In the continuum approach to problems of geologic mechanics, the ground surrounding a deformation zone is replaced mathematically by an idealized material that deforms in accordance with principles of continuum mechanics. Studies published to date have been rather few in number and have often followed a methodology characterized by restrictive material property and boundary condition assumptions. In order to avoid these difficulties, emphasis in this paper is given to modern numerical methods. Discrete-element formulations of matrix structural analysis are shown to be particularly useful, inasmuch as they are adaptable to solutions of systems characterized by nonlinear anisotropic materials, heterogeneously distributed, containing internal discontinuities, and of arbitrary topographic or internal boundary configuration.

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