Please wait a minute...
Submit  |   Chinese  | 
Advanced Search
   Home  |  Online Now  |  Current Issue  |  Focus  |  Archive  |  For Authors  |  Journal Information   Open Access  
Submit  |   Chinese  | 
Engineering    2017, Vol. 3 Issue (4) : 527 -537     DOI: 10.1016/J.ENG.2017.04.017
Research |
Some Challenges of Deep Mining
Charles Fairhurst1,2()
1. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA
2. Itasca International Inc., Minneapolis, MN 55401, USA

An increased global supply of minerals is essential to meet the needs and expectations of a rapidly rising world population. This implies extraction from greater depths. Autonomous mining systems, developed through sustained R&D by equipment suppliers, reduce miner exposure to hostile work environments and increase safety. This places increased focus on “ground control” and on rock mechanics to define the depth to which minerals may be extracted economically. Although significant efforts have been made since the end of World War II to apply mechanics to mine design, there have been both technological and organizational obstacles. Rock in situ is a more complex engineering material than is typically encountered in most other engineering disciplines. Mining engineering has relied heavily on empirical procedures in design for thousands of years. These are no longer adequate to address the challenges of the 21st century, as mines venture to increasingly greater depths. The development of the synthetic rock mass (SRM) in 2008 provides researchers with the ability to analyze the deformational behavior of rock masses that are anisotropic and discontinuous—attributes that were described as the defining characteristics of in situ rock by Leopold Müller, the president and founder of the International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM), in 1966. Recent developments in the numerical modeling of large-scale mining operations (e.g., caving) using the SRM reveal unanticipated deformational behavior of the rock. The application of massive parallelization and cloud computational techniques offers major opportunities: for example, to assess uncertainties in numerical predictions; to establish the mechanics basis for the empirical rules now used in rock engineering and their validity for the prediction of rock mass behavior beyond current experience; and to use the discrete element method (DEM) in the optimization of deep mine design. For the first time, mining—and rock engineering—will have its own mechanics-based “laboratory.” This promises to be a major tool in future planning for effective mining at depth. The paper concludes with a discussion of an opportunity to demonstrate the application of DEM and SRM procedures as a laboratory, by back-analysis of mining methods used over the 80-year history of the Mount Lyell Copper Mine in Tasmania.

Keywords Deep mining      Rock discontinuities      Synthetic rock mass      Mineral resources      Rock mechanics     
Corresponding Authors: Charles Fairhurst   
Online First Date: 31 August 2017    Issue Date: 13 September 2017
E-mail this article
E-mail Alert
Articles by authors
Charles Fairhurst
Cite this article:   
Charles Fairhurst. Some Challenges of Deep Mining[J]. Engineering, 2017, 3(4): 527 -537 .
URL:     OR
1   Freeman LW, Highsmith RP. Supplying society with natural resources: The future of mining—From Agricola to Rachel Carson and beyond. The Bridge 2014;44(1):24–32.
2   National Research Council. Can earth’s and society’s systems meet the needs of 10 billion people? Summary of a workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2014.
3   Bryant P. The imperative case for innovation in the mining industry. Min Eng 2015;67(10):39.
4   Wyndham CN, Strydom NB. Acclimatizing men to heat in climatic rooms on mines. J S Afr I Min Metall 1969;70(5):60–4.
5   Krishnamurthy R, Shringarputale SB. Rockburst hazards in Kolar Gold Fields. In: Fairhurst C, editor Rockbursts and seismicity in mines: Proceedings of the 2nd International Symposium on Rockbursts and Seismicity in Mines; 1988 Jun 8–10; Minneapolis, MN, USA. Rotterdam: Balkema; 1990. p. 411–20.
6   The South African OHS Commissions. Leon Commission report (volume 1): Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Safety and Health in the Mining Industry [Internet]. Johannesburg: Association of Societies for Occupational Safety and Health (ASOSH) and Chamber of Mines of South Africa; 1995 [cited 2017 Aug 20]. Available from:
7   Ortlepp WD. RaSiM comes of age—A review of the contribution to the understanding and control of mine rockbursts. In: Potvin Y, Hudyma M, editors Controlling seismic risk: Sixth International Symposium on Rockburst and Seismicity in Mines proceedings; 2005 Mar 9?11; Perth, Australia. Crawley: Australian Center for Geomechanics; 2005. p. 3–20.
