The Fairhurst Files

Charles Fairhurst

Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA;
Senior Consultant, Itasca Consulting Group, Minneapolis

Dr Fairhurst obtained his Ph.D. in Mining Engineering from the University of Sheffield, UK in 1955. He joined the University of Minnesota faculty, School of Mines and Metallurgy in 1956, serving as Head for several years to 1970, when the Mining program was joined with Civil Engineering to form the Department of Civil and Mineral Engineering. He was Head of the joint Department from 1973-87, and retired in 1997. He supervised 25 Ph.D. students on a variety of topics in basic and applied rock mechanics

As a private consultant (and Senior Consultant with Itasca since 1981), Dr Fairhurst has more than 70 years of experience in min­ing rock me­chanics and has con­sulted on rock stability problems for tunnels, dams, mines, and exca­vations through­out the world. He has also been actively engaged for almost 50 years in the US and internationally, in the problems of geological isolation of high and intermediate-level nuclear waste. His current emphasis is on the mechanics of fracture propagation in naturally fractured rock under explosive loading and the effective stimulation of geothermal reservoirs.

He served as Presi­dent of the International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM) 1991-1995, and has been elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (1979) and the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (1991). He is a Fellow of the ISRM and Fellow of the American Rock Mechanics Association (ARMA).

Dr. Fairhurst holds honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Nancy, France; St. Petersburg Mining Academy, Russia; University of Sheffield, England; and University of Minnesota, USA; he is Advisory Professor to Tongji University, Shanghai, China.

In December, 2013, he was inducted as Officier, Légion d’Honneur, France.

In February 2018 Dr Fairhurst received the SME (Society of Mining Engineers,USA) President’s Citation Award “…. for outstanding contributions to the science and technology of Rock Mechanics which is fundamentally integral to SME's multiple disciplines.”

From July 2018-June 2019 he served as Chair, Section 11 (Earth Resources Engineering) of the US National Academy of Engineering.

This page will host assorted papers, articles and thoughts from Professor Fairhurst that are relevant to today's geomechanics industry.

Curriculum Vitae

Professor Charles Fairhurst

Papers and Articles

Rock Engineering: Where is the Laboratory?, 2019. Fairhurst, C. Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering, 52, 4865–4888.

Subsurface Engineering — Opportunities and Challenges, 2019. Fairhurst, C., A. Lucarelli, Varun, H. Lagger, R. Sterling, and M. Pierce. 2nd International Conference on Natural Hazards & Infrastructure, 23-26 June, 2019, Chania, Greece, 12 pages.

Sixty Years of Rock Mechanics 1956-2016, 2017. Fairhurst, C., Hydraulic Fracturing Journal, Volume 4 - Number 2, March 2017 (Invited Contribution), pages 12 - 23.

Limits to Underground Mining at Depth (in the context of global demand for minerals), 2017. Fairhurst, C, and J.L Furtney, presented at the SME Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, February 2017.

Some Challenges of Deep Mining, 2017. Fairhurst, C., Engineering, Volume 3, Issue 4, Pages 527-537, ISSN 2095-8099,

Subsurface Engineering — More than Rocket Science, 2017. Fairhurst, C., Hydraulic Fracturing Journal, Volume 4 - Number 1, January 2017 (Invited Contribution), page 8.

Subsurface Engineering — A Path Forward, 2017. Fairhurst, C., Hydraulic Fracturing Journal, Volume 4 - Number 2, March 2017, pages 6 - 11.

The Observational Approach in Rock Engineering, 2017. Fairhurst, C., Hydraulic Fracturing Journal, Volume 4 - Number 1, January 2017 (Invited Contribution), pages 36 - 41.

Rapid Excavation and Tunneling Techniques, 2017. S. Dehkhoda and C. Fairhurst, Hydraulic Fracturing Journal, Volume 4 - Number 1, January 2017 (Invited Contribution), pages 101 - 102.

Newton in the Underworld, 2017. Fairhurst, C., Hydraulic Fracturing Journal, Volume 4 - Number 1, January 2017 (Invited Contribution), pages 18 - 31.

