This week we held a successful EduMine webcast on Advanced Tailings Topics. Four good speakers; many good attendees; and interesting presentations. Here is my summary of one of the issues in tailings management that we argued.
Forty years ago, the best geotechnical engineer and dam builder I have ever worked with warned me not to construct outward curving embankments. “They get pressure from the inward curving part where the tailings is, and so they move or creep outward. As the embankment soil or rock is not good in tension, it will crack and you dam will fail.”
Ever since I have managed to heed his advice. But we still see many cavalier designs of outward curving tailings facility embankments. Or worse square or rectangular plans. Recall that terrible failure at the corner of the facility that poured tailings into the Danube.
Of course I was attacked for these ideas—easier to attack than to solve.
My advice is to look very hard at flatter slopes, buttresses, and the effects of long-term creep outwards. Oh and install thick filters and drains that are self-healing.