No. 5 - March 2009


Call for participation at SINOROCK2009

Dear ISRM members,

On behalf of the International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM), we invite you to participate at the next SINOROCK Symposium to be held at The University of Hong Kong from 19-22 May 2009. This will be the main ISRM Symposium for 2009 and the ISRM Board, Commission and Council meetings will be held on the 17&18 May immediately preceding the Symposium itself.

The theme of SINOROCK2009 is "Rock Characterisation, Modelling and Engineering Design Methods". The Conference will be attended by over 250 international delegates, including scientists, engineers and researchers with a common interest in geomechanics problems. It will provide a forum for exchange and discussion on diverse geomechanics issues. So far, we have received over 200 papers from over 20 different countries.

A pre-conference short course on “Structural Geology Interpretation of Rock Fractures to Aid in Engineering Characterisation” will be delivered by Profs John Cosgrove, John A Hudson and John P Harrison on Monday, 18 May 2009.

Technical site visits have been arranged to visit a new cavern just completed at The University of Hong Kong new campus and the Hong Kong West Drainage Tunnel Project.

A post-conference technical field trip between 23 and 26 May 2009 has been arranged to the earthquake-shocked sites at Sichuan, China.

The Conference Secretariat has also prepared some sightseeing tours to visit the best tourist attractions in Hong Kong. Special rates have been secured for delegates attending the Conference.

We look forward to meeting you at the Conference in May 2009.

Yours sincerely,

Profs Xia-Ting Feng, John A Hudson, George Tham (Symposium Co-Chairmen)
Dr Alan Kwong (Symposium Secretary)

For more detailed information about the conference, please contact:
Sinorock2009 Secretariat, Department of Civil Engineering
The University of Hong Kong, Room 624, Haking Wong Building, Pokfulam Road, HONG KONG
By Fax: (852) 2559-5337 or By Email: . Website:

Go to the top of the Newsletter

CD with all ISRM News Journal Issues attached to Volume 11

The last published Issue, Volume 11 for 2008, was distributed to all members earlier this month. A CD with pdfs of all the ISRM News Journal Issues (including this one) is attached to the inside back cover.

The purpose of each annual Issue of the ISRM News Journal is to:
a) provide a review of the ISRM activities in the relevant period, 2008 in the case of this Issue; and
b) to publish a thematic suite of technical papers on a subject area of interest.

Because 2008 was the centenary of Leopold Müller, the Founder and 1st President of the ISRM, a centennial appreciation prepared by Nuno Grossmann, our Vice-President for Europe, prefaces this Issue.

The next part of this Issue presents ISRM activities information for 2008 and a record of the successful 5th Asian Rock Mechanics Symposium (ARMS5) organised by Abdolhadi Ghazvinian and Abbas Majdi which took place in Tehran, where the 2008 ISRM Board and Council meetings were also held.

Another symposium in 2008 was the Conservation of Ancient Sites Symposium held in September in Dunhuang, China, on the Silk Road, organised by Li Zuixiong. From the rock mechanics viewpoint, this was a fascinating meeting because of the interaction of rock mechanics issues with the other component subjects. With Li Zuixiong‘s help, we have been able to reproduce, as the final part of this Issue, six of the keynote papers. These papers provide a useful overview and a taking-off point for those interested in the subject.

Go to the top of the Newsletter

Prof. Xiating Feng

Dr Claus Erichsen

Prof. Francois Heuze

Election of the ISRM President 2011-2015

Each ISRM Presidential term is for four years, the current term being 2007-2011. In order to provide sufficient time for the next President to become aware of the many aspects of ISRM’s activities, he/she is elected two years before their term of office begins. This means that the election for the next ISRM President will take place at the ISRM Council Meeting held in association with the SINOROCK Symposium in Hong Kong in May 2009, whereupon the successful candidate will become the President-elect for the two years until 2011.

Three nominations for ISRM President were received (in alphabetic order of the country):

        • Prof. Xiating Feng of China,
        • Dr. Claus Erichsen of Germany,
        • Prof. François Heuzé of the USA .

