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Development of a Method for Measuring Rock Mass Air Permeability and Applications to Underground Mining



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Potential problems associated with groundwater inflows are a major concern to many Saskatchewan mining operations. Rock mass behavior and stability have been linked to the presence of groundwater and the inflow potential. An estimate of rock mass hydraulic properties is an important factor for assessing groundwater inflow potential and the effect this may have on the stability of mine openings. The Cameco McArthur River Operation in northern Saskatchewan, Canada, uses a number of methods for mitigating groundwater inflow. The potential still exists for water pressures to contribute to instability in the rock mass surrounding underground excavations. Hydrogeological testing using water has been conducted previously to estimate hydraulic properties, however, flow tests for permeability are challenging due to inconsistent flow. Pumping tests are not feasible due to associated stability concerns. Methods using air for estimating rock mass hydraulic properties were determined to be the best option for testing. Equipment, methodology and analysis approaches were developed to conduct air permeability tests for estimating the hydraulic properties of the rock mass. Tests were conducted near underground excavations with the goal of determining if the developed method and procedures were feasible to apply in an underground mining environment. The data was analyzed to determine if the permeability estimates obtained were consistent with permeability values measured for similar rock types and rock mass conditions. Test locations were varied to determine if links could be found between measured air permeability, rock mass behavior and the rock mass response to adjacent excavations. Measured changes in air permeability corresponding to the distance from excavation boundaries may indicate changes to joint properties such as joint aperture, continuity and frequency. The developed instrumentation and testing procedures are shown to be successful in estimating permeability and giving measurable changes in rock mass permeability around underground excavations.



Rock Mass, Air Permeability



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Civil and Geological Engineering


Civil Engineering


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