Ensuring the stability of tailings impoundments throughout their life cycle (operation, closure and post-closure) is a priority for the mining industry. Recent events such as the 2014 failure of the Mount Polley Tailings Storage Facility in British Columbia (pictured above) and the 2015 failure of the Samarco tailings dams in Brazil underline the extreme consequences associated with the failure of tailings impoundments along with the need for additional research and development of improved design, operations and closure methods.
One of the leading causes of tailings impoundments failure is seismic activity. Such failures are often initiated by tailings liquefaction. However, the dynamic behavior of tailings, including the potential for liquefaction, is significantly affected by the degree of consolidation and of saturation as well as aging after deposition.
This research project will use dynamic laboratory testing of tailings specimens prepared to various degrees of consolidation and saturation to evaluate the dynamic behavior of tailings throughout the life-cycle of an impoundment.
The specimens will be prepared as slurry using the method of Poncelet (2012). The consolidation, confining and interstitial pressures will be used to simulate various states of stress, consolidation and saturation. Aging will be simulated using overconsolidation, based on the work of Troncoso & Carcés (2000).
This project is part of a comprehensive research program on the use of waste rock inclusions at the Canadian Malartic Mine in western Quebec.