(Note: In the December 2008 ISRM Newsletter sent by email, it was mentioned that four nominations for the next Presidency had been received. However, since then, Phil Dight of Australia has withdrawn his candidature due to his anticipated workload in the years ahead.)

As part of the current ISRM Board’s modernisation programme, we wish to ensure that ISRM members have the opportunity to learn about the candidates’ experience and Presidential intentions. Accordingly, abbreviated résumés of the three candidates have been included on pages 56-57 of the most recent Issue of the ISRM News Journal, Issue 11 for 2008, which can be downloaded from the ISRM website. Moreover, we have asked the candidates to provide 10 minute videos of their background and intentions. These videos can be viewed on the ISRM website, from where the candidates’ nomination documents can be also downloaded .

Go to the top of the Newsletter

An appreciation of Sir Alan Muir Wood FRS FREng: tunnelling pioneer

Sir Alan Muir Wood of the UK passed away in February 2009 aged 87. He will be remembered as one of the fathers of modern tunnelling and an outstanding engineer whose talents spanned the spectrum of civil engineering: mathematical analysis, laboratory work, remediation of landslips, coastal engineering and tunnelling in soils and rocks. He was educated at Cambridge University, worked for Halcrow for 57 years, received honorary doctorates from several universities, was the first President of the International Tunnelling Association and became a Fellow of both the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering.


I interacted with Sir Alan on several projects when I worked for Tunnels Division at the UK Transport and Road Research Laboratory in the 1970s. In particular, I remember his piercing intelligence and a superb compilation produced by Sir Alan and Rodney Craig reviewing tunnel support methods. Also, he attended the 1984 ISRM Symposium held in Cambridge on “Design and Performance of Underground Excavations” organised by Ted Brown and myself where he presented a paper on engineering aspects of nuclear waste disposal in argillaceous rocks.

Further tributes and information can be found on the International Tunnelling Association website .

John A Hudson
ISRM President

Go to the top of the Newsletter

ISRM 1st annual technical and cultural field trip
Florence, Italy, 21-22 September 2009: second announcement

The 1st Annual ISRM Technical and Cultural Field Trip, September 2009 Florence - Italy, is devoted to the Carrara Marble quarries and the historical quarrying and mining activities which have taken place in Tuscany since Etruscan times (about 700 B.C.). The excursion starts from Florence and has the following programme.

September 21st - Carrara Marble quarries, the quarries from which Michelangelo took the marble for his masterpieces; the visit concerns both a large open pit and underground quarries. In the evening, a technical around-the-table-talk is planned. Overnight will be spent in Versilia, close northward of Viareggio.

September 22nd - The XXth century disused mine of Gavorrano, and the Etruscan and medieval mine of the San Silvestro site of the Metalliferous Hills National Park, northeastward of Piombino. Back in Florence for dinner.

Organisation is by the University of Florence through: Prof. Geol. Massimo Coli, Dept. Earth Sciences, and Prof. Geol. Carlo Alberto Garzonio, Dept. of Restoration and Conservation of Architectural Heritage.

The number of the participant is fixed at a minimum of 25 and at a maximum of 50. Fees, all included from Monday morning to Tuesday evening:  €300 for ISRM members and €400 for non members. The fee does not include travel from participant’s homes to Florence.

By mid April 2009 it will be available in the ISRM web site both payment and registration details and a Guide-Book of the trip so everybody can have an idea of the topics of the trip, print his personal copy, and be more attracted to participate to the trip.

Everybody really interested in the field trip please send an e-mail of pre-registration to the ISRM Secretariat: . Deadline for registration and payment is June 30th 2009.

Go to the top of the Newsletter

Update on EUROCK'2009: Dubrovnik-Cavtat, Croatia, 29-31 October

The Croatian Geotechnical Society is proud to organize the ISRM Regional Symposium EUROCK’2009 to be held in Cavtat-Dubrovnik on 29-31 October 2009.

