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Seismic imaging and microseismic techniques improve the assessment of small geological structures and geodynamic risk management in mines.

The challenge

Superior monitoring for safer mining

Coal miners need to establish coal-seam conditions before beginning or extending any mining activities.

Conventionally, this required expensive drilling programs.

However, it is difficult to identify coal-seam structures, especially small ones, from vertical drill holes.

The financial and safety ramifications for a longwall mine encountering an unexpected geological structure are now viewed so seriously that mines can no longer afford to mine into unexpected ‘geological surprises’.

Rock-fracturing events in pits or underground are monitored by microseismic techniques.

In the past these approaches have proven inadequate for detecting weak seismic signals.

Decisions on mine feasibility hinge on the subsurface geological and geotechnical conditions, and management of mining risks (roof collapse, rockburst, coal gas outburst and coalburst, etc) requires understanding of the damage processes of orebody/strata in response to mining progress.

Seismic exploration before mining and monitoring during mining will provide great confidence to mine operators for mine planning and production control.

Our response

A quest to refine seismology

We have been working on addressing this problem for more than two decades, through a sequence of ACARP (Australian Coal Association Research Program) projects, including an award-winning project on interpretation of small-scale geological features on reflection seismic data.

Our research work has successfully demonstrated to the coal industry the unprecedented ability of high-resolution 3D seismic techniques to image coal-seam faults and roof conditions.

As a result, high-resolution 3D seismic methods have been widely adopted by the Australian coal-mining industry.

We are currently developing a novel seismic diffraction imaging technique, along with the reflection data, to further enhance the industry’s ability to detect small structures.

In addition, our Microseismic Research Team has developed a novel approach to monitor weak microseismicity and algorithms to automatically detect and interpret weak seismic signals to improve slope-stability assessments; data that has been missed or ignored by conventional monitoring.

Leveraging our in-house expertise and extended through research partnerships, we have developed software suites to support mining seismology

Software

In collaboration with our partners, we have developed:

  • SeisWin - for the comprehensive manipulation and interpretation of borehole radar and 2D and 3D seismic data
  • DiffractionWin – for extraction of diffractions from 2D and 3D reflection seismic data for small-fault identification
  • SIROSEIS – independently developed by CSIRO for microseismic data processing

Partnerships

Our relationship with industry and research partners ensure our R&D focus is aligned to market needs. Notably, we have established working partnerships with:

  • Velseis Pty Ltd
  • Integrated Geoscience Pty Ltd.
  • Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and
  • School of Resources and Environment, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China

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