David Brett, Robert Longey, Jiri Herza
The independent expert review panel for the Mount Polley Tailings Storage Facility failure came out strongly recommending changes to the technology of tailings dams in British Columbia (and by inference, world-wide). The Panel had examined the historical risk profile of tailings dams in British Columbia and recommended, amongst other things, that best available technology (BAT) be adopted for tailings disposal. Examples of BAT, described by the panel, included “dry-stacking” of filtered, unsaturated, compacted tailings and reduction in the use of water covers in a closure setting. The recommended technologies would require a major shift in current practice and raises many questions, such as:
– Are these recommendations appropriate in Australia?
– Does this signal the end of the tailings dams as we know them?
– Do the current Australian National Committee on Large Dams Guidelines (ANCOLD) apply to these new BAT technologies?
– If not, is there a role for ANCOLD in setting standards for the future?
This paper discusses the Mt Polley tailings dam failure and searches for answers to these questions. In particular, this paper reviews the background to “dry-stacking’, to explore the implications for the Australian mining industry.
Keywords: Tailings Dam, Dry Stacking, Best Available Technology
Simon Lang, Chriselyn Meneses, Kelly Maslin, Mark Arnold
It is now common practice for dam owners in Australia to take a risk based approach to managing the safety of their large dams. Some dam owners are also using risk based approaches to manage other significant assets. For example, Melbourne Water manage the safety of their retarding basins in a manner similar to their water supply dams.
Assessing the risks posed by retarding basins using methods developed for larger dams can raise challenges. For example, the Graham (1999) approach to estimating potential loss of life (PLL) is generally applied when estimating the consequences of dam failure. However, Graham (1999) may not be the most suitable model for estimating PLL downstream of structures with relatively low heights and storage volumes (e.g. retarding basins), given the characteristics of the case histories used to develop the method.
In this paper six potential methods for estimating PLL are tested on four retarding basins in Melbourne. The methods are Graham (1999), the new Reclamation Consequence Estimating Methodology (RCEM), the UK risk assessment for reservoir safety (RARS) method, a spreadsheet application of HEC-FIA 3.0, and empirical methods developed by Jonkman (2007) and Jonkman et al. (2009). Results from the methods are compared, and comment is made about which is most suitable.
Keywords: potential loss of life, dam safety, risk analysis, retarding basins.
Jason Fowler, Robert Wark
Tropical Forestry Services (TFS) currently (2015) leases Arthur Creek Dam from the West Australian state government and utilises the water source to drip irrigate its Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) plantation. Arthur Creek Dam is located approximately 70 km south west of Kununurra in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. TFS grows and processes the sandalwood to produce oil that is used extensively in the global fragrance perfume market. TFS took over the lease of the 26 m high zoned earth core and rock fill dam in 2007 and has systematically carried out remedial works to the structure to lower the f-N curve below the ANCOLD “Limit of Tolerability” and to well within the ALARP zone. This paper describes the proactive risk management approach TFS has undertaken to address dam safety issues. It also specifically describes the most recent management issue, being the outlet pipe refurbishment.
A number of dam safety issues were identified during the initial surveillance and subsequent annual surveillance inspections. Issues include insufficient spillway capacity, seepage from the right abutment and deterioration of the steel outlet pipe. The remedial works to the outlet pipe were completed in late 2014 and involved close collaboration between TFS, the contractor and the designer. The outlet pipe re-sleeving operation was complex as the dam had to remain in operation and the water level could not be artificially lowered. In addition, the original outlet pipe was asymmetrical along both the vertical and horizontal axes, close to the bulkhead gate structure. Contingency measures were employed to enable the dam to remain in operation with 3 DN 400 HDPE siphon pipes installed.
The completion of the refurbishment of the outlet pipe by sleeving the pipe reduced the risk posed by this structure by an order of magnitude. Planned future risk reduction measures include the treatment of seepage within the upper right abutment and rebuilding the crest. These actions will further reduce the risk of dam failure through piping and overtopping of the dam crest.