The Symposium themes are the following:

  1. Geological and hydrogeological properties of karst regions
  2. Rock properties, testing methods and site characterization
  3. Design Methods and analysis
  4. Monitoring and back analysis
  5. Excavation and support
  6. Environmental aspects of geotechnical engineering in karst regions
  7. Case Histories

The list of keynotes is already complete:

  • Stresses in rock masses by John A. Hudson
  • Tunnelling in overstressed rock by Evert Hoek and Paul G. Marinos
  • Rock engineering for structures in unstable slopes by Heinz Brandl
  • Interpretation of the geological reasons for a major metro station collapse by Nick Barton
  • Innovative tunnelling construction method to cope with squeezing at Saint Martin La Porte Access Adit (Lyon-Torino Base Tunnel) by Giovanni Barla
  • Time-dependent phenomena in Tunnelling by Georgios Anagnostou
  • Site characterization and rock testing for the evaluation of design values by José Muralha

The Second Bulletin will be published on the website of the Symposium on August 1, 2009, and the hard copies will be distributed on August 15, 2009. Until then, all new information will be published on the website at .

We look forward to seeing you in Dubrovnik in October 2009!

Ivan Vrkljan
EUROCK'2009 Chairman

Go to the top of the Newsletter

ISRM sponsored meetings

  • 19-22 May 2009, Hong Kong, China – SINOROCK 2009: the 2009 ISRM International Symposium
  • 29-31 October 2009, Dubrovnik-Cavtat, Croatia – EUROCK'2009 – Rock Engineering in Difficult Ground Conditions - Soft Rocks and Karst: an ISRM Regional Symposium
  • 23-25 June 2010, Lausanne, Switzerland – EUROCK'2010 – ISRM Regional Symposium of Rock Mechanics: an ISRM Regional Symposium
  • 23-27 October, New Delhi, India - ARMS 6 – International Symposium on Advances in Rock Engineering: the 2010 ISRM International Symposium
  • 16-21 October 2011, Beijing, China – ISRM 12th International Congress on Rock Mechanics: the 2011 ISRM International Congress

Click here to view the list of ISRM Sponsored Conferences .

Go to the top of the Newsletter

Rock Dynamics Workshop 2009, Lausanne, 17-19 June

The ISRM Commission on Rock Dynamics, together with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) Rock Mechanics Laboratory will organise an International Workshop at the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, 17-19 June 2009. Dr Zhou Yingxin, Chairman of the Commission, will be the Workshop Co-ordinator.

The Rock Dynamics Workshop aims to bring together leading researchers and practitioners to share and exchange knowledge and experience in rock dynamics research and its application to rock engineering design. The workshop will feature presentations on the state of the art in research and engineering practice and provide ample time for discussion.

The Workshop brochure can be downloaded here . Interested parties are invited to contact Dr Yingxin ZHOU via email: .

Go to the top of the Newsletter

Blue Book - the complete ISRM Suggested Methods

The book "The Complete ISRM Suggested Methods for Rock Characterization, Testing and Monitoring: 1974-2006" was Edited by Professors Resat Ulusay and John Hudson.

The hard cover book was compiled and published by the ISRM Turkish National Group and can be purchased from them and also from the ISRM Secretariat.

An Introduction to the "Blue Book" can be downloaded here (see also Products and Publications on the ISRM website).

Go to the top of the Newsletter

WBI-International Shortcourse

The WBI-International Shortcourse on Rock Mechanics, Stability and Design of Tunnels and Slopes will take place at the WBI Head Office in Aachen, Germany, from 26 to 30 November 2009. The course, in its 6th edition, will cover the following topics:

  • Jointed rock fundamentals
  • Tunnels: stability and seepage analysis
  • Tunnels: design and case histories
  • Slopes
  • Dams and special aspects of rock mechanics

The course will be held in english and the speakers are: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Walter Wittke, Dr.-Ing. Claus Erichsen, Bauass. Dr.-Ing. Bettina Wittke-Schmitt, and Dr.-Ing. Martin Wittke. For registration and more information, visit

