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Evaluation of the economic viability of mining projects may depend partially on the ability to reasonably predict the ground support required to maintain stable and serviceable openings. As mine tunnels are excavated at greater depths, and mining activity results in significant stresses around these tunnels, openings that may have performed adequately under lesser stresses can become challenging to support. Given the range of tunnelling conditions encountered in mines, it is not surprising that mine tunnel design procedures have heavily relied on experience and empirical rules. By definition, empirical procedures are unreliable when applied to situations beyond those on which these procedures are based. Major and continuing advances in the power of computers make it possible to develop more rational methods for representing and investigating the mechanical behaviour, including disaggregation of rock around the tunnel boundary.
The paper initially reviews important differences between civil and mining applications. It describes the challenges in developing a rational method of tunnel support design and provides guidelines for numerical modelling as part of the decision-making process with respect to mine economics. It is hoped that these guidelines acquaint the reader with the best available procedures for tunnel design today, and are a basis for which to use improved methods based on numerical modelling as they become available.
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