The cave mining method was traditionally applied to massive low-grade, weak orebodies at shallow depths (less than 500 m) that favour cave propagation under gravity. Currently, this method is being applied to stronger orebodies and is taking place at depths of up to 2000 m below the surface. To ensure continuous cave propagation, preconditioning of the orebody is essential in this latter caving environment to improve rock mass caveability and to decrease fragmentation sizes. Hydraulic fracturing was initiated in the oil industry and is now being used in the cave mining industry as a preconditioning method and for stalled caves reactivation. A limitation of conventional hydraulic fracturing in the cave mining industry is that the hydraulic fracture orientation is uncontrollable and is dictated by the minimum in situ stress orientation. The preconditioning effectiveness of orientation-uncontrollable hydraulic fractures is limited in some geotechnical conditions, and the concept of creating orientation-controllable hydraulic fractures, here termed prescribed hydraulic fractures, is proposed to fill this gap. In this paper, the feasibility of the proposed approaches to creating prescribed hydraulic fractures is presented based on previous studies and numerical modelling. The numerical modelling code reliability in simulating the hydraulic fracture propagation and reorientation process was validated by comparing with laboratory results in the reported literature. In addition, the sensitivity of the prescribed hydraulic fracturing to the in situ stress condition and rock mass properties is examined.
- Block caving
- Hydraulic fracture reorientation
- Numerical modelling
- Prescribed hydraulic fracturing
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Civil and Structural Engineering
- Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology