The disposal of fine-grained mining and industrial waste by formation of hydraulic-fill tailings dams is becoming a design and construction activity of increasing scale. In light of the increasing pressure on the mining industry to sustain stringent safety and environmental standards it is becoming more important to gain technical knowledge of the waste problem. The upper layers of the tailings residue dams are in the unsaturated state with the matric suction component contributing to the overall shear strength. The ability to incorporate the matric suction component in shear strength calculations is important to safe design. This research project investigates the use of the mid-plane suction probe to measure matric suction. The results obtained from the probe is used along with various tests to construct a complete soil-water characteristic curve for Mispah gold tailings as well as to investigate suction induced shear strength of drying tailings with depth. The tests were conducted on gold tailings from Vaal Operation’s Mispah tailings dam. The laboratory tests consisted of a trough test, to determine the soil-water characteristics of the gold tailing and also a drying box test that simulated the drying and desiccation of the gold tailings in the daywall. The project concluded that the mid-plane suction probe could be used with acceptable accuracy to determine soil suctions. The model for the prediction of the soil water characteristic curve, derived by Fredlund and Xing (1992), was used successfully to predict the complete soil water characteristics curve for Mispah gold tailings. The equation derived by Vanapalli et al. (1996) was successfully used to calculate both the normal and suction induced shear strength of gold mine tailings using either the volumetric water content from the extracted samples or from the soil water characteristic curve.
Dissertation (MEng (Geotechnical Engineering))--University of Pretoria, 2006.