For effective design these factors need to be recognised and taken into account. Our staff have extensive experience in research and consulting relating to the stability and design of pillar systems. This includes the design of room and pillar systems, pillar extraction and pillars for longwall workings in coal mines. At key sites we can measure the stress distribution through a pillar. This information is then used in conjunction with rock property testing and numerical modelling of pillar behaviour to verify the design. This is often used in conjunction with computational modelling of tunnel behaviour and reinforcement performance.

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Computer Modelling of Excavations

We have extensive experience of the practical application of both 2D and 3D computer modelling to excavation geometry and reinforcement system design in coal measure and stratified rocks. Modelling is routinely used to analyse the influence of variation in parameters such as geology, mine layout and in situ stresses on excavation behaviour and reinforcement/support performance, including:

  • Stress changes due to longwall mining
  • Sequential extraction of longwall panels
  • Pillar dimensions and stability
  • Tunnel stability and support system design
  • Excavation in hard rock

Numerical modelling is used as part of the design process in conjunction with measured data and monitoring to verify design performance. In house facilities and expertise in areas such as coring and rock testing, stress measurement and underground instrumentation are used to quantify the parameters required for model generation and verification.

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Support Safety and Risk Assessment

A general logic for support system/ground control risk assessment has been developed by ourselves. It forms part of a range of risk assessment methods employed to general and specific ground control/excavation failure mechanisms. We have developed risk assessments for a number of mines. These assessments are site specific due to the complex behaviour of the rock mass surrounding an underground evacuation. However, a consistent approach to developing such a system can be applied by employing a "general logic framework" as a basis for each site. An assessment is made of the important geotechnical and support parameters for a particular site and the general logic framework is modified appropriately. Factors which may influence roadway behaviour/stability at any given site include:

  • Geology
  • In situ stress and stress change
  • Level of support
  • Long term effects
  • Environment
  • Roadway dimensions

All these factors are assessed in conjunction with a full underground visual survey and analysis of all the roadway deformation monitoring available (e.g. Telltales, Extensometers). This data is then used to identify areas of potential risk. This approach has been proven at a number of sites within the UK, where the risk assessments have been designed to meet the specific conditions at each site. It has been successful in identifying areas at risk or potential risk of failure enabling early remedial reinforcement to be installed to minimise roadway failure and consequent additional costs and/or production losses.

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Longwall Strata Control

We have a range of expertise in longwall support design and monitoring:

  • Longwall face support performance assessment via data logging of powered support parameters.
  • Analysis of longwall caving analysis.
  • Powered support capacity specification.
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Geotechnical Assessment of Quarries

Over time we have developed a cost effective approach to hazard and risk assessment of excavations, tips and lagoons. This has been achieved through extensive experience drawn from UK and international mining operations in both hard and soft rock environment. 

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