Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 659–675 | Cite as

In-situ Rock Spalling Strength near Excavation Boundaries

  • M. Cai
  • P. K. Kaiser
Original Paper


It is widely accepted that the in-situ strength of massive rocks is approximately 0.4 ± 0.1 UCS, where UCS is the uniaxial compressive strength obtained from unconfined tests using diamond drilling core samples with a diameter around 50 mm. In addition, it has been suggested that the in-situ rock spalling strength, i.e., the strength of the wall of an excavation when spalling initiates, can be set to the crack initiation stress determined from laboratory tests or field microseismic monitoring. These findings were supported by back-analysis of case histories where failure had been carefully documented, using either Kirsch’s solution (with approximated circular tunnel geometry and hence σ max =  1 −σ 3) or simplified numerical stress modeling (with a smooth tunnel wall boundary) to approximate the maximum tangential stress σ max at the excavation boundary. The ratio of σ max /UCS is related to the observed depth of failure and failure initiation occurs when σ max is roughly equal to 0.4 ± 0.1 UCS. In this article, it is suggested that these approaches ignore one of the most important factors, the irregularity of the excavation boundary, when interpreting the in-situ rock strength. It is demonstrated that the “actual” in-situ spalling strength of massive rocks is not equal to 0.4 ± 0.1 UCS, but can be as high as 0.8 ± 0.05 UCS when surface irregularities are considered. It is demonstrated using the Mine-by tunnel notch breakout example that when the realistic “as-built” excavation boundary condition is honored, the “actual” in-situ rock strength, given by 0.8 UCS, can be applied to simulate progressive brittle rock failure process satisfactorily. The interpreted, reduced in-situ rock strength of 0.4 ± 0.1 UCS without considering geometry irregularity is therefore only an “apparent” rock strength.


Rock strength Apparent rock strength Actual rock strength Crack initiation Spalling failure Heterogeneity Irregular excavation boundary Brittle rock failure Mine-by tunnel 



Financial support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada is greatly appreciated.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bharti School of EngineeringLaurentian UniversitySudburyCanada
  2. 2.Centre for Excellence in Mining InnovationSudburyCanada

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