Claus Erichsen,
Vice-President at Large, ISRM

Go to the top of the Newsletter

Yallourn mine batter failure – Mining Warden’s report issued

(Text based on Mining Warden: Yallourn mine batter failure inquiry report 30 June 2008)

Photo from Australian Mining (accessed 6/3/2009)

On 14 November 2007 at 1.30am the north-east batter of TRUenergy’s Yallourn EastField Mine failed. The batter was in the process of final completion. The major failure involved approximately 6 million cubic metres of material, was 500m long and occurred on a slope that was 80m high. The failure resulted in substantial damage to conveyor systems, halted coal production and caused the entire flow of the Latrobe River to be diverted into the pit. No-one was injured in the collapse.

The Government appointed Mining Warden’s report on the incident has just been released; its findings are relevant to many coal and non-coal mining operations. The Mining Warden report , and the Government’s response , can be downloaded from these links.

The Warden concluded that there had been “a failure of the geotechnical management system at all levels and the future significance of many important signs was not recognised either internally or externally by some of TRUenergy’s technical advisers and reviewers. These signs manifested themselves to various extents in the years, months, weeks and days prior to the collapse”.

The failure mechanism was found to involve block sliding in which a large block of coal slid across the pit floor.
The principal cause of the failure was concluded to have been hydrostatic pressure that had increased in a persistent joint located to the rear of the failure. This joint extended to the Latrobe River. The other main cause was hydrostatic pressure in the inter-seam clays underlying the block of coal which reduced the normal stresses acting perpendicular to the seam and hence reduced the shear strength of the interface.

Monitoring data shows that the entire north-east batter had been subject to large deep seated movements for several years prior to the failure. Movements in the batters had shown a long-term accelerating trend. Upward creep of the pit floor had also been occurring. For the eighteen months prior to the failure, these movements had disturbed the groundwater conditions within the coal seam and within the underlying clays. The absence of dewatering bores and/or the non-use of those bores that had been installed was cited by the Warden as a major factor in the failure occurring.

Recommendations by the Warden were as follows:

  1. The need for effective groundwater and surface water control.
  2. The necessity that an all encompassing approach be taken to mine planning and development.
  3. The Government instigate regular reviews of all mining operations and their potential impacts to ensure issues that increase risk are identified and managed.
  4. The need for mines and their advisers to:
    • Develop hydro-geological models.
    • Develop geotechnical models.
    • Ensure the disciplines of geology, hydro-geology and soil mechanics are fully integrated into the model.
    • Ensure that changes to mine plans, mine layouts or mining systems are thoroughly evaluated from a geotechnical and hydro-geological perspective before they are accepted.
    • Ensure historical experience and understanding is not lost but is effectively captured in new and evolving mine models.

Tony Meyers
ISRM VP for Australasia

Go to the top of the Newsletter

A new approach to solve pillar design problems in tabular excavations

South Africa is famous for its extensive shallow dipping tabular ore bodies in the gold and platinum mining areas. Until recently, the analysis of tabular mine layout problems has mostly been carried out using the displacement discontinuity boundary element method. Examples of the codes utilizing this technique were the early versions of MINSIM and BESOL. With the availability of more powerful computers and desktop systems, these codes were upgraded to simulate more complex problems. A particular example is the MINSIM-D development for multiple reef tabular excavations. The key driver for these early developments and upgrades was the problems experienced in the deep gold mines. As a result of this particular focus, the numerical codes were optimised for the deep layouts and a number of simplifying assumptions could be incorporated in these programs (such as infinite depth solutions).

