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Oil sand tailings can be actively consolidated at the bottom of a water cap by the placement of a geofabric and a sand layer on top of the soft mature fine tailings (MFT). Small scale testing of sand surcharging is challenged because sand forms bridges in small vessels that alleviate the intended effective stresses. Geotechnical engineers resolve this problem by using oedometers and large strain consolidation cells, but these devices can be limited in terms of the application of engineering materials such as geofabrics, wicks, and site specific sands. A novel apparatus was constructed at several different scales to perform modified large strain consolidation tests using sand loading on top of MFT. Variables included MFT depth, flocculation of the tailings, TSRU tailings, and the placement of a small layer of flocculated material on top of an untreated material. Results indicate that consolidation occurs with or without flocculation and that modified wick drains can greatly accelerate consolidation of a capped soft sediment.
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