Grand Challenges in Earth Resources Engineering, 2017. Fairhurst, C., Hydraulic Fracturing Journal, Volume 4 - Number 1, January 2017 (Invited Contribution), pages 32 - 35.

Earth Resources Engineering, 2017. Fairhurst, C., Hydraulic Fracturing Journal, Volume 4 - Number 1, January 2017 (Invited Contribution), pages 9 - 16.

Mechanics and Rock, 2016.

Thinking Deeper, ARMA e-Newsletter, Fall 2014.

Emerging Issues in Earth Resources Engineering, The Bridge, Spring 2014.

What is the Strength of a Rock Mass? Fairhurst, C., 2009. Originally published at 5th Colloquium on ‘Rock Mechanics –Theory and Practice’, Ōsterreichische Gesellschaft für Geomechanik. November 26th and 27th, 2009, Vienna.

Scale Effects in Rock Failure, Charles Fairhurst, Emmanuel M. Detournay, and Joseph F. Labuz, October 2009, National Science Foundation (NSF) proposal, University of Minnesota, 17 pages.

Cundall, P. (2008) "An approach to rock mass modelling”. Originally presented at the SHIRMS Workshop: FROM ROCK MASS TO ROCK MODEL WORKSHOP, 15 September 2008, 59 pages.

Cundall, P., M.E. Pierce, and D. Mas Ivars (2008) "Quantifying the Size Effect of Rock Mass Strength”. Originally presented at the First Southern Hemisphere International Rock Mechanics Symposium – SHIRMS 2008, September 16, 36 pages.

Deep Science – A Deep Underground Science and Engineering Initiative”, 12 October 2006 (48 pages).

Technical Report: Geo-Science and Geo-Engineering Research at DUSEL”, D. Elsworth and C. Fairhurst. Based on materials supplied by Coordinators, Working Groups 7, 8, 9: L. Costin, F. Heuze, B.J. McPherson, J.-C. Roegiers, E. Sonnenthal, R.P. Young, 9 October 2006 (59 pages).

Hanks, T.C., Abrahamson, N.A., Board, M., Boore, D.M., Brune, J.N., and Cornell, C.A, (2006), Report of the workshop on extreme ground motions at Yucca Mountain, August 23–25, 2004: US Geological Survey Open-File Report 2006–1277.

Fundamental Considerations Relating To The Strength of Rock. Originally presented at the Colloquium on Rock Fracture, Ruhr University, Bochum, Germany, April 1971. Revised and published in Report of the Workshop on Extreme Ground Motions at Yucca Mountain, August 23-25, 2004, U.S. Geological Survey, USGS Open-File Report 2006-1277. T. C. Hanks et al., Eds. Reston, Virginia: USGS, 2006.

Rock Mechanics and Radioactive Waste Isolation. “One small step for geology, one giant leap for rock mechanics”. Originally presented at the Tenth Congress of the International Society for Rock Mechanics, Sandton, South Africa, September 8-12, 2003.

Closing the Circle: Some comments on design procedures for tunnel supports in rock. Originally published in Proceedings, University of Minnesota 50th Annual Geotechnical Conference (February 2002), pp. 21-84. J. F. Labuz and J. G. Bentler, Eds. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.

Underground Nuclear Testing in French Polynesia: Stability and Hydrology Issues," Fairhurst, Charles; Brown, Edwin T.; Detournay, Emmanuel; Marsily, Ghislain de; Nikolaevshiy, Victor; Pearson, J.R. Anthony; Townley, Lloyd; Berest, Pierre (International Geomechanical Commission, 1999)

Going Underground [PDF | 398 MB]. By Torbjörn Winqvist; Karl-Erik Mellgren; Ingenjörsvetenskapsakademien (Sweden), published by IVA, Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, Stockholm Sweden],1988, 177 pages.

Hard Rock Blasting Developments and Possibilities. Originally published in Proc. Atlas Copco Bench Drilling Days, Symp. Stockholm, Sweden, July 1975.

Cundall, P. (1974) Rational Design of Tunnel Supports: A Computer Model for Rock Mass Behavior Using Interactive Graphics for the Input and Output of Geometrical Data. This research was funded by Office, Chief of Engineers, Department of the Army; Prepared under contract DACW 45-74-C-0066 with University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.


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