Discontinuum–Equivalent Continuum Analysis of the Stability of Tunnels in a Deep Coal Mine Using the Distinct Element Method

Srisharan Shreedharan, Pinnaduwa Kulatilake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

43 Scopus citations


An imperative task for successful underground mining is to ensure the stability of underground structures. This is more so for deep excavations which may be under significantly high stresses. In this manuscript, we present stability studies on two tunnels, a horseshoe-shaped and an inverted arch-shaped tunnel, in a deep coal mine in China, performed using the 3DEC distinct element code. The rock mass mechanical property values for the tunnel shapes have been estimated through a back-analysis procedure using available field deformation data. The back-analysis has been carried out through a pseudo-time dependent support installation routine which incorporates the effect of time through a stress-relaxation mechanism. The back-analysis indicates that the rock mass cohesion, tensile strength, uniaxial compressive strength, and elastic modulus values are about 35–45 % of the corresponding intact rock property values. Additionally, the importance of incorporating stress relaxation before support installation has been illustrated through the increased support factor of safety and reduced grout failures. The calibrated models have been analyzed for different supported and unsupported cases to estimate the significance and adequacy of the current supports being used in the mine and to suggest a possible optimization. The effects of supports have been demonstrated using deformations and yield zones around the tunnels, and average factors of safety and grout failures of the supports. The use of longer supports and floor bolting has provided greater stability for the rock masses around the tunnels. Finally, a comparison between the two differently shaped tunnels establishes that the inverted arch tunnel may be more efficient in reducing roof sag and floor heave for the existing geo-mining conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalRock Mechanics and Rock Engineering
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Nov 9 2015



  • 3DEC
  • Back-analysis
  • Deep coal mine
  • Numerical modeling
  • Support optimization
  • Tunnel stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology
  • Civil and Structural Engineering

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