The Wieliczka Salt Mine is the most famous and the most visited mining industry monument in the world and it requires modern methods to ensure rock mass stability and tourists’ security. Both for conservation and tourism organization reasons, the group of Warszawa-Wisla-Budryk-Lebzeltern-Upper Witos Chambers (Photo. 1, 2. 3) located the Kazanów mid-level at a depth of 117 m underground is extremely important. Discontinuous deformation occurring in this Chamber complex was eliminated by comprehensive securing work with anchor housing, but their final securing and stability is conditioned by further backfilling and sealing the Witos Chambers situated directly beneath. In the 1940s and 1950s, the Witos Chamber was backfilled with slag from the mine boilerhouse. However, slags with 80% compressibility are not backfilling material which would ensure the stability of the rock mass.
The chambers were exploited in the early nineteenth century in the Spizit salts of the central part of the layered deposit. The condition of the Upper Witos, Wisla, Warszawa, Budryk, and Lebzeltern Chambers is generally good. The western part if the Lebzeltern Chamber (Fig. 1), which was threatened with collapse, was backfilled with sand. In all the chambers of the Witos complex, local deformation of ceiling rock of varying intensity is observed as well as significant destruction of the side walls of pillars between chambers. No hydrogeological phenomena are observed in the chambers. It has been attempted to solve the problem of stability of the rock mass in this region of the mine by extracting the slag and backfilling with sand, erecting concrete supporting pillars, backfilling the voids with sand, anchoring the ceiling and the side walls, the use of the pillar housing. The methods have either not been applied or have been proved insufficient to properly protect the excavation situated above.
In order to select the optimal securing method, a geomechanical analysis was conducted in order to determine the condition of the chambers with particular emphasis on the pillars between the chambers. The analysis demonstrated the need to backfilling the Witos Chambers in order to improve the strength parameters of the pillars and the cross-level ledge. The next step consisted of selecting the sealing mix and testing how the additional burden and improving the slag strength parameters shall affect the stability of the excavations of the Kazanów mid-level. In order to determine the optimal composition of the backfilling mixtures, formulas of sealing brine slurries have been developed. Laboratory tests were also conducted concerning the strain parameters specifications of slags extracted from the Witos Chamber. Taking into account the slurry tests, and in particular, the density, strength and strain parameters, the optimal composition of the sealing mix was selected. The analysis of the results of numerical recalculations demonstrate that even the use of highest-density mixtures, backfilling(sealing) of the Witos Chambers should not cause significant disturbance of the current tension in the surrounding rock mass. The longterm impact of sealing should lead to improvement of the strain levels on the ledges between Level III and Kazanów mid-level chambers.
The positive results of applying in the Mine of injection slurries for sealing and stabilizing the rock mass and the construction of the injection node on the surface of the Kosciuszko shaft area have allowed resuming work in the Witos Chambers. The main injection over 1,000 m long pipeline was constructed from the injection node through the Kosciuszko Shaft and along Level III of the mine. The sealing of the Witos Chambers complex was divided into three areas (Fig. 2) separated by backfilling dams. Each region was connected to an injection and venting pipeline, and areas of possible injection material off-flow from backfilling locations were secured. Once that the Chambers are sealed with the use of the pipeline seven bore holes will be drilled from excavations situated above through which the sealing slurry will be administered. The operation will serve to eliminate any voids and re-seal the slag, and it will be conducted until pressures of approximately 0.5 MPa on the bore hole collar is achieved.
As past experience indicates, injection slurry formula can be regularly adjusted adequately to the changing geomechanical parameters and the type of sealing work at the Wieliczka Mine.
Once that the backfilling and sealing process in the Witos Chambers complex is completed, it shall be necessary to conduct monitoring activities in order to determine the processes occurring in the rock mass after the backfilling.
The properties of sealing mixtures qualify those for use in the environment both of salt mines and other mineral ore mines to stabilize the rock mass in the mining-geomechanical context precluding the possibility of weakening the rock mass strength parameters and at the same time sealing the rock mass and the loose material deposited in the excavation.