Underground gold mines in Nevada are exploiting increasingly deeper ore bodies comprised of weak to very weak rock masses. The Rock Mass Rating (RMR) classification system is widely used at underground gold mines in Nevada and is applicable in fair to good-quality rock masses, but is difficult to apply and loses reliability in very weak rock mass to soil-like material. Because very weak rock masses are transition materials that border engineering rock mass and soil classification systems, soil classification may sometimes be easier and more appropriate to provide insight into material behavior and properties. The Unified Soil Classification System (USCS) is the most likely choice for the classification of very weak rock mass to soil-like material because of its accepted use in tunnel engineering projects and its ability to predict soil-like material behavior underground. A correlation between the RMR and USCS systems was developed by comparing underground geotechnical RMR mapping to laboratory testing of bulk samples from the same locations, thereby assigning a numeric RMR value to the USCS classification that can be used in spreadsheet calculations and geostatistical analyses. The geotechnical classification system presented in this paper including a USCS--RMR correlation, RMR rating equations, and the Geo-Pick Strike Index is collectively introduced as the Weak Rock Mass Rating System (W-RMR). It is the authors' hope that this system will aid in the classification of weak rock masses and more usable design tools based on the RMR system. More broadly, the RMR--USCS correlation and the W-RMR system help define the transition between engineering soil and rock mass classification systems and may provide insight for geotechnical design in very weak rock masses.
- Geo-Pick Strike Index
- Rock Mass Rating (RMR)
- Unified Soil Classification System (USCS)
- Weak rock mass