Hydraulic fracturing has been used in cave mining for preconditioning the orebody following its successful application in the oil and gas industries. In this paper, the state of the art of hydraulic fracturing as a preconditioning method in cave mining is presented. Procedures are provided on how to implement prescribed hydraulic fracturing by which effective preconditioning can be realized in any in situ stress condition. Preconditioning is effective in cave mining when an additional fracture set is introduced into the rock mass. Previous studies on cave mining hydraulic fracturing focused on field applications, hydraulic fracture growth measurement and the interaction between hydraulic fractures and natural fractures. The review in this paper reveals that the orientation of the current cave mining hydraulic fractures is dictated by and is perpendicular to the minimum in situ stress orientation. In some geotechnical conditions, these orientation-uncontrollable hydraulic fractures have limited preconditioning efficiency because they do not necessarily result in reduced fragmentation sizes and a blocky orebody through the introduction of an additional fracture set. This implies that if the minimum in situ stress orientation is vertical and favors the creation of horizontal hydraulic fractures, in a rock mass that is already dominated by horizontal joints, no additional fracture set is added to that rock mass to increase its blockiness to enable it cave. Therefore, two approaches that have the potential to create orientation-controllable hydraulic fractures in cave mining with the potential to introduce additional fracture set as desired are proposed to fill this gap. These approaches take advantage of directional hydraulic fracturing and the stress shadow effect, which can re-orientate the hydraulic fracture propagation trajectory against its theoretical predicted direction. Proppants are suggested to be introduced into the cave mining industry to enhance the induced stress shadow effect if prescribed hydraulic fractures are required. The feasibility of the proposed approaches will be investigated in future studies.
- Directional hydraulic fracturing
- Preconditioning efficiency
- Prescribed hydraulic fractures
- Stress shadow effect
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Civil and Structural Engineering
- Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology