Damien Bryan, John Sukkar, Erin Hughes, Michael Cawood
Alert triggers are a critical component of Dam Safety Emergency Management, aligning clearly defined adverse conditions with alert levels to initiate an appropriate emergency response. Early detection of these conditions allows for potential mitigation measures to be undertaken, early engagement of key stakeholders such as emergency agencies, and where necessary, the warning or evacuation of affected downstream communities. The Dam Safety Alert Trigger Framework provides WaterNSW with a consistent, repeatable, and defensible methodology for the determination of appropriate dam safety alert triggers. The framework was developed through the engagement of consultants, emergency and regulatory agencies (NSW SES & DSNSW), and several Australian large dam owners.
The determination of appropriate Dam Safety Alert Triggers is a challenge faced by all dam owners. Through the development and implementation of the Alert Trigger Framework, WaterNSW has achieved the ability to define defensible alert triggers through a consistent and repeatable methodology. This has resulted in an improved dam safety emergency response posture for WaterNSW, key emergency services partner the NSW SES, and greater protection for affected downstream communities. Concepts, processes and methodology covered in this paper could be used by other dam owners in addressing their own dam safety alert trigger challenges.
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Mark Pearse, Mark Foster, Peter Hill, Sam Banzi, Muhammad Hameed, Benson Liu
Determining which risk control measures are required is one of the top issues for dam owners as they contend with limited resources generally and capex in particular. The key issue addressed in this paper is how a dam owner can both identify the control measures that they should implement and demonstrate that they are acting reasonably and responsibly. The Framework developed in this paper provides a practical and transparent way to address the relevant matters that are required to be considered under common law, work, health and safety (WHS) legislation and the NSW Dams Safety legislation for determining whether a risk control measure is reasonably practicable. It provides dam owners with a transparent and defensible way of both identifying the controls and demonstrating that they are acting in a reasonable and responsible manner.
Jarrad Coffey and John Plunkett
As tailings standards continue to evolve, a greater focus is being placed on the monitoring of tailings storage facilities (TSFs). While this is a positive development for TSF safety into the future, it is only one component of the work required to implement Performance Based Risk Informed (PBRI) management. There is also a significant human element that can be aided by reducing the time spent of personnel sourcing/aggregating data and instead focussing on decision making. It is discussed in this paper how a more holistic approach to monitoring via a dashboard that displays all management data relevant to a portfolio of TSFs can be applied in parallel to risk assessment to work towards the goal of PBRI. The dashboard also facilitates review and governance activities, which are central to the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management. An example of the dashboard utilised at Rio Tinto Iron Ore is presented to provide an example of such a system and its benefits.
Chris Nielsen, Ron Guppy, Donna Dunn, David Murray
Following several years of investigations and analysis a serious safety issue with the stability of the primary spillway during major flood events was identified at Paradise Dam that required urgent risk reduction works. The response to this safety issue was significant.
The Inspector General Emergency Management conducted a review into the effectiveness of emergency response if a dam safety event were to occur, taking into consideration process and communications to manage around 40,000 population at risk, comprised mostly of residents within the city of Bundaberg.
An essential works program to reduce the risk was urgently prepared then executed effectively within a calendar year. This short timeframe required significant and novel amendments to Queensland’s laws to bypass normal legislated process for such a major project.
The Paradise Dam Commission of Inquiry was established to identify the root cause of the issues, the facts and circumstances that contributed to them and recommendations to consider for future dam projects. All recommendations from the commission were accepted by the Queensland government and, following an extensive stakeholder engagement exercise, have been implemented through changes in policy and methodology and described in published guideline revisions.
For future dam projects the lessons learnt highlighted the need for early and ongoing engagement of
independent technical review, project governance that is cognisant of risk and the ownership and capacity to bear of that risk, the need to consider testing to confirm critical design parameters and the need for an effective regulator. The essential works program has established a precedent for the timely and appropriate application of risk reduction measures.
Sonel Reynolds, Alex Gower, Bob Wark
During the outlet works upgrade in 2017 it was found that the valve pit and stilling basin at Mundaring Weir were not founded on rock. Based on these observations and the arrangement of the spillway and outlet works, it was considered that during significant spillway overflow events, a high velocity jet could displace the stilling basin slabs, erode the underlying material, and progress to failure of the outlet pipe and valve pit. A comprehensive risk assessment was conducted to estimate the likelihood of stilling basin slab uplift, erosion of the underlying material, and failure of the outlet works. A geotechnical investigation was undertaken comprising drilling nine boreholes and a program of geophysical downhole logging. Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) modelling was used to determine the pressure fluctuations and turbulence intensity over the spillway slab which could lead to uplift. The erodibility of the rock mass material below the stilling basin slabs was assessed using the outcomes of the geotechnical investigations and CFD output, with analyses based on the Kirsten Index and eGSI. A net benefit analysis was conducted to assess whether preventative remedial works were justified. Through this process it was demonstrated that the business risk was low and risk reduction measures were not justified.
Jiri Herza, Kyle Smith, Ryan Singh
Following the failures of Samarco and Feijão dams, brittle failure has become a frequently discussed topic within the geotechnical community. The post-failure review of the Feijão Dam identified that the sudden failure of the dam was caused in part by tailings exhibiting brittle behaviour. Brittle failure has also been identified to be a contributing factor in many previous tailings storage facilities failures. Of concern to the tailings community was the finding that there were no apparent signs of distress prior to the failures, which characterises brittle failure.
The industry’s concern regarding the presence of brittle materials within tailings storage facilities, particularly when featuring upstream raises is evident in the requirements of the newly published Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management, which includes a requirement to “Identify and address brittle failure modes with conservative design criteria…”. This is also reflected in ANCOLD Guideline on Tailings Dams, which provides recommendations for conservative design assumptions if materials are found to be susceptible to static liquefaction which is noted to be a brittle subset of contractive materials. The ICMM’s Good Practice Guide for tailings management uses the term
brittle on numerous occasions and even refers to “credible brittle failure modes” when discussing the performance based approach. Despite its frequent use, the term brittle failure has not been defined in any of the listed references and the authors of this paper are not aware of the any clear geotechnical definition for brittle embankment failure in literature.
Brittleness, on the other hand, is a well-known geotechnical parameter that describes the degree of reduction of the soil shear resistance after reaching the peak strength. Bishop (1967) described the soil brittleness in the context of progressive failure of clays by means of a brittleness index, which is the ratio of the shear resistance loss to the peak shear strength. In recent years, the brittleness index has become a common soil parameter that is used as an indicator for tailings susceptibility to liquefaction. The brittleness index does not consider the rate at which the soil resistance reduces, and it ignores the stress strain relationship. As a result, the same brittleness index can be calculated for a soil that collapses over a very small strain range and a soil that gradually reduces its shear resistance over extensive strain levels as long as both soils have similar peak and residual shear strengths.
This paper discusses the root causes of brittle behaviour of tailings, summarises the current approach for brittleness assessment and recommends considerations and methods to assess and deal with potentially brittle soils within TSFs.