8   Martin CD, Chandler NA. Stress heterogeneity and geological structures. Int J Rock Mech Min 1993;30(7):993–9
doi: 10.1016/0148-9062(93)90059-M
9   Lame? MG. Leçon sur la the?orie mathe?matique de l’e?lasticite? des corps solides. Paris: Bachelier; 1852. French.
10   Kirsch G. Die theorie der elastizität und die bedürfnisse der festigkeitslehre. Zeitschrift des Vereins Deutscher Ingenieure 1898;42(29):797–807. German.
11   Inglis CE. Stresses in a plate due to the presence of cracks and sharp corners. Trans Inst Nav Arch 1913;55:219–30.
12   Griffith AA. The phenomena of rupture and flow in solids. Phil Trans R Soc Lond A 1921;221:163–98.
13   Berry DS. An elastic treatment of ground movement due to mining—I. Isotropic ground. J Mech Phys Solids 1960;8(4):280–92.
14   Berry DS, Sales TW. An elastic treatment of ground movement due to mining—II. Transversely isotropic ground. J Mech Phys Solids 1961;9(1):52–62
doi: 10.1016/0022-5096(61)90038-2
15   Berry DS, Sales TW. An elastic treatment of ground movement due to mining—III. Three dimensional problem, transversely isotropic ground. J Mech Phys Solids 1962;10(1):73–83
doi: 10.1016/0022-5096(62)90030-3
16   Cook NGW, Hoek E, Pretorius JPG, Ortlepp WD, Salamon MDG. Rock mechanics applied to the study of rockbursts. J S Afr I Min Metall 1966;66:435–528.
17   Fairhurst C. Newton in the underworld. Hydraul Fract J 2017;4(1):18–31.
18   Filonenko-Borodich M. Theory of elasticity. Konyaeva M, translator. Moscow: Peace Publishers; 1963.
19   Wyllie DC, Mah CW. Rock slope engineering: Civil and mining. 4th ed. New York: Spon Press; 2004.
20   Hoek E, Brown ET. Underground excavations in rock. London: Spon Press; 1990.
21   Hoek E, Marinos P. A brief history of the development of the Hoek-Brown failure criterion. Soils Rocks [Internet]. 2007 Nov [cited 2017 Jul 4];30(2): [about 13 p.]. Available from:
22   Barton N, Lien R, Lunde J. Engineering classification of rock masses for the design of tunnel support. Rock Mech 1974;6(4):189–236
doi: 10.1007/BF01239496
23   Barton N. 2011 Müller lecture: From empiricism, through theory, to problem solving in rock engineering [Internet]. In: The 12th ISRM International Congress on Rock Mechanics; 2011 Oct 18–21; Beijing, China; 2011[cited 2017 Jul 4]. Available from:
24   Cundall PA. A computer model for simulating progressive, large scale movement in blocky rock systems. In: Rock fracture: Proceedings of the International Symposium on Rock Mechanics (volume 2); 1971 Oct 4−6; Nancy, France; 1971. p. 129–36.
25   Cundall PA. An approach to rock mass modelling. In: Potvin Y, Carter J, Dyskin A, Jeffrey R, editors Proceedings of the 1st Southern Hemisphere International Rock Mechanics Symposium [CD-ROM]; 2008 Sep 6−19; Perth, Australia. Crawley: Australian Center for Geomechanics; 2008.
26   Cundall PA, Pierce ME, Mas Ivar D. Quantifying the size effect of rock mass strength. In: Potvin Y, Carter J, Dyskin A, Jeffrey R, editors From rock mass to rock model: Proceedings of the 1st Southern Hemisphere International Rock Mechanics Symposium (volume 2); 2008 Sep 6−19; Perth, Australia. Crawley: Australian Center for Geomechanics; 2008. p. 3–15.
27   Fairhurst C. Why rock mechanics and rock engineering? 17th ISRM Online Lecture [Internet]. 2017 Apr 27 [cited 2017 Jul 4]. Available from:
28   Pierce M, Cundall P, Potyondy D, Mas Ivars D. A synthetic rock mass model for jointed rock. In: Eberhardt E, Stead D, Morrison T, editors Rock mechanics: Meeting society’s challenges and demands. Volume 1: Fundamentals, new technologies & new ideas. London: Taylor & Francis Group; 2007. p. 341–9.
29   Potyondy DO. The bonded-particle model as a tool for rock mechanics research and application: Current trends and future directions. Geosys Eng 2015;18(1):1–28
doi: 10.1080/12269328.2014.998346
30   La Pointe P. It’s the cracks that matter: DFN modeling of everything rock [presentation]. In: The 46th US Rock Mechanics/Geomechanics Symposium; 2012 Jun 22−28; Chicago, IL, USA; 2012.
