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Polymer-Based Alternative to Steel Mesh for Coal Mine Strata Reinforcement


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Author C Lukey, G Spinks and E Baafi and I Porter and J Nemcik


Spray-on liners used in the mining industry for ground support and
stabilisation applications are either cement based (‘shotcrete’) or polymer
based (‘thin spray-on liners’). Some thin spray-on liners are a blend of both
polymer and cement (eg Tekflex). A small number of thin spray-on liners (TSLs)
have been trialled in Australia as potential replacements for steel mesh in
roadways and other underground mining applications; however, they were found to
cure slowly and the cured coatings became brittle after an extended time in

The University of Wollongong in collaboration with the Australian coal mining
industry has shown that a viable polymer-based alternative to steel mesh in
underground roadway support applications can be developed to eliminate the use
and handling of steel mesh. The work to date has:

  • established the feasibility of
    developing polymeric alternatives to steel mesh in underground roadway support

  • identified the physical and material
    constraints to be endured by any new polymeric skin reinforcement system by
    measuring the mechanical properties of steel mesh;

  • identified materials that can be spray
    applied; and

  • demonstrated that polymer mechanical
    properties can be optimised to produce similar mechanical properties (elastic
    modulus, yield stress, elongation-at-break, etc) to steel mesh.

The identified materials will:

  • allow the face support cycle to be
    fully automated, or at least remotely operated and installed;

  • remove personnel from the immediate
    face area; and

  • substantially improve underground
    roadway development rates.