Keywords: risk, ALARP, outlet pipe, re-sleeving.
Since their development, rock mass classification systems have used and manipulated various populations of geomechanical data to allow a rock mass to be divided into different domains or engineering ‘masses’ with the aim of assisting in the geotechnical design of underground openings, excavations, foundations and ground support systems.
Each of these methods consider different characteristics to generate a material classification; including rock strength, joint weathering, defect spacing, in-situ stress and groundwater. However, none of these systems cater for classification of the rock mass based on whole rock weathering, whole rock strength and incipient defect spacing along a borehole.
This new classification system, the Rock Condition Number (RCN), has been developed to reduce the human factor of variability in interpretation when collecting data to classify the rock mass, as other methods, such as Rock Quality Designation (RQD), are prone to significant variability based on the experience of the person logging the core. RQD provides an indication of rock quality over the length of the cored interval, which varies depending on the drilling equipment and ground conditions. This value may typically be calculated over an interval of 1.0, 1.5 or 3.0 metres. The RQD system does not allow for the rapid identification of thin, though important features in the subsurface.
Using data captured electronically in the field, the RCN calculates an instantaneous classification of the rock mass at any point along the borehole, highlighting variations within the rock mass by assessing a combination of characteristics, allowing rapid identification of potential hazardous zones within the rock mass. This allows for significant improvements in efficiency during the assessment and design process/es. Resolution is greatly improved over RQD, with thin, though important, zones of weak material highlighted using this new process.
Comparison between existing classifications and the RCN using real field data indicates the RCN provides greater resolution when identifying deficient zones within the rock mass.
Keywords: Rock mass characterisation, RQD, Rock Condition Number, rock quality, dam foundations.
Robert Kingsland, Michelle Black, Andrew Russell
Managing the vibration impacts associated with blasting is a challenge for mine planners and operators. In an open cut mining environment production blasting is often an integral part of operations. The management of surface water is a key operational requirement for open cut pits and mine water dams are often a part of the water management infrastructure. Consequently, mine water dams are often subject to blasting impacts.
For the mine operator the foremost questions are, “how close can mine blasting progress towards the dam?” and “what is the maximum vibration that the structure can be safely subjected to?” For the dam safety regulator the key concerns are around potential modes of failure, consequence of failure, the likelihood of failure and the management of risk.
With reference to case studies, this paper will discuss the acceptable blasting limits for earth dams, impacts on various dam elements and failure mode analysis. Failures modes discussed include embankment cracking, slope failure and deformation, foundation cracking and outlet structure cracking. Risk mitigation measures will be presented including design, operation and monitoring controls.
Keywords: blasting impacts, embankment dams, coal mine.
Susantha Mediwaka, Nihal Vitharana, Badra Kamaladasa
Nalanda dam is the oldest concrete gravity dam on the Island built in the 1950s by the Ceylon Department of Irrigation. The dam was built in 9 monoliths having a dam crest length of approximately 125m and a maximum height of about 36m. The spillway consists of: (1) a low-level uncontrolled ogee-crested horse-shoe section with a crest length of 46m, and (b) a high-level broad crested weir with a crest length of 43m.
It was designed and constructed according to the then standard practices adopted throughout the world. Over the years, Nalanda dam has been showing signs of deterioration which is suspected to be Alkali-Aggregate Reaction (AAR). The dam was also shown to be deficient with respect to the stability levels required by modern standards. Under a program of dam safety improvement of the dams throughout Sri Lanka, it was decided to stabilise Nalanda dam as the first step in addressing a series of issues affecting the dam.
This paper presents the construction history, current issues, design assumptions and salient construction features in the upgrading of the dam to modern dam safety requirements.
Keywords: Concrete dams, dams Sri Lanka, concrete buttressing, upgrade, horse-shoe spillway