Assessment of Residual Strength of Tailings Using the Cone Penetration Test and Simplified Numerical Modelling

Renseignements sur le financement
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
  • Type de subvention: Subventions de recherche et développement coopérative
  • Année: 2019/20
  • Financement total: $33,286
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Sommaire du projet

Tailings dams are massive man-made earth structures used for disposing large quantities of mining by-products, known as tailings. A great majority of the rock crushed for ore extraction does not contain sufficient amounts of desired minerals. These silt-and-sand-sized materials are mixed with water and deposited in a loose state behind small compacted perimeter embankments. In many cases, over time, tailings and compacted embankments are built on top of each other to form massive structures known as tailings dams. Like all other embankments, tailings dams are susceptible to failures as their height and slope increases, or under extreme events such as earthquakes. Tailings dams failures release massive amounts of water and tailings that can cause loss of life and property and irreparable environmental damage (e.g. Fundao tailings dam in Brazil). To ensure safe and sustainable mining operations, tailings dams are continuously evaluated by Geotechnical engineers. These evaluations include assessing the strength of tailings against earthquakes using empirical methods that are developed for natural soils deposited by rivers and oceans. The fundamental differences between tailings and natural soils make the application of existing empirical methods questionable. The proposed collaborative research will develop a method for assessing the post-failure resistance of tailings, which determines how remedial measured are designed. The partner company will gain a competitive advantage in having tailings-specific engineering methods that ensure more economical and safer designs. These methods will save mining companies millions of dollars in tailings disposal costs, increase the safety of Canadians living near tailings and protect their environment.