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
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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.
Jiri Herza and John Phillips
The design of dams for mining projects requires processes and technology that are unfamiliar to many mine owners and managers. Dam designers rely on ANCOLD assessments of Consequence Category, commonly leading to a High rating for mining dams due to a combination of potential loss of life, impact on environment and damage to assets such as mine voids, process plants, workshops, offices, roads, railways etc.
From this High Consequence Category the relevant annual exceedance probabilities for design parameters and loading conditions such as earthquakes and floods are selected.
Mining companies have sophisticated methods available for assessing risk, yet for their assets they often adopt an order of magnitude lower security for earthquake and floods even though the consequences in terms of lives at risk and impact on project are similar.
The discrepancies in the design standards lead to situations where extreme dam loads are adopted to prevent damage and loss of life in assets that theoretically would have already collapsed under much lower loads.
One difference may be that some mining dams exist in an environment which is controlled by a single entity. Unlike other dams, failure of these mining dams would therefore impact only individuals and assets which fall under the responsibility of the same entity.
This paper discusses the discrepancies between the design of mining dams and the design of other mine infrastructure. The paper considers the impact of discrepancies on the overall risk to the mine and compares the degree of protection offered by a factor of safety and the influence of reliability of design input parameters, alternate load paths and design redundancy.
Keywords: Dams, tailings dams, mining, acceptable risk, factors of safety
Peyman Bozorgmehr, Sarah McComber, David Harrigan, Erik F R Bollaert
Boondooma Dam is a concrete-faced rockfill dam with an unlined, uncontrolled spillway chute. The Acceptable Flood Capacity of Boondooma Dam is 1:60,000 AEP (equal to the Dam Crest Flood (DCF) and has a maximum inflow of 14,330 m3/s.
Significant rainfall events during 2010/11 and 2013 subjected the spillway to moderate discharges over the crest which caused significant scour to the spillway chute.
Following these events, a 3D physical hydraulic model was constructed at a 1:80 scale to investigate repair options. Originally the spillway chute was modelled using a mobile bed set up which showed that that future scour could occur. However, the model could not determine the rate and characteristics of this damage.
In order to determine how future scour may occur, the 3D model was modified using laser survey mapping of the spillway chute after each flood event. Using milled aluminium and concrete capping the model was able to accurately portray the damage profile sustained by the spillway in the 2010/11 and 2013 flood events.
Transient pressure, static pressure, water elevation, velocity and jet measurements of the model were used in a Comprehensive Scour Model to help inform how damage to the chute may progress in future flood events.
Keywords: Boondooma Dam, flood damage, 3D physical hydraulic modelling, comprehensive scour assessment
Mark Arnold, Chris Topham, Phil Cummins
A central tenet of the ANCOLD Guidelines on Dam Safety Management (2003) is that the higher the consequence of failure of a dam, the more stringent the surveillance scope, frequency, and safety criteria that should be applied to that dam. This concept has generally served the industry well to date in assisting regulators and dam owners to focus on the dams that could have the highest impacts if they failed. ANCOLD 2003 does also suggest that risk may be taken into consideration, however it is the experience of the authors that for dam surveillance and monitoring programmes, the majority of owners and consultants are reluctant to stray too far from the tables provided in the Guideline. However, two owners have recently embarked on a formal process to apply a risk based approach to the specification of surveillance and monitoring for their dams. This paper outlines how sub-optimal outcomes that can arise when the guideline tables are applied exclusively, presents the process undertaken by two owners of large portfolios of high consequence dams, and demonstrates the benefits achieved when a risk based approach is used. The paper concludes that any update or rewrite of the 2003 Dam Safety Management Guidelines should promote a risk based, rather than a consequence based approach to surveillance and monitoring.
Keywords: Risk, risk-based surveillance programme, instrumentation, monitoring.
David Stewart, Shane McGrath & Siraj Perera
Dam safety in Victoria is overseen by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning on behalf of the relevant Minister and under the Water Act. For each of the 19 state-owned Water Corporations, Government has issued a Statement of Obligations which describes all responsibilities of the Corporation, including specific reference to dam safety management and ANCOLD Guidelines.
These Corporations report annually to the Department on their compliance with all their obligations, including dam safety management. In late 2014, 13 Water Corporations along with the Department commissioned a comparative benchmarking study of dam safety management practices across the state. This work was facilitated by the VicWater Dams Industry Working Group. The study used a rapid assessment method against 14 separate criteria for dam safety management, based on the Statements of Obligations, guidance notes developed by the Department, ANCOLD Guidelines, the ICOLD Draft Bulletin on Dam Safety Management, good governance principles and examples of best practice from other jurisdictions.
The study involved assessment of background data, site inspections and discussions with various individuals of each owner, including a range of field staff, dam safety staff, Executive Managers, Managing Directors and Board Directors. The benchmarking study covered 142 dams of Significant, High and Extreme Consequence Category throughout Victoria.
The results of the benchmarking study have been extremely useful for individual dam owners and for the Department to understand areas where good practice is in place and also where there is potential for improvement of individual programs. The study also provides a measure of assurance of the current status of dam safety management practices and areas where regulatory practices could be better focused. It also reinforced the importance of strong industry networks such as ANCOLD and VicWater for knowledge transfer, capacity development and sustainability of dam safety management practices.
This paper presents the methodology used for the benchmarking study and its broader findings. It also highlights good practice considerations for dam owners, regulators and other dam safety practitioners.
Keywords: Dam Safety Management, Governance, Benchmarking