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Rock Burst 

Authors: Jack Caldwell


This review gives a brief introduction to rock bursts. Definitions and links to literature and consultants are given, and rock burst control and prevention are discussed.


Hoek defines a rock burst as "an explosive failure of rock which occurs when very high stress concentrations are induced around underground openings." He notes that the problem is acute in deep level mining in hard, brittle rock.

The InfoMine dictionary gives this definition: "A sudden and often violent breaking of a mass of rock from the walls of a tunnel, mine, or deep quarry, caused by failure of highly stressed rock and the rapid or instantaneous release of accumulated strain energy. It may result in closure of a mine opening, or projection of broken rock into it, accompanied by ground tremors, rockfalls, and air concussions."


Probably the best collection of publications on rockburst is at the website of the South African Association of Societies for Occupational Safety and Health.

Support of Underground Excavations in Hardrock (1996) from the Laurentian University Geomechanics Research Center.

In South Africa we have the Code of practice to Combat Rockburst and Rockfall Accidents on Mines which can be purchased commerically at the afore mentioned site.

In the InfoMine library are many publications on rockburst. The one I most enjoyed reading is by White and Whyatt (no joke) Role of Fault Slip on Mechanisms of Rock Burst Damage.


A powerpoint presentation at this link sets out the theory and the mathematics of rockburst. Not easy to follow due to the powerpoint format, but intriguing nevertheless.

Basically it all boils down to these factors that affect rock burst occurrence:

  • Mining method
  • Sequencing of developing the underground mine workings
  • Pillar layout and geometry
  • Blasting as it affects the pillars
  • Roof support methods
  • Rockfill and backfill used to fill mined-out areas.


MSHA sets out the requirements for a Rock Burst Control Plan as required by 30 CFR Part 57.3461 at this link.


In a fascinating paper Evaluation of risk of rock fall accidents in gold mine stopes based on measured joint data, Stacey and Gumede examine the ethics issues involved with design and operation to prevent rock bursts. Along the way they review methods to prevent rock burst. Here is the "design circle" they use to detail design methods.

Figure 1: The engineering circle or wheel of design. (Stacey, 2006)


Rock bursts may be prevented, limited, or controlled by one or more of the following:


Chris Page used to be with SRK in Vancouver, although I am told he is now retired and traveling, although still a Corporate Consultant. I knew, liked, and respected him many years ago. Maybe he will still help you.

Golders offers this service: The Mine Seismicity Management Program audits are a series of projects involving audits and reviews of various mine's rock burst and seismicity management programs at seismically active mines in Western Australia. The studies involve a site visit to become familiar with conditions, tools and techniques, procedures and protocols used by the mine for managing mining induced seismicity, followed by a desktop review of reports. They review the following aspects of the Mine Seismicity Management Program:

  • current plans/programs for microseismic monitoring and reporting, data collection and plotting information;
  • all records of rock burst, fall of ground and seismic event occurrences and investigation reports;
  • current ground support design rationale and standard procedures for installation and variations from the standard procedures;
  • current mine sequence and stoping plans;
  • relevant geotechnical, numerical modeling, and stress analyses reports; and
  • discussions with mine planning (planning, management and geology personnel) and operations personnel (including front line supervision and miners).
  • A final report is provided, with suggestions for improvements based upon our experience in seismically active conditions.

DMT have publicly appointed and sworn experts as well as experts approved by mining authorities we are your perfect partner to contact if you have any questions about rock bursts or the prevention of rock bursts. They support you not only with advice but also with our competent assessment of situations in the planning and performance of measures for preventing rock bursts. Also in the training of your specialist staff we can help you.

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