The stability of tailings dams is affected by seepage characteristics such as the location of the phreatic surface inside the dam, the effects of the capillary fringe, and the unsaturated zone above the zero pore pressure level. In this study, the performance of drainage systems in tailings dams was investigated by analyzing saturated and unsaturated seepage in the dam, considering the effects of the construction method, tailings properties, and the type of drainage systems. First, general seepage characteristics in tailings dams were studied and the effects of non-homogeneity were investigated. Our results show that in a silty tailings dam with a height of 15 m, unsaturated plus capillary seepage flux can reach 13% of the total seepage. The total head vs. discharge volume curves under various conditions were compared and their practical implications are presented. Then, stability analyses were carried out using the results of seepage analyses for different construction methods, material properties, and drainage systems. Finally, a number of practical conclusions are drawn regarding dam stability and the efficiency of toe, blanket, and chimney drains in different construction methods. Using a blanket and/or a chimney drain can increase the stability safety factor by up to two times, depending on the type of material.
Mine Water and the Environment – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 15, 2017
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