In situ monitoring of primary roofbolts at underground coal mines in the USA
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Primary roof support represents the first line of defence against rock-related falls of ground in underground mines, and improper utilization or misunderstanding of the applicability and behaviour of primary support can be costly from a safety standpoint. This is a major concern for underground mines, as roof support is the single most costly expense from a mining operational perspective. This is further backed by the evidence that, in the USA, hundreds of injuries and fatalities still occur each year because of rib, roof, and massive roof falls. Additionally, the fully-grouted passive rebar, fully-grouted tension rebar, and resin-assisted mechanical anchor bolts, which constitute a large portion (89%) of the 68 million bolts installed each year in underground mines in the USA can vary in cost quite dramatically. To mitigate this concern a study was conducted in 2010 by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, in conjunction with Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, to assess the performance of primary roofbolts in underground coal mines for improved safety and cost. This was accomplished using underground roofbolt monitoring solutions, field data, and numerical modelling to better understand the quasi-static behaviour of underground coal mine roofs and the response behaviour of the bolts.In particular, over 170 instrumented extensometers, closure meters, shear meters, fully-grouted passive rebar, fully-grouted tension rebar, and resin-assisted mechanical roofbolts were installed at three coal mines across the USA. Of these three mines, two used the room and pillar extraction method and the other used the long wall extraction method. There was no evidence to indicate a difference in performance of the active primary roofbolts compared with the passive primary roofbolts. Additionally, in the initial loading phase, the active bolts showed no difference in loading, indicating that tension bleed-off is of more of a concern than originally thought. Lastly, for the initial computer modelling studies, challenges still remain in obtaining a good match to the in situ bolt measurements and replicating the discontinuous roof rock and in situ bolt behaviour over time.
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