Lessons Learnt in Geotechnical Investigation and Stability Analysis for Upstream TSF Raise Design

Mine waste geotechnics, geochemistry and biology


Benoit Wentzinger


Red Earth Engineering

Upstream embankment raises often represent the lowest cost option for increasing the capacity of tailings storage facilities (TSF), but also pose the highest stability risk due to constructing on top of previously deposited tailings.

This paper presents an overview of key aspects in the geotechnical investigation and design of upstream raises and some recent lessons learnt from experience across a number of TSFs in Australia. A summary of recommended field investigation and laboratory testing methods is provided with a focus on collecting quality information for design purposes. A strong focus is given in developing an accurate assessment of pore water pressures, which, if not correctly understood can have disastrous consequences on tailings strength parameter interpretation and wall stability assessment in static and post-seismic conditions.

The assessment of the contractive or dilative shearing behaviour of the tailings material and rigorous interpretation of design characteristic values are presented. Some comments on stability analysis options and proposed methodology are also provided.

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