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How a USQ researcher is working to improve mining safety

Geotechnical engineering expert Dr Ali Mirzaghorbanali researches ‘rock bolts’ aka anchors for stabilising rock excavations.

Educator and researcher, Dr Ali Mirzaghorbanali likens his work in geotechnical engineering to digging at the beach.

As sand is removed, more immediately collapses back into the hole.

Dr Mirzaghorbanali’s job is to make sure that doesn’t happen.

“It is the same in underground mining - we don’t want the earth to fall on the miners, so we build support structures. My work is in understanding the behaviour of these systems,” he said.

During his two years with the University of Southern Queensland’s (USQ) School of Civil Engineering and Surveying Dr Ali Mirzaghorbanali has taught geology and geomechanics to undergraduate and postgraduate students.

When he is not imparting his knowledge to the next generation, Dr Mirzaghorbanali is kept busy holding back the earth.

He’s recently begun a research collaboration with UNSW Sydney and University of Wollongong to enhance mine safety, increase productivity and reduce costs through fit-for-purpose designs.

The project is funded by the Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP) and will develop a modelling approach for more effective application of cable bolts in different ground conditions.

“We are aiming to create a comprehensive computer based model to simulate various features of coal mining support systems,” Dr Mirzaghorbanali said.

“Professor Naj Aziz (University of Wollongong) and Professor Paul Hagan (UNSW) have experience in researching the behaviour of cable bolts subjected to shear and axial loading in the laboratory environment.

“However there is a need to further understand cable bolt performance in the laboratory and field as well as development of advanced computer based numerical codes.”

The project will focus on the function of pretensioning and shear displacement of cable bolts in ground support and how ground and stress conditions impact the performance of support systems.

Cases of cable bolt failures will be collected and an Australia-wide database will be established to carry out back analysis using numerical modelling.

The project is expected to run for the next two years.

Three people in front of equipment
Dr Ali Mirzaghorbanali (middle) with students Peter Gregor and Ashkan Rastegarmanesh