Although it has found application in the platinum industry, the conventional displacement discontinuity codes developed for the gold mines are not optimised for use in the Bushveld Complex. This problem can be ascribed to two factors namely differences in current working depths (many of the platinum mines are very shallow) and differences in layout and pillar design. The use of pillars in the deep gold mines are mostly confined to large strike or dip stabilizing pillars designed to reduce the damaging effects of seismicity. In comparison, a large number of small in-stope pillars next to the gullies are typically used in shallow platinum mines. Explicitly simulating a large number of these small pillars using the traditional displacement discontinuity codes are not practical as illustrated in the figure below where the regions of interest are covered by a grid of square displacement discontinuities. This approach results in a number of partially mined elements on the edges of the excavation.

The traditional modelling approach which covers the tabular multiple reef layouts with sheets of square displacement discontinuities.

The traditional approach is not conducive to simulate the large number of in-stope pillars found in platinum mines as the pillars will often be much smaller than element size when simulating a large region of interest. To overcome the problems outlined above, a new code, TEXAN, was recently developed by Dr John Napier in South Africa. The code is particularly suitable to solve large scale layout problems which contain a large number of small irregular pillars. The code also includes a finite depth solver to solve the shallow platinum mine problems more efficiently. The element geometries are more flexible and these can be triangles or convex quadrilaterals. This is a particularly useful feature for the specification of irregular pillar geometries that are, in general, difficult to represent using a regular, square-element grid such as that used by the MINSIM-D program. An example is shown below.

An example of a TEXAN run of a room and pillar layout showing the use of triangular displacement discontinuities to represent the mined areas. Compare this to the figure above where the entire area is covered with square elements in the more conventional approach.

Francois Malan
ISRM VP for Africa

Go to the top of the Newsletter

Rockfall Analyst: a three dimensional rockfall hazard analysis tool

RockFall Analyst, a GIS extension, which combines 3 dimensional dynamic modeling of the rock fall physical process with distributed raster-image modeling of rock fall spatial characteristics. It provides powerful and unique modeling and analysis tools for 3D rockfall process modeling and hazard assessment. By fully coupling the strong capabilities of GIS in data managing, visualization, and spatial modeling, it adds advanced ability of rockfall analysis to:

  • Integrate three-dimensional process-based physical modeling and raster-based distributed modeling to achieve a better understanding and effective assessment of rockfall hazard.
  • Model the entire physical rockfall processes including falling/flying, impacting and rebounding, rolling/sliding in a 3D framework using distributed parameters as shown in the following figure.

  • Generate a high quality prediction surface of rockfall hazard by taking primary rockfall characteristics into account, such as frequency and energy as shown in the following figures.

  • Model uncertainties by throwing blocks with random directions and to generate raster models via a spatial statistics technique.

The rockfall hazard can be assessed using Rockfall Analyst by taking into account the distributed geometry and mechanical parameters, and spatial pattern of rock fall characteristics. It involves several steps as shown in figure. An example hazard map was produced using raster image modeling of rock fall spatial frequency, flying height (potential energy) and kinetic energy.









Rockfall Analyst was developed at the University of Alberta as part of the Canadian Railway Ground Hazard Research Program. The program was funded by Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, CN Rail and CP Rail, in collaboration with Queen’s University, Transport Canada and Geological Survey of Canada. Rockfall Analyst has been utilized by Universities, Consulting Engineering Corporations and Government Agencies in over 10 countries.

For questions regarding the availability and use of Rockfall Analyst, contact Dr. Hengxing LAN at or To learn more about the Rockfall Analyst, refer to paper: Lan, H.; Martin, C. D. & Lim, C. H. 2007. Rockfall Analyst: a GIS extension for three-dimensional and spatially distributed rockfall hazard modeling. Computers & Geosciences, 33: 262-279.

Derek Martin
ISRM VP North America

Go to the top of the Newsletter

ISRM Secretariat, c/o LNEC, Av. Brasil, 101, 1700-066 Lisboa, PORTUGAL 
Tel: (+351) 218443419; Fax: (+351) 218443021; Website: ; E-mail:
© 2009 ISRM; Editor: Luís Lamas; Webmaster: Ricardo Resende

Disclaimer   ISRM Privacy Policy
Click here to subscribe or unsubscribe to the ISRM Newsletter