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.
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Earthquake design of a dam and associated appurtenant structures is a key aspect of dam design in the modern era. This paper outlines the design process undertaken to address potential earthquake loading for the 32m high outlet tower to be constructed as part of the new Eurobodalla Southern Storage project on the NSW South Coast. The driver for the project is to provide increased water supply security to communities on the South Coast, an area that is currently serviced by a single reservoir and is subject to frequent water restrictions. Construction is planned to commence for the project in early 2021.
This paper presents the design methodology undertaken to meet the requirements for earthquake design and presents a novel defensive design solution to improve the reliability of the outlet works for post-earthquake operation. The Authors contend that utilising this approach in design of future outlet towers will provide a greater level of confidence in the ability to undertake intervening measures following a severe earthquake. Moreover, the technology has the potential to serve as a relatively inexpensive interim upgrade measure for existing outlet towers expected to sustain an unacceptable degree of damage under earthquake loading.
In recent times two dimensional (2D) hydraulic modelling has become the most common type of modelling for undertaking dambreak assessments. Direct map outputs such as depth and depth-velocity product are very useful in assessing risk across a floodplain. The temporal output from 2D models also enables the tracking of flow across a floodplain, helping practitioners and dam owners alike make informed decisions on warning time and evacuation routes. These outputs form essential input to packages such as HEC-LifeSim an agent-based simulation model for estimating life loss by simulating population redistribution during an evacuation.
A number of investigations have shown the hydraulic model, TUFLOW, is able to simulate the hydraulic conditions expected in a dambreak flood wave, giving confidence in the model’s ability to correctly capture the flood wave propagation. Notwithstanding this ability, there remains uncertainty over the best methodology to adopt when assigning a breach hydrograph to the model and in turn the impact this choice has on assessing downstream populations at risk.
A commonplace method of assigning dam breach hydrographs is to model the reservoir and dam structure with a 1D model or spreadsheet, where the storage is represented with a stage storage relationship and outflow through a time-varying breach is calculated using level-pool routing. The resulting hydrograph is then applied directly to a 2D model immediately downstream of the dam to model the propagation of flow downstream.
An alternative approach consists of representing the entire reservoir, dam and downstream floodplain in the 2D model. This allows for the dynamic effects of bathymetric constrictions in the reservoir to be accounted for which could greatly impact on the timing and shape of the dam breach hydrograph. However, this comes at a cost, as representing the reservoir in 2D requires bathymetry data which can be expensive to capture and also may require a major extension of the model domain.
In this paper the ‘Fully 2D’ and ‘Stage storage relationship 1D/Spreadsheet’ approaches are compared for a number of case studies.
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.
Many numerical simulations have tried to model the failure-induced displacements of earth structures due to liquefaction. In this paper, the challenges in modelling such as the large displacement and non-immediate failure of earth structures due to liquefaction are discussed. An advanced bounding surface plasticity model is used to simulate the dynamic behaviour of saturated porous media. A series of benchmark welldocumented seismic events are analysed, and the results are compared to the reported laboratory and field observations. These analyses consist of one centrifuge test on liquefiable sand (Model #12 of the VELACS project) and one earthfill dam (Lower San Fernando Dam in California) subjected to seismic loading that leads to liquefaction. The capability of the model to capture the flow failure due to liquefaction is demonstrated and results are compared with other attempts in the literature to capture similar responses.
Following the failure of Paloona Dam’s intake trashrack during the 2016 floods in northern Tasmania, a replacement trashrack and support structure was designed, manufactured and installed (by diver) within five months. This was a remarkable feat and hailed as a success at the time.
The euphoria, however, was short lived. A routine dive inspection in January 2018 revealed cracked
trashrack bars on one of the panels and this was after less than twelve months’ operation. This prompted a rigorous investigation where it was determined that the bars suffered fatigue due to flow induced vibration. Indeed it is possible that the bars cracked within a few weeks of returning to service.
The science of flow induced vibration is relatively mature, having been extensively researched over several decades. Its application to trashracks is well documented. However, this experience has shown that the common design approach overly simplifies the fluid-structure interaction. For Paloona, the result was a trashrack design which has proven to be inadequate, not having the resilience required for a dam outlet works component.
This paper revisits flow induced vibration theory as it pertains to trashracks, outlines the findings of vibration testing at Paloona, and suggests a design approach which will avoid similar issues. It is hoped that similar failures can be prevented and the design life expected of trashracks achieved.