The rehabilitation of wet tailings storages is likely to become of increasing importance. In a setting of increasing environmental regulation and oversight, the environmental issues inherent in wet tailings storages will increase in visibility. This will translate through to increased regulatory attention, rehabilitation standards and costs. This scenario will necessitate increased engineering ingenuity and approaches to develop cost effective and robust/ defensible outcomes.
This case study of a coal fired power station ash dam rehabilitation compares a conventional (baseline) rehabilitation strategy and the development of a higher land use, with potentially beneficial outcomes for the owner, the community and the environment.
The baseline rehabilitation was a conventional fit-for-purpose rehabilitation approach consistent with the proposed final land use comprising the creation of a stable, open greenspace environment. The higher land use was an aspirational target style rehabilitation, with the assessed highest and best use for the site that was determined to be an industrial land development. While there will be limitations due to the low strength tailings foundation, this higher land use is considered an appropriate stretch target and is a feasible outcome for this site.
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Investigations into the core material of earth fill dams are undertaken reluctantly due to the potential to cause damage to the embankment. Where investigations are required, Cone Penetration Testing (CPT) is increasingly used to assist with the geotechnical assessment of dam embankments. The risk of hydraulic fracture within embankment core material is well known and procedures are typically adopted to minimise the risk of hydraulic fracture during remediation of the holes. Backfilling is typically done in stages allowing for an initial set of the cement/bentonite grout mixture prior to subsequent lifts.
While the risk of hydraulic fracture is well understood, the lesser known risk of pneumatic fracture is a possibility where certain conditions exist. This paper discusses CPT investigations at Fairbairn Dam, operated by Sunwater in Central Queensland, and the challenges faced in undertaking the remediation of the CPT holes. The potential for pneumatic fracture of the embankment core was highlighted during the investigations and details of alternative techniques adopted for reinstatement of the holes are presented. Recommendations are made to appropriately manage the risk of pneumatic fracture when undertaking CPT’s through embankment core.
Melbourne Water (MW) has historically seen dam safety management as a civil discipline and has focussed on understanding and managing the civil assets at its dam sites. The recent addition of a mechanical engineering resource to the team responsible for the dam safety management has refocused attention on the mechanical and electrical (M&E) assets and provided a more holistic asset management approach to MWs large dams.
This paper discusses the process MW has developed over the past two years to improve their understanding and management of M&E assets. It centres on key process points for how MW has prioritised the development of M&E asset management programs on the basis of an autogenous ‘asset criticality’ rating system and has utilised ANCOLD comprehensive inspections to plan and implement new inspections and tests on dam M&E assets. The two case studies of Sugarloaf and Upper Yarra Reservoirs’ outlet works demonstrate the the benefits of the process to gain operational and technical knowledge of M&E assets, strategic importance to the water supply network, identifying risks therein and reallocate significant funding to address these risks as prioritised by asset criticality.
For intraplate regions such as Australia, identifying and quantifying activity on tectonic faults for inclusion in probabilistic seismic hazard assessments can be challenging due to the typically long return period for ground-rupturing earthquakes associated with these structures. Return periods of 10,000’s to 1,000,000’s of years mean that surface displacement evidence is prone to degradation through erosion and burial, and paleoseismological ‘trench’ excavations may not uncover geology old enough to reveal previous events. As a consequence, there is often little or no preserved evidence of past ground rupturing events on these structures. Rather than ignoring faults which show no evidence of neotectonic displacement, we present an alternative approach; in addition to considering active faults (movement in the last 35,000 years) and neotectonic faults (movement in the last 10 Myr) in seismic hazard assessments, we also consider faults which otherwise show no evidence of neotectonic activity but which are aligned favourably with the current stress regime and are therefore potential sources of earthquakes and accompanying strong ground motion.
Global climate change will amplify existing risks, as well as create new risks for natural and human systems. Recent climate changes have already had widespread impacts on human and natural systems. Dams provide a range of economic, environmental and social benefits including irrigation, flood control, water supply, hydroelectric power, recreation and wildlife habitat and play an important role in human settlement. Adapting into the effects of climate change is vitally important for future management of dams. This paper uses the recent drought and floods in Victoria to illustrate the importance of considering the effects of climate change in design, operations, maintenance and emergency management of dams.
The assessment of the geological foundations of arch dams is required as part of the asset owner’s safety obligations (ANCOLD 2003). The task is often made difficult due to steep topography where arch dams are commonly constructed. Between 2013 and 2017, GHD was engaged by South Australia Water (SA Water) to examine the geological and geotechnical conditions of the Sturt River Flood Attenuation Dam (South Australia) abutment foundations. The dam was constructed between 1964 and 1966 within the Proterozoic “Sturt Tillite”. The foundations of the dam are characterised by a folded and fractured rock mass which creates complex spatial relationships between discontinuities and outcrop expression, difficult to assess in two-dimensional space. In collaboration with Monash University’s School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment, a high resolution ortho-photogrammetric survey of the downstream dam abutments was undertaken using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in areas where traditional mapping could only be obtained by rope access methods. Monash also undertook digital geological mapping of inferred discontinuities based on the UAV imagery. The data was then used to construct a three-dimensional (3D) model of the shape and position of high-persistence discontinuities, potentially critical to abutment stability. In addition to digital data, a low cost, high value field investigation to “ground-truth” the digital data and reviewed existing geological information (including rope access scanline data, foundation mapping and rotary cored boreholes) to develop a holistic understanding of the persistent discontinuities in their geological context.