Manuel Rocha Medal Recipient Rock Fracture and Collapse Under Low Confinement Conditions
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The primary objective of this work was an examination of the complimentary roles of tensile damage and confinement reduction (or stress relaxation) on excavation response of “hard” rockmasses. Tensile damage and relaxation are examined with respect to structurally controlled or gravity driven failure modes as well as to strength controlled or stress driven rockmass damage and yield. In conventional analysis of both structurally controlled and stress driven failure, the effects of tensile damage and tensile resistance as well as the elevated sensitivity to low confinement are typically neglected, leading to erroneous predictions of groundfall potential or rock yield. The important role of these two elements in underground excavation stability in hard rock environments is examined in detail through a review of testing data, case study examination and a number of analytical and numerical analogues including discrete element simulation, statistical theory and fracture mechanics. This rigorous theoretical treatment updates, validates and constrains the current use of semi-empirical design guidelines based on these mechanisms.
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