Esford, F, Bedell, P & Lamontange, E 2010, 'Case study — tailings dam construction in an arctic climate', in R Jewell & AB Fourie (eds), 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. 181-191.
Agnico-Eagle Mines Limited, operates the Meadowbank Gold Mine, in Nunavut, within the arctic region of
Canada where permafrost is widespread. Construction of their mine facilities began in 2008 and production
commenced in the first quarter of 2010. The mine will consist of a series of open pits, with conventional
processing and slurried tailings deposition within the tailings storage facility. The tailings facility is being
constructed in stages through a series of perimeter dams and staged raises to provide adequate tailings
storage capacity. The 2009 construction season included the construction of Stage 1 of one such structure,
‘Saddle Dam 1’, a 10 m high and 250 m long, lined rockfill structure, with Stage 2 to be constructed in 2010
to a height of 20 m and an overall length of 400 m.
The geotechnical investigation determined that soil thicknesses were up to 12 m with permafrost below the
active layer (approximately 1–2 m) and the upper 5 m being ice-rich material. The dam was founded on
bedrock on the abutments, and on-ice poor soils within the main body of the dam. Ice-rich soils were blasted
and excavated from beneath the upstream portion of the dam foundation. Blanket filters were placed above
this area followed by the upstream filters and the installation of a linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE)
liner on the dam face. The LLDPE liner was installed at temperatures between -15 and -25°C.
This paper presents the case study for the successful construction of the structure in challenging arctic
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Mine Waste 2010, Perth, Australia 191
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Case study — tailings dam construction in an arctic climate F. Esford et al.
192 Mine Waste 2010, Perth, Australia