Tailings dams are among the largest and most critical artificial structures in the world. Their analysis requires careful evaluation of all components and loading conditions. Itasca has performed detailed design and stability analyses for major tailing dams. Each analysis has been reviewed by experts representing governing authorities. Although every tailings dam analysis is unique, Itasca analyses typically include the following:
- collection and review of site topographic and geotechnical data,
- specification and supervision of laboratory tests to determine static and dynamic properties of tailings, foundation, and dam construction materials,
- selection of material models and calibration of material parameters to match laboratory test data,
- development of numerical models that simulate the continuous construction nature of mine tailings dams,
- analyses to represent the changes in pore pressure brought about by tailings consolidation and fluid flow over time,
- evaluation of static safety factors using the shear strength reduction technique,
- dynamic analysis of stability and liquefaction potential due to seismic loading, and
- recommendations for monitoring to insure design assumptions are achieved.
In addition to design analysis, Itasca has been involved in proposing standards for mining operations in seismically active areas, geotechnical investigations of tailings dam failures, and technical seminars to share experience and expertise. Selected examples of Itasca tailings dam projects can be seen in the following table.