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I was always healthy until I visited the doctor for a checkup.  Then they found all sorts of things wrong with me:  internal components not working; high levels of this and that and consequential concerns; indications of too much drink and smoking; blood pressure where it should not be;  weight too high; and so on.  Although I did loose some fifteen lbs on my recent trip to Peru and Chile. Maybe not enough alcohol,  lots of walking, and all that terrible Peruvian food.  How can you like raw fish in vinegar; black potatoes in squid ink; or slimy muscles in red pepper?  I cannot and probably ate too little.

No matter.  We get old and things go wrong.   I suppose it is all a matter of what will get me first.  As long as it is not an angry reader of this blog.  But the doctor laughed and told me to keep going for there are many years yet to write this stuff, she said.  When did the doctor become a lady younger than my daughters?  It is just not fare.

So instead I spent the day writing reports on tailings dam I have recently observed.  I am amazed at the low standard of stability analyses I have seen.  Fourteen analyses and not one of them is correct!  Here is a list of the most common mistakes.  At least I have set those so-called reputable consultants working again.

  • Failure to include foundation soils in the stability analyses.  Apparently they did no foundation drilling, so did not include foundation layers.  Subsequent drilling has shown there are liquefiable layers in the foundation.
  • Failure to include the phreatic line in the cross section.  Apparently they had not yet installed piezometers so had no water table.  Subsequent work has shown that there is a high phreatic line in the cross section.
  • Use of circular arc failure surfaces in cohesionless materials.  We all know that planar failure surface develop in such materials.
  • Failure to use planar failure surface to calculate stability analyses involving sliding along a weak foundation layer.  They used circular arcs which simply cut through strong and weak foundation layers.
  • Use of the pseudostatic coefficient for seismic stability analyses in high earthquake regions.  They should be doing deformation analyses in order to estimate deformation.
  • Failure to account for buildup of excess pore pressures as the tailings rises.  Too complex to do I suppose.
  • Incorrect use of strengths of materials:  UU for slow failure and CU for fast failure.

No wonder these things fail.  Not only are the stability analyses done by amateurs, the phreatic surfaces they calculate using standard programs are just simply wrong.  But that is another blog topic.

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Just home from a four-week journey that took me to  Peru, Chile, Keystone CO, Banff, and Ekati NWT.  It is good to be back in the house where you can throw off the formalities of travel, eat simple food, and get drunk in private. They say that Peruvian food is the best in the world.  Indeed it is if you are in a fancy, expensive place in Lima.  But go to a mine and eat what the miners eat, and it is terrible beyond belief.  Rice & beans and other unrecognizable substances of gooey texture.  I lost weight.  Maybe it was the altitude = 14,500 ft.  You walk slow and breathe deep in those conditions. (more…)

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Woke up late this morning after twelve hours sleep—seems the older I get the more I want to sleep.  Maybe it is old age or maybe riding my bicycle to work tires out the old body.  Or maybe there is something breaking down inside that the doctors cannot discern. (more…)

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Philippe Jaroussky

Artaserse is an opera with five countertenors.  This is how opera was in the beginning.  Women were not allowed on the stage and castrati were in abundance.   Thus in the modern times, five countertenors are needed to produce the opera. An amazing production is the one I watched this weekend.  It is on a DVD from Erato and stars Philippe Jaroussky and Max Emanuel Cencic, two of the best modern countertenors. At first I was amazed and not sure what to think.  But then you suspend belief and segue-way into the music and theater.  For this is drama supreme and masterful emotion. Here is the story of the opera: (more…)

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I write this fifty percent in jest, fifty percent in earnest, fifty percent with tounge in cheek, and fifty percent as a concerned citizen.  You decide which is which in what follows, for I cannot decide.  After the failure of the Bafokeng tailings facility, we built a dike across the failed area and picked up the tailings on the mine property.  We put these picked-up tailings back in the slimes dam.  Then we built a rockfill dike with an upstream filter across the valley just at the edge of the mine property.  Thus any tailings we did not pick up were washed down to the dike and were in due course picked up and put back in the slimes dam.  In due course, they filled in the failure volume with new tailings as the mine continued production. (more…)

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There is a great silence of information about the geotechnical issues possibly involved in the failure of the Mt Polley tailings dam.  No reports have been released; no letters published; no statistics provided.  Oh sure, a few old numbers of incidents in 2012, but the 2013 report is not yet ready. (more…)

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Today we have read all we can find on the failure of the Mt Polley tailings facility.  It is all distressing.  And mostly misleading.  Here are a few clear thoughts on the topic. (more…)

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