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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.
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Geotechnical design verification and performance assessment of tailings storage facilities M. Shelbourn
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