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Abstract

Surface mining of coal can involve extensive footwall slopes parallel to shallow to moderately dipping coal measures strata. Footwall failure mechanisms typically invoke bedding-parallel defects but also require either the existence of flatter structures, which cross-cut bedding, or require break-out through the rock mass to allow failure surfaces to emerge.

Permian-aged Baralaba Coal Measures of the Bowen Basin, Queensland, are prospective for coal with extraction by open-pit methods. The Baralaba Coal Measures contains multiple seams within an interburden sequence comprising sandstone, siltstone, mudstone and carbonaceous variations. The coal measures sequence has been deformed into a complex pattern of NW-striking folds which has resulted in bedding dip ranging from 15° to 60°. Bedding has been classified as shallow (10–30°) to moderate (30–60°).

Geotechnical investigations conducted to support coal extraction up to depths of 200 m suggest that structural controls strongly influence footwall slope design. For the purpose of footwall slope design, a distinction can be made between deposit areas of relatively simple structure (uniformly dipping bedding on fold limbs) and structurally complex areas (where layer-parallel shortening close to fold hinges has resulted in a system of low-angle thrusts and asymmetrical minor folds).

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