Stability of shallow karstic caverns in blocky rock masses

Yossef H. Hatzor, Ilia Wainshtein, Dagan Bakun Mazor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


The limiting relationship is explored between underground opening span and required cover height for stability in blocky rock masses characterized by a network of horizontal bedding planes and vertical joints. Understanding this relationship is crucial for the design of mining excavations in karstic terrain as typically encountered in carbonate rock masses. We perform numerical analysis of multiple roof spans vs. cover height geometries using the DDA method to obtain the boundary curve between stable and unstable opening geometries. Our results indicate that for cavern spans of up to 18. m a low cover height vs. opening span ratio of h/B=0.33 is sufficient for stability. For spans greater than 18. m the demand for cover height rapidly increases and it appears to stabilize at h/B=1.0 for B=26. m and above.To validate our numerical analysis results, a unique case study is analyzed wherein a 40. m span karstic cavern, the Ayalon cave, has been preserved below an active open pit mine in central Israel with cover height of only 30. m, thus rendering the cave marginally stable according to our model prediction. Indeed there is ample evidence of partial collapse of the roof in the cave. The predictive capability of our model is further confirmed using two additional case studies in blocky rock masses, each of which possesses very different mechanical parameters such as intact rock strength, density, and deformability, suggesting that our model predictions remain valid as long the rock mass maintains a "blocky" structural configuration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1289-1303
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • Blocky rock masses
  • Caves
  • DDA
  • Discrete element modeling
  • Karst
  • Mining
  • Underground openings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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