Assessment of Karstification Degree in the Copacabana Group for a Tailings Dam Foundation, South Andes, Peru

Author: Valeria Ramirez, Olimpio Angeles, Michael W. West
Conference: 15th Sinkhole Conference, NCKRI Symposium 6
Date: April 2-6, 2018

The worldwide occurrence of carbonate rocks is extensive, and Peru is no exception. Many mining facilities are located in or on carbonate rocks. Under specific conditions, carbonate rocks show varying degrees of karstification, which represent a potential high risk of damage or failure to mine facilities, especially tailings and water impoundments due to subsidence or internal erosion problems. Adequate engineering measures, including proper characterization of the foundation materials, should be taken to characterize foundation materials and mitigate the risk.

This paper presents the assessment of the potential of karst dissolution in the Copacabana Group underlying about 50% the foundation of a proposed tailings dam and storage facility, located in the South Andes of Peru. A thorough geotechnical site investigation program was carried out in the area, which included regional and local geological mapping, geotechnical drilling, test pits, permeability tests, effervescence test in cores, petrographic analyses, and X-Ray diffraction tests. Hydrogeological studies, such as pumping and tracer tests, were also performed by other consultants to verify the observations, conclusions, and opinions developed from the geotechnical investigation program.

The results of the geotechnical investigation allowed proper characterization of the dam foundation and the tailings storage facility and estimation of the degree of karstification in the carbonate rocks of the Copacabana Group. The completed geological site characterization was then used to locate the tailings dam and impoundment area to avoid areas of pervasive karst and to implement defensive engineering measures, including grout curtains and slush grouting of smaller cavities and joints, among others.


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