Shear strength of compacted clay liner at McArthur River Mine

Mine waste facility liner and cover systems


David Williams


The University of Queensland

Shear strength parameters of compacted clay liners (CCLs) are needed to analyse the stability of mine waste dumps containing CCLs as sealing layers for potentially acid forming waste rock. A representative clay sample was supplied by McArthur River Mine (MRM) from the mine site in the Northern Territory, Australia, with an average as-supplied gravimetric moisture content of about 13.6%. The clay was compacted in a 100 mm by 100 mm direct shear box at the as-supplied moisture content to a dry density of 1.85 t/m3, representing the field compaction specification adopted by MRM. To determine the peak and ultimate shear strengths of the compacted clay, single-stage direct shear testing was carried out at nominal initial normal stresses of 50 kPa, 100 kPa and 200 kPa, representing shallow depths of burial in the North Overburden Emplacement Facility (NOEF) of about 2.8 m, 5.6 m and 11.1 m, respectively (assuming a waste rock wet unit weight of 18 kN/m3). Three shearing rates of 1 mm/min (rapid), 0.1 mm/min (intermediate) and 0.01 mm/min (slow) were applied to study the influence of shearing rate on shear strength. In addition, the development of a residual shear plane was tested by reversal and re-shearing in the direct shear box. In the first shearing, the peak and ultimate shear strengths are determined. The normal load was then removed and the box rewound to its starting position. The normal load was then re-applied and the specimen re-sheared. Two reversals were applied to each specimen, and it was found that there was no significant reduction in shear strength. Finally, based on a range of shear strengths obtained in the laboratory for MRM clay and other materials by various laboratories over time, shear strength parameters for the compacted clay were recommended for use by MRM.

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