Stability charts based on the finite element method for underground cavities in soft carbonate rocks: validation through case-study applications
The stability of man-made underground cavities in soft rocks interacting with overlying structures and infrastructures represents a challenging problem to be faced. Based upon the results of a large number of parametric two-dimensional (2-D) finite-element analyses of ideal cases of underground cavities, accounting for the variability both cave geometrical features and rock mechanical properties, specific charts have been recently proposed in the literature to assess at a preliminary stage the stability of the cavities. The purpose of the present paper is to validate the efficacy of the stability charts through the application to several case studies of underground cavities, considering both quarries collapsed in the past and quarries still stable. The stability graphs proposed by Perrotti et al. (2018) can be useful to evaluate, in a preliminary way, a safety margin for cavities that have not reached failure and to detect indications of predisposition to local or general instability phenomena. Alternatively, for sinkholes that already occurred, the graphs may be useful in identifying the conditions that led to the collapse, highlighting the importance of some structural elements (as pillars and internal walls) on the overall stability of the quarry system.