Michael Ashley, John Phillips
New guidance and publications relating to tailings dams have been released recently by many jurisdictions across the world as an initial response to recent, well-documented, catastrophic tailings dam failures. The application of new guidelines retrospectively to existing tailings projects can introduce complex challenges, especially for sites with a long and often not well documented history. Challenges can be difficult to overcome while balancing time, cost and risk objectives.
This paper explores the impacts of changes between the 2012 and 2019 revisions of the ANCOLD Guidelines on Tailings Dams and potential implications for existing facilities.
The most significant update between the 2012 and 2019 revisions of the guidelines relating to design practices is the additional detail and guidance on seismic stability analyses and static liquefaction. Guidance on the application of new guidelines for tailings dam designers, owners and regulators is required to provide a consistent approach to manage the risk.
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Qian Gu, Joshua Chan
Tailings Storage Facilities (TSF) constructed using upstream methods may have static liquefaction risks due to the strain softening behaviour of contractive tailings. Conventional Limit Equilibrium Analyses (LEA) using either peak strength or residual strength fail to address the stress-strain compatibilities between materials at different stages of softening or hardening, resulting in over or underestimating embankment stabilities. Static numerical analyses (Finite Element or Difference) are unable to identify the threshold stability due to their inability to converge close to or beyond equilibrium conditions.
In this study the failure triggering process is modelled with dynamic Finite Element Analyses (FEA) with the stress-softening behaviour of contractive tailings simulated by Norsand Model. The embankment failures are identified by either non-zero residual velocities along downstream face, or a drop in average shear stress along potential failure surfaces under increasing disturbing surface pressure. Threshold disturbing surface pressure estimated using these two methods are in close agreements. Factor of Safety (FoS) values estimated from peak mobilised shear strength are found to be between those estimated using the peak and residual shear strength in LEA. q-p’ stress paths in tailings clearly show the stress ratio increasing towards and beyond instability ratio during undrained triggering process. The developments of zones of shear softening and p’ reduction with increasing undrained disturbances help visualise the failure triggering process.
Richard M Robinson, Siraj Perera, Gaye Francis
Due diligence has become endemic in Australian legislation and in case law, to the point that it has become, in the philosopher Immanuel Kant’s terms, a categorical imperative. That is, our lawmakers seem to have decided that due diligence is universal in its application and creates a moral justification for action. This also means the converse, that failure to act demands sanction against the failed decision maker.
This applies to dam safety management which represents the archetypical high consequence – low likelihood event. It is now essential to have positively demonstrated safety due diligence in a way that can withstand post-event judicial scrutiny. Presently the only way this can be done is by using the notion of criticality and precaution, not hazard and risk. The test is not that of risk acceptability (as low as reasonably practicable or ALARP), rather it is that no further reasonably practicable precautions (so far as is reasonably practicable or SFAIRP) are available, and that what results is not prohibitively dangerous.
This paper will document the difference between the two approaches and how to positively demonstrate safety due diligence. It also discusses the definition of ALARP as stated in ANCOLD’s Guidelines on Risk Assessment 2003 and the relevance of the safety case principle for dam safety management.
Andrew Northfield, Peter Hill, Muhammad Hameed, Hench Wang, Sam Banzi
In 2018 WaterNSW undertook a Portfolio Risk Assessment (PRA) for 20 dams across the greater Sydney area.
This paper describes the estimation of consequences for this large and diverse portfolio of dams. For some dams the population at risk were greater than 100,000 people whereas for others there were no permanent PAR which required the careful consideration of itinerants. This diversity of the dams required that the approach for estimating the consequences be tailored to the specific characteristics. For example, the approaches for estimating the potential loss of life (PLL) varied from a detailed simulation model (HECLifeSim) to a simpler empirical approach (Reclamation Consequence Estimation Methodology (USBR, 2014) to bespoke consideration of itinerant campers and users of walking tracks. For some dams the economic costs were driven by direct infrastructure costs whereas for other the indirect costs dominated the total economic cost for failure.
Mark Pearse, John Pisaniello, Sam Banzi, Peter Hill
A completely new dam safety regulation framework was introduced into NSW in November 2019. The new framework addresses all aspects of dam safety management. The implications for dam owners in respect of risk reduction measures (RRMs) that will need to be undertaken have been the matter of debate and are the focus of this paper. The Dams Safety Regulation 2019 requires that dam owners eliminate or reduce the risk posed by their dams but “only so far as is reasonably practicable” (SFAIRP). This is a change from the previous Dams Safety Committee requirement that risks should be reduced as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP). The previous guidance around the extent and timing of risk reduction has been removed and dam owners are now required to determine what is ‘reasonably practicable’. These changes were anticipated to save hundreds of millions of dollars from the reduced cost of risk reduction measures across the state of NSW. These savings appear unlikely to materialise given that dam owners are likely to be highly cognisant of the need to meet the common law expectation that RRMs should be implemented unless the costs associated with the RRMs are grossly disproportionate to the benefits gained. The key changes in the new regulatory framework are identified along with the legal and financial implications in regard to RRMs followed by next steps that should be considered by dam owners in NSW. Many of the implications are applicable to other dam owners who operate under common law (including all states of Australia and New Zealand).
Paul Somerville, Andreas Skarlatoudis, Jeff Bayless, Polly Guan
The 2019 ANCOLD seismic guidelines state that “A hazard assessment should be conducted for earthquake magnitudes Mw 5 and above. However, under certain circumstances, smaller magnitude earthquakes may form the lower limit. With masonry dams, slab and buttress dams, older concrete dams, and structural concrete components of dams, Mw 4 earthquake magnitudes should form the lower limit.” However, when using probabilistic Uniform Hazard Spectra (UHS) with Mmin less than 5.0 per the 2019 ANCOLD Guidelines, the hazard will be overestimated unless Conditional Mean Spectra (CMS) are used to represent the ground motions. As described by Somerville et al. (2015), use of the UHS can significantly overestimate the seismic hazard levels presented by individual earthquake scenarios because the UHS envelopes the ground motions from multiple earthquake scenarios in one spectrum. This overestimation is especially true of the ground motions from small magnitude earthquake scenarios. The probabilistic UHS may have large short period ground motions with contributions from a range of scenario earthquakes, but if the UHS is used as the design spectrum, these ground motions will often be represented by earthquake scenarios having inappropriately large magnitudes, long durations, and high long period ground motion levels. As a result, these design ground motions have the potential to overestimate the response of the structure under consideration. By using CMS spectra and time histories, the large probabilistic peak accelerations, predominantly from small earthquakes, are better represented by earthquakes having appropriately small magnitudes, short durations, and lower long period ground motion levels, yielding more realistic estimates of the response of the structure.