The Karoo Supergroup covers approximately 57% of South Africa’s surface area and the
sedimentary rocks therein generally do not yield acceptable pavement aggregates. The Karoo
Dolerite Suite (intrusions) present in these sedimentary units have successfully been used
as pavement aggregate sources, but numerous cases of premature pavement failure due to
alleged rapid degradation of the dolerite have been reported. Durability tests are included in
basic or mafic igneous rock aggregate specifications, but rapid pavement failures continue to
occur. A study was recently undertaken to identify cases where degradation of Karoo dolerite
was the cause of pavement failure. A secondary objective of the study was to determine if any
observed degradation could have been identified using currently specified or alternative testing
methods. Three such case study sites are presented in this article and the properties of their
materials compared to those from five non-problematic dolerite materials.
It is shown that the poor performance of the case study materials was likely due to the poor
durability of the materials, manifesting as a reduction in resistance to abrasion and attrition.
The identification of the observed poor durability could not have been performed accurately
using only the currently specified test specifications. Alternative tests that allow an accurate
differentiation to be made were, however, identified and, based on the results, tentative limits
set. Additionally it was shown that modification of problematic Karoo dolerite base course
materials, by applying lime at a rate less than the initial consumption of lime, can be successful
in preventing further rapid pavement failures.