Accelerated degradation and modified slake durability testing of clay mineral-rich coal mine spoil

Emerging technologies

Timothy Vangsness

The University of Queensland

The flooding of open strip coal mines in the Bowen Basin and Hunter Valley Coalfields of Eastern Australia has the potential to soften the spoil and floor materials to produce “mud”. This mud can act as a slip plane or weak zone when spoil is dumped into it, resulting in geotechnical instabilities. It is therefore important to understand the mechanisms and degree of degradation likely to occur within coal mine spoil of different qualities.

To investigate this, five clay mineral-rich coal mine spoil samples were collected from the Bowen Basin, and each sample was subjected to wetting and drying cycles to simulate degradation that could be expected on wetting-up in situ, with their particle size distribution analysed both before and after degradation. These results were compared with the results of a modified slake durability test, in which the entire sample was tested.

The paper presents the results of the accelerated degradation and modified slake durability tests on each of the five spoil samples. These results were related to the physical and geochemical characteristics of the samples, which highlighted their importance. The modified slake durability test may be used to rapidly simulate the expected in situ degradation of coal mine spoil on wetting-up, enabling susceptible spoil materials to readily be identified.

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