Authors: Knutsson, R; Bjelkevik, A; Knutsson, S
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Tailings storage facilities (TSFs) will, after closure of the mine, have to be stable in a long-term perspective (e.g. 1,000 years or more). In many cases, due to the characteristics of the tailings, a high phreatic surface is required to keep the tailings saturated in order to prevent, or minimise, the process of oxidation. Due to this the slope stability of the embankment, or the land form slope, is critical as any material exposed to a hydraulic gradient is exposed to a load. So, the question is: Is the embankment, or landfill slope, that is exposed to a hydraulic gradient safe in the long term with respect to the actual design and material properties? In order to answer that question, an understanding of the structure, its stability and level of actual safety during operation is necessary. This paper will therefore discuss slope stability for embankments during operation and the long-term perspective and how the factor of safety (FS) can be verified. Practice today for dam stability is that a certain FS is required, i.e. a safety margin (in Sweden FS>1.5), and for that condition we design the embankment. The design includes the geometry of the structure, material properties, water management/water levels and requirements for compatibility between different materials, as well as for construction and operation. The FS can, however, not be physically measured on, or in, the actual embankment. What can be measured is seepage, pore pressure and movement (vertical and horizontal displacements). But how can the readings be used to verify the actual FS? In order to illustrate this, an example from a TSF in northern Sweden is presented where readings have been taken through numerical modelling (PLAXIS), comprehensive geotechnical investigations, lab testing and inclinometers. In order to predict how an embankment, or landform slope, will behave in the long-term phase and what the actual FS will be, the authors believe it is necessary to understand the behaviour of the structure during operation. The method used for the example illustrated in this paper shows a method to gain an understanding for a structure, which is absolutely crucial for understanding the actual FS and for the possibility to predict the level of safety in the long term.

Keywords: tailings management facility, slope stability, factor of safety, landform design, long term

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