When planning and designing a new mining or civil engineering project, engineers usually have to make some theoretical assumptions because it is impossible to establish in advance all conditions or potential changes to natural materials affected by the work.
Rock and earth can sometimes behave in an unexpected or unpredictable manner during excavations or other large-scale workings. When this happens, engineers may find that the actual situation differs substantially from the assumptions that were made – sometimes in a manner that has safety implications or the potential to stop work going ahead, or at least delay it significantly.
To manage these situations, it is necessary to know exactly what is happening in every part of the excavation, including (and often most importantly) within parts of rock masses and soil deposits that are not visible.
Detailed ongoing monitoring during all phases of a mining, tunneling, or construction project by means of an array of embedded geotechnical instruments is vital, as it allows engineers to observe how different parts and components of the site are reacting, closely observe these reactions, quantify them, and assess how much the on-the-ground reality differs from the theoretical assumptions made during the design and planning phase.
With this information in hand, engineers can modify and adapt the original plans to take into account unexpected behaviour of rock, soil, water and any other features and elements, and implement measures that allow the project to continue without compromising safety or unnecessarily stopping or slowing down the work.
For optimal efficiency and usefulness, geotechnical instruments used should be integrated into, and monitored by, a comprehensive data acquisition system like the Loadsensing LS-G6 (civil projects and surface mining), or a Newtrax system (underground mining).