Most underground mines are equipped with microseismic monitoring systems that allow the detection, location, and characterization of microseismic events. Microseismic events can be exploited to understand the rock mass response to mining. However, seismicity provides information only for regions that are seismically active. Although some information on nonseismically active regions can be obtained from point measurements and numerical modeling, these methods suffer from limitations of their own. Passive source traveltime body-wave tomography (passive source tomography [PST]) uses information readily collected by microseismic monitoring systems, namely, the P- and/or S-wave traveltimes and microseismic event hypocenter locations. This technique allowes the simultaneous estimation of the velocity distribution between sensors and microseismic events and the correction of microseismic event hypocenter locations. In this paper, we present an application of time-lapse PST to the Northparkes Mines E26 Lift 2 block cave showing that PST can be used to obtain information on evolution and distribution of seismic velocities, leading to a better understanding of stress distribution and redistribution and of rock mass behavior during the development and production phases. In particular, we found that (1) the magnitude of the velocity perturbation varied through time and appeared to be strongly correlated with the intensity of microseismic activity, the mining rate, and the nature of the mining activity, (2) the velocity models provided information that allowed for the inference of the cave geometry and its evolution through time, (3) the stress distributions inferred from the velocity model were not fully consistent with a widely accepted conceptual stress redistribution model, which may reflect the significant influence of rock mass inhomogeneities and the mining sequence, (4) seismicity was found in regions in which velocity was higher and lower than the background velocity, and (5) there was no obvious correlation between geology and velocity distribution and evolution.

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