Seismicity associated with mining
The virgin state of stress in the earth's crust is disturbed by mine excavations which result in stress concentrations in the rock. Rock emits seismic pulses when subjected to stresses approaching in value the strength of the rock. Mining gives rise to seismic activity ranging from microseismic events radiating 10−5 J (M - 6) to rockbursts or tremors radiating 109 J (M5). Rock failures in mines fall into four main categories: rockfalls, in which loosened rock falls mainly under its own weight; rockbursts which are violent failures of rock and may cause damage to excavations; bumps, which are violent failures, but which do not cause damage to the excavations; and outbursts in which the rapid release of gas causes rock to be ejected into the excavation. Microseismic activity is associated with all these four categories of rock failure. Rockbursts and bumps occur in deep metalliferous mines in which thin tabular deposits in strong, brittle siliceous rocks of igneous or metamorphic origin are worked. The seismicity associated with mining appears to have many features in common with those natural earthquakes. However, the mechanics and dynamics of mining can be analysed relatively completely and the excavations provide access to the source region of the seismic events. Comprehensive studies of rock deformation and fractures have been made on several gold mines of the Witwatersrand System. The gold-bearing reefs are mined at depths of down to more than 3 km below surface by stoping. This creates flat voids in the quartzitic strata extending laterally for distances of up to several kilometres with an initial excavated thickness of a metre. Geodetic-type measurements in tunnels and boreholes traversing the rock mass around these excavations have shown that the rock mass responds elastically over long periods of time to the extension of the boundaries of the excavations resulting from advancing the stope faces. Failure of the rock in the regions of maximum stress concentration near the edges of these excavations is an unavoidable concomitant of mining. It gives rise to new fracture planes closely parallel to the stope faces and to continuous seismic activity. The foci of seismic events with magnitudes from less than 0 to greater than 3 are found to occur mainly within tens of metres of the advancing stope faces. Diurnal and weekly distributions of seismic activity and of deformation show that the failure of the rock is time-dependent. The seismic radiation efficiency has been found to be of the order of 0.1%. The seismicity is related to the spatial rate of energy release associated with the extension of the excavations and the incidence of seismic events and their magnitudes can be predicted statistically from calculated values of this quantity.