Rock pillar design using a masonry equivalent numerical model

Ricardo Moffat, Cristian Caceres, Eugenia Tapia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In underground mining, the design of rock pillars is of crucial importance as these are structures that allow safe mining by maintaining the stability of the surrounding excavations. Pillar design is often a complex task, as it involves estimating the loads at depths and the strength of the rock mass fabric, which depend on the intact strength of the rock and the shape of the pillar in terms of the aspect ratio (width/height). The design also depends on the number, persistence, orientation, and strength of the discontinuities with respect to the orientation and magnitude of the stresses present. Solutions to this engineering problem are based on one or more of the following approaches: empirical design methods, practical experience, and/or numerical modeling. Based on the similarities between masonry structures and rock mass characteristics, an equivalent approach is proposed as the one commonly used in masonry but applied to rock pillar design. Numerical models using different geometric configurations and state of stresses are carried out using a finite difference numerical approach with an adapted masonry model applied to rocks. The results show the capability of the numerical approach to replicate common types of pillar failure modes and stability thresholds as those observed in practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number890
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2 Feb 2021


  • Design numerical model
  • Mining
  • Rock pillar
  • Underground stability


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