31   Garza-Cruz TV, Pierce M, Kaiser PK. Use of 3DEC to study spalling and deformation associated with tunnelling at depth. In: Hudyma M, Potvin Y , editors Deep mining 2014: Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Deep and High Stress Mining; 2014 Sep 16−18; Sudbury, ON, Canada. Crawley: Australian Center for Geomechanics; 2014. p. 421–34.
32   Pierce ME. Forecasting the vulnerability of deep extraction level excavations to draw-induced cave loads. Engineering 2017. In press.
33   Starfield AM, Cundall, PA. Towards a methodology for rock mechanics modelling. Int J Rock Mech Min 1988;25(3):99–106.
34   Holling CS, edtor. Adaptive environmental assessment and management. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons; 1978.
35   Hooke’s law [Internet]. [cited 2017 Jul 4]. Available from:
36   Nadai A. Theory of flow and fracture of solids (volume 1). New York: McGraw-Hill; 1950.
37   Sakurai S. Field measurements and back analysis in rock engineering. 7th ISRM Online Lecture [Internet]. 2014 Nov 28 [cited 2017 Aug 21]. Available from:
38   Dehkhoda S, Fairhurst C. Rapid excavation and tunneling techniques. Hydraul Fract J 2017;4(1):101–8.
39   Lynch AJ, Rowland CA. The history of grinding. Englewood: Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration; 2005.
40   Von Rittinger RP. Lehrbuch der aufbereitungskunde. Berlin: Ernst and Korn; 1867. German.
41   Kick F. Das gesetz der proportionalen widerstande und seine anwendung. Leipzig: Arthur Felix Verlag; 1885. German.
42   Bond FC. The third theory of comminution. Trans AIME 1952;193:484–94.
43   Bond FC. Crushing and grinding calculations, Part I and Part II. Br Chem Eng 1961;6:378–85,543–8.
44   Cook NGW, Joughin NC. Rock fragmentation by mechanical, chemical and thermal methods. In: Proceedings of the 6th International Mining Congress; 1970 Jun 1−7; Madrid, Spain; 1970.
45   Fairhurst C, Brown ET, Detournay E, de Marsily G, Nikolaevshiy V, Pearson JRA, et al.Underground nuclear testing in French Polynesia: Stability and hydrology issues. A report of the International Geomechanical Commission. Paris: Documentation Franc?aise; 1999. Available from:
46   “Innovation—mining more for less”, on the theme of innovation; excerpts from Ian Smith’s speech on 30 October 2013 [Internet].2013 Nov 18 [cited 2017 Jul 4]. Available from:
47   Anon. Robbins celebrates 60 years of achievement [Internet]. Phoenix: TunnelTalk; 2012 Oct [cited 2017 Jul 4]. Available from:
48   Chitombo G, Trueman R. Long round drilling—State-of-the-art. AMIRA P475-Scoping Study. Brisbane: CRC for Mining Technology and Equipment, Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Center; 1997.
49   Furtney JK, Cundall PA, Chitombo GP. Developments in numerical modeling of blast induced rock fragmentation: Updates from the HSBM project. In: Sanchidrián JA, editor Rock fragmentation by blasting: Proceedings of the 9th Int. Symp. on Rock Fragmentation by Blasting—Fragblast 9; 2009 Sep 13−17; Granada, Spain. London: Taylor & Francis Group; 2009. p. 335–42.
50   Fairhurst C. Some possibilities and limitations of rotary drilling in hard rocks. Trans Inst Min Eng 1955;115:85–103.
[1]  Supplementary Information Download
[1] Pathegama G. Ranjith,Jian Zhao,Minghe Ju,Radhika V. S. De Silva,Tharaka D. Rathnaweera,Adheesha K. M. S. Bandara. Opportunities and Challenges in Deep Mining: A Brief Review[J]. Engineering, 2017, 3(4): 546 -551 .
[2] Zhiqiang Yang. Key Technology Research on the Efficient Exploitation and Comprehensive Utilization of Resources in the Deep Jinchuan Nickel Deposit[J]. Engineering, 2017, 3(4): 559 -566 .
Copyright © 2015 Higher Education Press & Engineering Sciences Press, All Rights Reserved.
Today's visits ;Accumulated visits . 京ICP备11030251号-2