Design Review Boards or Panels play an important role in supporting owners and designers in creating resilient design of water storage and tailings dams. Their essential roles are to constructively challenge the project team to deliver on the project objectives through a design which meets the 3R’s of resilience, robustness and reliability, and to provide assurance to potentially non-technical owner / project management. This can sometimes create an uncomfortable situation if one or more of the project team is not aligned with the agreed criteria. Time and cost pressures can often push a project or execution team to undertake insufficient analysis or to consider non-justifiable construction processes or shortcuts.
Regardless, the Review Board must remain steadfast in their advice and guidance with a strong focus on “data-supported decisions”. Finding and maintaining an effective board requires commitment at the highest levels. This paper will examine some of the challenges in addressing governance, membership and turnover, and conflict resolution.
Dam owners manage many complex activities to maintain and operate their dams safely and resiliently. Identifying, and continually improving, the key elements of an effective dam safety program and associated practices can be challenging but are essential to support resilient dams and resilient communities; using the Dam Safety Maturity Matrices (DSMM) is an efficient and thorough way to do this. A maturity matrix is a tool to evaluate how well-developed and effective a process or program is. The matrices were developed within CEATI’s Dam Safety Interest Group (DSIG) for owners to assess the effectiveness of their dam safety program against industry practice, and to assist with identifying improvement initiatives.
This paper will present the matrices and demonstrate how they are used to evaluate the effectiveness (or maturity) of a dam safety program. It will also highlight the benefits associated with using the matrices as an assessment tool, including the identification of improvements that can be made to a dam safety program, and the prioritization of efforts across multiple facets of a dam safety program.
User case studies from dam owners in both New Zealand and overseas will be presented to elaborate on the tool and the process.
Failure modes of seepage and internal erosion have been identified as one of the key issues for the
ongoing safety of dams and canals in New Zealand. Accordingly, many dams and canals have had
improvement works carried out to mitigate this issue. This paper examines the long-term performance of these measures including three case studies. It is concluded that the performance of these measures has been variable, but ongoing monitoring and periodic review has identified deterioration in performance. There are a number of technical areas where uncertainties on long-term performance may still remain, such as geotextiles in important filter functions and waterstops of various types.
The majority of Australian tailings dams over the last 100 years have been successfully built using upstream construction. However, recent major tailings dam failures in some countries have led to a global industry wide review of the design and management of tailings storage facilities, with a focus on the upstream raise method as a common factor for some failures. As a reaction to the recent failures, there is the potential for regulations to become more restrictive and the potential for unjustified pressure on existing and new mines to rule out upstream raising due to possible safety and failure risks.
This paper looks at whether it is the upstream construction method or other more fundamental issues that have led to these failures and examines whether such issues are equally relevant in Australia. Does Australia have a specific advantage in being able to successfully use upstream tailings dam construction or are we fooling ourselves?
The topic of upstream tailings storage is a subject of broad and current interest and the lessons learned from historic failures are rightfully leading to improvements. Implementation of good practice starts with the overall management structure that guides how tailings dams are designed, constructed, operated and closed.
Critical design practice involves understanding the unique site conditions, properties of the tailings and management of tailings placement, as the tailings form part of the overall retaining structure. Good practice during operation of upstream tailings dams is key to reducing the risk of tailings dam failures and the success of safe and sustainable closure.
This paper presents key features of both good and bad practice for the upstream raising of tailings dams and discusses how the design and operation can be made more resilient to ensure the safety of the community and infrastructure. It concludes that upstream raising can be a safe and economical method of tailings disposal if designed, constructed and operated correctly.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has a robust Dam Safety Program (DSP) that utilizes risk- informed decision-making to prioritize its portfolio of dams in need of further study and modifications. USACE also utilizes a two-tiered governance structure in which one body makes portfolio recommendations around risk management while the other body oversees the execution of the agency’s routine DSP and makes policy recommendations. The routine program consists of the activities required for interim risk reduction measures, inspections, instrumentation, monitoring, assessments, operations and maintenance, emergency action planning, training, and other dam safety activities. An internal program management tool exists to monitor and track all these activities and generate metrics around execution of the routine DSP, however, it does not include metrics around other aspects of the DSP like governance, asset management, public safety and security, flow controls, or audits/reviews. USACE hopes to identify gaps in its DSP that can be used to correct shortcomings, continuously improve, and to increase the resilience of its DSP, which will enable each project to deliver benefits to the Nation. The Centre for Energy Advancement through Technological Innovation (CEATI), through its Dam Safety Interest Group (DSIG), collaboratively developed a spreadsheet tool known as the Dam Safety Maturity Matrix (DSMM). The DSMM is a facilitated exercise used to help evaluate how well-developed a program is across 12 elements considered to be typical and important of most dam safety programs. Each of the elements is then deaggregated into sub-elements, each of which can be evaluated by the team. The maturity ranges across 5 levels from Needing Improvement to Leading Edge. After all sub-elements are evaluated, an aggregate maturity level is computed that gives an estimation of the overall maturity level of the program. USACE will present the results of its pilot project using the DSMM and share lessons learned regarding its implementation. The short-term goal is to identify program strengths and areas for improvement, while the long-term goal of USACE using the DSMM is to participate in bench- marking across multiple agencies and international dam owners regarding their dam safety programs, for which has never been done to the knowledge of this author.
The importance of building and maintaining safe, resilient tailings dams has become increasingly apparent with the rise in catastrophic failures in recent years. According to the World Mine Tailings Failures (WMTF) data base, 11 major failures have occurred over the past decade, often with devastating impacts to nearby communities in terms of loss of life and impact to the environment. With the occurrence of these types of events only expected to increase in coming years, there has been a corresponding increase in global calls to action to develop monitoring systems to better predict and wherever possible, prevent these failures from occurring.
With up to an estimated 20,000 tailings dams around the world, the development and implementation of a worldwide monitoring protocol is a daunting task, particularly as many of these structures are remote and difficult to access. This is where a technology like InSAR can make an immediate impact. InSAR is a remote sensing technique that uses radar satellite imagery to measure ground movement with up to millimetric precision. Radar systems are active, meaning they collect information from reflections of the radar signal off the ground and therefore do not require the installation of any equipment. As satellite images cover areas that extend thousands of square kilometres, they can provide information not only on the stability of dams, but also entire regions. Global archives already exist due to the Sentinel constellation of satellites, which provide coverage since 2014 over most parts of the world.
In an ideal world, tailings dams are safe and constructed to provide permanent containment of mining by- products. However, experience has shown that they can fail, often with dire consequences, especially if these failures occur without warning. The development of an internationally accepted standard for tailings dam monitoring is imperative to ensure the safety and resiliency of these structures is continuously tracked. This paper explores the role InSAR can play in the development of a global protocol for tailings dam monitoring.