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# CHAPTER EIGHT

## Types of rock slope failures: kinematic feasibility

Modes of failure
Overview A rock mass may display one or more modes of failure depending on the following factors:
. . . . .

presence or absence of discontinuity sets orientation of discontinuity sets in relation to that of the natural or excavated face discontinuity spacing in one and three dimensions shear strength of discontinuity walls persistence of discontinuities.

Table 8.1 describes the individual modes of failure that can occur in fractured rock masses. Plane, wedge and toppling failure modes depend on the interaction of discontinuity orientation, face orientation and shear strength. This high degree of geometric control allows potential failure modes to be identied using kinematics. Kinematics is a branch of mechanics that deals with motion without reference to force or mass. Hence in a rock slope, blocks that have the freedom to move based on geometry alone may be regarded as kinematically feasible blocks. A block may only be regarded as unstable however, if it is capable of being removed from the rock mass without disturbing the adjacent rock and the disturbing forces are greater than the restoring forces. A particular mode of failure in a given face may be recognized by identifying the kinematically feasible block for that mode based on the relative orientation of the discontinuities and the face and the stability of the block by considering the shear strength characteristics of the discontinuities. By constructing a series of overlays that are used with the contoured plot of pole concentrations, potentially unstable blocks relating to different modes of failure can be readily identied. In constructing the overlays a very simplistic approach is taken to dene the shear strength of the discontinuities. The presence of water in the discontinuities and external loading (both static and dynamic) are ignored.
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## SHORT COURSE IN SOIL AND ROCK SLOPE ENGINEERING

242 Description Plane failure occurs when a discontinuity dips in a direction close to that of the face and the magnitude of the dip is greater than the angle of friction for the discontinuity Comments This is one of the simplest modes of failure. For plane failure to occur in slopes there must be lateral release surfaces (Fig 8.1) which will allow a block of nite size to slide out of the face. A dangerous situation is created when the face is convex in plan. In such a case it is possible for the excavated face to act as the release surfaces This is the most dangerous mode of failure since no release surfaces are required Wedge failure occurs when the orientation of two discontinuities results in a line of intersection that dips in a direction close to that of the face and the dip of this line is signicantly greater than the angle of friction for the discontinuities When the material is weak (as in soil slopes) or when the rock mass is heavily jointed or broken (as in a waste rock dump) the failure surface is likely to be circular When the pattern of discontinuities is random (i.e. no sets) circular failure modes are likely. The treatment of circular failures is covered in Part 1 of this book

## Table 8.1 Modes of failure in fractured rock masses

Failure mode

Sketch

Plane failure

Wedge failure

Circular failure

Block toppling

This type of failure occurs when long slender rock blocks (e.g. tabular or columnar blocks) dip into the face at relatively steep angles and rest on a basal discontinuity which dips out of the face at an angle less than the angle of friction for that discontinuity This commonly occurs when there is a set of closely spaced discontinuities which dip a relatively steep angle into the face

This type of failure generally requires three sets of discontinuities. Two orientated such that their line of intersection dips into the face and one that dips in nearly the same direction as the face at a low angle

Flexural toppling

This type of failure often results in gradual movements behind the face at distance up to ve times the height of the slope

Rockfalls

Rockfalls consist of free-falling blocks of different sizes which are detached from a steep rock face. The block movement includes bouncing, rolling, sliding and fragmentation. The detachment of relatively small fragments of rock from the face is known as ravelling

In the design of rock slopes the problem of rockfall is the prediction of the paths and the trajectories of the unstable blocks which detach from the rock slope so that suitable protection can be constructed

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## SHORT COURSE IN SOIL AND ROCK SLOPE ENGINEERING

Lateral release surfaces Basal slip plane

Unstable block

## Direction of movement controlled by lateral release surfaces

Trace of the discontinuity representing the basal slip plane in the face

## Fig. 8.1 Plane failure mechanism

Plane failure In plane failure, movement of a rock block or mass occurs by sliding along a basal slip plane (Fig. 8.1). For movement to occur, the following three basic conditions must be satised (Matherson, 1983).
. . .

The dip direction of the slip plane must lie within approximately 208 of the slope face dip direction. The slip plane must `daylight' (outcrop) on the slope. The dip of the slip plane must exceed the friction angle on that plane.

Other factors such as the presence of water, the effect of water pressure, and the necessity for lateral release surfaces to exist, are ignored in this simple assessment. The limit conditions described above can be portrayed on an overlay which is used with a contoured plot of pole density (e.g. see Fig. 7.21) to identify potential slip basal slip planes. The overlay is constructed in the following manner.
. .

Secure a piece of tracing paper over the equal area stereonet (Fig. 7.9). No rotation of the tracing paper is required. Mark the centre of the stereonet on the tracing paper by piercing it with a drawing pin.

