University of Adelaide working on better ways to predict possible mine collapse

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Image credit: flickr User: Black Rock

Engineering researchers at The University of Adelaide have been working on developing new and better ways to predict the possible collapse of mines, dam embankments and large infrastructure sites.

Image credit: flickr User: Black Rock
Image credit: flickr User: Black Rock

According to the media release by The University of Adelaide, the project will span over four years and is led by Dr Giang Nguyen, new Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow in the University’s School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering.

“There are many cases around the world where we’ve seen catastrophic failure and collapse at underground mine sites, dams and other embankments with huge losses in terms of people’s lives and property,” said Dr Nguyen.

“It’s very hard to predict the effect of a natural disaster or failure in infrastructure. All we can do as engineers or researchers to ensure the optimal stability is to do laboratory tests on small specimens taken from the site and use this analysis to project what might happen on a larger scale. But there are obviously different behaviours between small specimens of 10cm3 then for large structures of 100m3 or more.”

Finding better ways to understand what is happening in the soil, rocks and concrete at micro-level and developing practical formulas that will help engineers predict collapse more accuratelly is crucial for overcoming scaling issues that have led to numerous tragedies.

“We need to come up with a method for better prediction that can properly link failures at the micro-scale, specimen scale and large (field) scale. This would transform the understanding of material property scaling into a predictive tool for engineering analysis, helping to obtain more cost effective designs with greater confidence in safety,” said Dr Nguyen.