Rock Mechanics for Natural Resources and Infrastructure Development
The 14th ISRM Congress, jointly hosted by Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, was held in the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguacu close to the common border between the three South American countries. Prior to the congress a wide range of themes generated 805 abstracts resulting in submission of ~480 papers from 42 countries (dominated by Brazil, China, NZ 1 Australia 21). The congress, which was over three days between 16 and 18 September 2019 was attended by over 650 registrants, a good proportion of whom were young professionals (under 35) or students. Over 450 papers were presented (~190 orally, ~260 on posters).
Plenary sessions, with two award lectures (8th Muller – Prof Peter Kaiser, Rocha) and eight keynote plus one invited lectures, were held in an amply sized room. Oral presentations, with four parallel sessions in variably sized rooms, were divided into 12 special sessions with 20 minute timeslots, 26 technical sessions with 15 minute time slots and two early career forum sessions (10 first-time presentations plus two overviews). An entertaining feature was the enthusiastically contested Rockbowl student quiz with 16 teams entered (8 from outside Brazil) leading to the final between teams from Canada and Brazil (winners).
Morning and afternoon teas were held in a large area spread between the trade displays for the eleven conference sponsors and reasonably well-spaced posters. Industry sponsored moments were in some of the session rooms during lunch breaks, with meals separately available in the venue restaurant. Social events were pretty standard with a welcome reception and a dinner at which six new ISRM fellows (one – Bill Bamford – from Australasia) were inducted. A moving tribute session for past-president Prof John Hudson was held immediately prior to the Congress closure. A field trip – to the nearby 12,600 MW Itaipu Dam on the Brazil Paraguay border – was available on the day after the Congress.
Several of the keynote addresses gave worthwhile reminders on the value of observation, common sense, keeping thinking simple, plus the benefits of technology when usefully applied complemented by some historical reviews. The technical sessions gave expositions on the formulation and calibration of numerical models using a wide array of numerical techniques, and updates on laboratory testing techniques, in particular related to strength and permeability plus case histories for both surface and underground civil works and mining with a touch of petroleum geomechanics. We were also reminded of Karl Terzarhi’s input to engineering in karst terrain, encouraged to keep a geological perspective when deriving rock properties and updated on the challenges of the low confining tensile stress part of strength envelopes, all with the now present risk and health and safety overprints. Although topic areas (e.g. numerical modelling, laboratory testing, weak rocks) were reasonably streamed, there were inevitable clashes for those with wider interests, sometimes not helped by less than strict timekeeping.
Overall the congress was a successful event that provided a worthwhile update on a wide range of rock mechanics topic areas. There was some dilution from the topic broadness, something naturally associated with an international society flagship four-yearly gathering, but the emphasis on early career activities added worthwhile content. The several presentations that make attendance worthwhile were there, along with the ever present networking opportunity. The proceedings, as two separate volumes, one for keynote the other for main stream papers, are an awkward ebook in VitalBook format for registrants and will be available through the Taylor & Francis website.
The next congress will be in Salzburg, Austria in October 2023.
Reported by: Stuart Read