Mechanical properties of soft tailings from different depths of a Swedish tailings dam: Results from triaxial tests

Document Type : Article


1 Department of Civil Engineering, Quaid-e-Awam University of Engineering Science and Technology, Nawabshah, Pakistan

2 Department of Civil, Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering, Luleå University of Technology, SE-97187 Luleå, Sweden


In an upstream tailings dam, loose layers might occur at different depths due to melting of frozen layers deposited during freezing temperature in Sweden. Reduced shear strength of such layers in a tailings dam might cause stability problems. Due to slow consolidation process, it is unknown, whether self-weight of a high tailings dam could have influence on strength and stiffness of soft tailings located at different depths. For numerical modelling, appropriate strength and stiffness properties of soft tailings are needed. For this purpose, loose layers in an upstream tailings dam were identified based on results of cone penetration tests. Consolidated Drained (CD) triaxial tests were conducted on undisturbed soft tailings collected from different depths of the dam. The results indicated that depth did not have considerable influence on strength and stiffness of tailings. Hardening Soil Model (HSM), at high confining pressures and axial strains underestimated stiffness of soft tailings under CD triaxial state. This study shows that: (i) proper care is needed in evaluating strength and stiffness parameters for soft tailings, and (ii) use of the HSM is likely to predict more deformations which could give an early warning before an actual failure of a tailings dam.


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