Challenges with Conducting Tailings Dam Breach Studies

Challenges with Conducting Tailings Dam Breach Studies

Author: Violeta Martin, Ph.D., P.Eng., Daniel Fontaine, P.Eng., and Jaime Cathcart, Ph.D., P.Eng.
Conference: Tailings and Mine Waste 2015
Date: October 25-28, 2015

Engineering practitioners currently use a combination of guidance documents, published papers, and professional experience to support tailings dam breach and inundation studies. There is considerable knowledge and information available in this relatively new field of practice, but standardized and comprehensive guidelines specific to tailings dams are not available.

Practitioners face several key challenges: (a) the more established and mature guidance is typically focused on water storage dams; (b) the available literature may only address specific aspects of dam breach assessment and inundation modelling; (c) the available literature sometimes relies on historical data that may not be consistent with the proposed application; and (d) the results are highly sensitive to the selected modelling inputs.

This paper reflects on the currently available literature on dam breach and inundation studies, compares how the major components for these studies are approached, and discusses how the resulting conclusions may vary.

Key aspects of tailings dam breach and inundation assessment typically considered include: initial conditions and hydrology; boundary conditions; breach parameters; tailings mobility and outflow volume; and flood routing and inundation mapping. This paper quantitatively compares several of the key parameters proposed by various authors and comments on the factors that control their applicability.

 

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