Authors: Shelbourn, M


Cite As:
Shelbourn, M 2010, 'Geotechnical design verification and performance assessment of tailings storage facilities', in R Jewell & AB Fourie (eds), Mine Waste 2010: Proceedings of the First International Seminar on the Reduction of Risk in the Management of Tailings and Mine Waste, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 3-14,

Download citation as:   ris   bibtex   endnote   text   Zotero

Tailings storage facilities can represent one of the greatest risk sources for a mine site, and the geotechnical design of any such facility should be conducted at a level appropriate for the satisfactory management of that risk. During operation, work is required to verify the geotechnical design parameters and conditions, which, at least for the deposited tailings, must often be assumed in the design stage, and to assess the performance of the facility, including consideration of eventual closure and reclamation. Topographic surveys, piezocone soundings, piezometer readings and seepage monitoring are among the most commonly used methods to characterise storage capacity, strength, rate of consolidation, porewater pressure and seepage conditions within tailings deposits. Some aspects of the collection, presentation and use of data from these monitoring and in situ testing methodologies for verifying geotechnical design assumptions are discussed in this document, with particular reference to tailings facilities for which structural support is provided by the impounded tailings. Advances in equipment, field work and data acquisition have improved the quality and quantity of geotechnical information and should lead to further development of tailings-specific geotechnical databases and correlations at each mine site and across the industry as a whole.

Blight, G.E. (2001) Evaporation from wet and “dry” beaches of tailings dams, in Proceedings 8th International
Conference on Tailings and Mine Waste (Tailings and Mine Waste ’01), Balkema, Rotterdam, The Netherlands,
pp. 33–39.
Blight, G.E. (2003) Quantified comparisons of disposal of thickened and unthickened tailings, in Proceedings 10th
Annual Tailings and Mine Waste Conference, Swets & Zeitlinger, Lisse, The Netherlands, pp. 63–71.
Bussière, B. (2007) Colloquium 2004: Hydrogeotechnical properties of hard rock tailings from metal mines and
emerging geoenvironmental disposal approaches, Canadian Geotechnical Journal, Vol. 44, pp. 1019–1052.
Davies, M.P., Lighthall, P.C., Rice, S. and Martin, T.E. (2002) Keynote Address: Design of tailings dams and
impoundments, in Proceedings 2002 SME Annual Meeting, 25–27 February 2002, Phoenix, Arizona, USA,
Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Inc., Littleton, Colorado.
Eldridge, T., Barrientos, M., Mussé, M. and Silva, M. (2007) Modeling tools for the development of tailings
management plans, viewed 15 May 2010, .
Engels, J., Dixon-Hardy, D. and Birch, B. (2006) Thickened and paste tailings facilities—measuring the surface
geometry, viewed 15 May 2010, .
Fourie, A.B. (2006) Above Ground Disposal, in Paste and Thickened Tailings – A Guide, 2nd edition, R.J. Jewell and
A.B. Fourie (eds), Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, Australia, 257 p.
Jefferies, M. and Been, K. (2006) Soil Liquefaction: A Critical State Approach, Taylor & Francis, New York, 479 p.
le Roux, G.J.R. (2002) The effectiveness of single and multiple open standpipe piezometers in monitoring of the pore
pressure regime in tailings dams, in Proceedings 9th Annual Tailings and Mine Waste Conference, Balkema,
Lisse, The Netherlands, pp. 35–38.
Lunne, T., Robertson, P.K. and Powell, J.J.M. (1997) Cone Penetration Testing in Geotechnical Practice, Blackie
Academic and Professional, 312 p.
Martin, T.E. (1999) Characterization of pore pressure conditions in upstream tailings dams, in Proceedings 6th Annual
Tailings and Mine Waste Conference, Balkema, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, pp. 303–314.
Martin, T.E., Davies, M.P., Rice, S., Higgs, T. and Lighthall, P.C. (2002) Stewardship of tailings facilities, Mining,
Minerals and Sustainable Development (MMSD) Working Paper No. 20, International Institute for Environment
and Development (IIED).
McPhail, G. (2005) Getting the water balance right, viewed 15 May 2010, .
Morgenstern, N.R. and Martin, C.D. (2008) Landslides: seeing the ground, in Proceedings 10th International
Symposium on Landslides and Engineered Slopes, Z. Chen, J-M. Zhang, K. Ho, F-Q. Wu and Z-K. Li (eds),
Balkema, Christchurch, pp. 3–24.
Plewes, H.D., Davies, M.P. and Jefferies, M.G. (1992) CPT based screening procedure for evaluation liquefaction
susceptibility, in Proceedings 45th Canadian Geotechnical Conference, Ontario, Canada, Vol. 4, pp. 1–9.
Qiu, Y. and Sego, D.C. (2001) Laboratory properties of mine tailings, Canadian Geotechnical Journal, Vol. 38,
pp. 183–190.
Robertson, P.K. (2009) Interpretation of cone penetration tests – a unified approach, Canadian Geotechnical Journal,
Vol. 46, pp. 1337–1355.
Schnaid, F. (2009) In Situ Testing in Geomechanics: The Main Tests, Taylor & Francis, New York, 329 p.
Schneider, J.A., Randolph, M.F., Mayne, P.W. and Ramsey, N. (2008) Influence of partial consolidation during
penetration on normalized soil classification by piezocone, in Proceedings 3rd International Conference on Site
Characterization (ISC’3), A-B. Huang and P.W. Mayne (eds), Taylor & Francis/Balkema, The Netherlands,
pp. 1159–1165.
Seneviratne, N.H., Fahey, M., Newson, T.A. and Fujiyasu, Y. (1996) Numerical monitoring of consolidation and
evaporation of slurried mine tailings, International Journal for Numerical and Analytical Methods in
Geomechanics, Vol. 20, Issue 9, September 1996, pp. 647–671.
Shuttle, D.A. and Cunning, J. (2007) Liquefaction potential of silts from CPTu, Canadian Geotechnical Journal,
Vol. 44, pp. 1–19.
Geotechnical design verification and performance assessment of tailings storage facilities M. Shelbourn
14 Mine Waste 2010, Perth, Australia
Stewart, D.P. and Randolph, M.F. (1994) T-bar penetration testing in soft clay, ASCE Journal of Geotechnical
Engineering, Vol. 120, No. 12, December 1994, pp. 2230–2235.
Vick, S.J. (1990) Planning, Design and Analysis of Tailings Dams, BiTech Publishers Ltd., Vancouver, BC, 369 p.
Weemees, I., Howie, J.A., Woeller, D.J., Sharp, J.T., Cargill, E. and Greig, J. (2006) Improved techniques for the in situ
determination of undrained shear strength in soft clays, in Proceedings 59th Canadian Geotechnical Conference,
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, pp. 89–95.

© Copyright 2022, Australian Centre for Geomechanics (ACG), The University of Western Australia. All rights reserved.
Please direct any queries or error reports to