Abstract

Mining activity may cause different types of seismicity and rock failure. Typical events include (1) fully induced microearthquakes in close proximity to galleries and human activity due to high‐stress concentrations (border fractures) and (2) triggered earthquakes within the rock mass at larger distance to the source of the stress perturbation (inner fractures). Type 1 is important to understand the development of rock bursts and evaluate the stability of the mine. Type 2 may be associated with larger events releasing pre‐existing stress and being triggered by stress changes due to the mining operation. They are important to assess the seismic hazard related to mining activity.

To analyze these different failure processes, we use a dataset of high‐frequency acoustic emission (AE) events monitored in an abandoned salt mine. The process of fracture formation in the rock mass was enhanced by the backfilling of a cavity. Thermal stresses induced by the backfilling operation are modeled with a finite‐element approach, and observed AE activity is used to quantify the mechanism of event triggering in terms of a Coulomb failure model.

Two observations are outstanding. First, the instantaneous triggering of enhanced activity and the slow growth of an inner fracture in relatively far distance to the backfilled cavity is detected. The structure already showed AE activity before the refilling started and was triggered by traction‐like stress transfer. Its AE activity correlates well with the calculated Coulomb stress changes at the beginning of backfilling. Second, the sudden occurrence of a macroscopic, induced border fracture at the backfilled gallery which is oriented in agreement with the acting stress field is observed. Although AE activity at the inner fracture was triggered by tiny Coulomb stress changes, indicating a structure already in critical state, formation of the border fracture required significantly larger stresses, hinting at a previously intact rock volume.

Online Material: Figure depicting the variability of the static Coulomb stress changes on the inner fracture for different rake values.

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