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## CHAPTER 8 TYPES OF ROCK SLOPE FAILURES: KINEMATIC FEASIBILITY

Poles falling in this zone represent potential plane slip surfaces Dip direction of slope face

## Dip of slope face

Fig. 8.2 Construction of the plane failure overlay (from Matherson, 1983)
. .

. .

Mark the dip direction of the face with an arrow pointing towards the West along the EW line of the stereonet (Fig. 8.2). Draw a line from the centre of the stereonet to a point on the circumference 208 above the eastern end of the EW line. Draw a second line from the centre to a point 208 below the eastern end of the EW line (Fig. 8.2). These lines represent the limits on the dip direction of potential slip surfaces. Draw an arc with radius equal to the dip of the proposed slope face measured along the EW between the lines dening the limits on dip direction (Fig. 8.2). Draw an arc with radius equal to the angle of friction measured along the EW between the lines dening the limits on dip direction (Fig. 8.2). The resulting plane failure overlay has the appearance of a truncated wedge as shown in Fig. 8.2.

A qualitative assessment of potential stability can be made by superimposing the overlay (correctly orientated according to the slope being assessed) on a pole plot of the same diameter derived from eld measurements. At its simplest, a count of the number of poles within the dened region can give a semi-quantitative measure of failure potential, provided
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the sample is representative. When contouring has been carried out, the highest contour value within the dened region can be taken and used in a similar way. In practice, uncertainty as to the value of friction and slope angle usually means that a rst evaluation is carried out using the potential slip plane dip direction limits alone. This will lead to an appreciation of the importance of the data collected to the stability of the slope in question. The angle of friction of smooth rock surfaces is usually between 258 and 358 for a wide range of rock types. For preliminary assessments the angle of friction may be taken as 308. Once the frictional characteristics are known a more accurate value can be used. Concentrations of poles in the region of potential instability dened by potential slip plane dip direction and friction angle limits will then give an indication of the optimum angle for the design slope.

WORKED EXAMPLE Determine the optimum slope angle for a face with a dip direction of 3608 in a rock mass with the discontinuity orientations shown in Fig. 7.21. The objective here is to nd the maximum slope angle which will minimize the likelihood of plane failure. We are not given any information about the angle of friction or the roughness of the discontinuities. In this case, therefore, a friction angle of 308 will be assumed. The procedure for nding the optimum slope angle is as follows.
. . .

Construct an overlay with a friction angle of 308 and a series of arcs representing slope face angles at 108 intervals as shown in Fig. 8.3. Centre the overlay over the contoured plot of pole density using a drawing pin. Rotate the overlay so that the arrow showing the dip direction of the slope face points towards 3608 (i.e. North) as shown in Fig. 8.4.

Now the overlay has been orientated in the dip direction of the proposed slope the contours falling within the dip direction limits can be examined. A cluster of poles falls within these lines and these may result in plane failure if the slope face dips at angles greater than 508. There is still a risk of plane failure at lower angles but since the density of poles is relatively low the risk is minimized. The likelihood of plane failure is greatest at slope angles greater than 608. In this case release surfaces are provided by steeply dipping discontinuities represented by the clusters located on the circumference near the East and West points.

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50

60

## Dip direction of slope

75 30 friction cone

20

## Fig. 8.3 Construction of overlay for plane failure worked example

Wedge failure In wedge failure, two intersecting planes are present which dip towards each other. Movement takes place by sliding along both planes in the direction of the line of intersection as shown in Table 8.1. For failure to occur, two basic conditions must be satised (Markland, 1972).
. .

The line of intersection must daylight on the slope. The dip of the line of intersection must exceed the friction angles of the planes.

Although this disregards the component of friction acting on both planes and possible water pressures, it is considered sufciently accurate (and on the safe side) for preliminary assessments. The limit conditions described above can be portrayed on an overlay which is used with a plot of principal discontinuity intersections to identify
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50 60 70 80

Fig. 8.4 Use of plane failure overlay with data shown in Fig. 7.21

## potentially unstable wedges. The overlay is constructed in the following manner.

. . . . .

Secure a piece of tracing paper over the equal area stereonet (Fig. 7.9). No rotation of the tracing paper is required. Mark the centre of the stereonet on the tracing paper by piercing it with a drawing pin. Mark the dip direction of the face with an arrow pointing towards the West along the EW line of the stereonet (Fig. 8.5). Trace the great circle representing the slope face (Fig. 8.5). Draw an arc beginning and ending at the great circle drawn in the preceding step with centre at the centre of the stereonet and radius equal to (90 ) where  is the angle of friction (Fig. 8.5).

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## Dip of slope face

Fig. 8.5 Construction of the wedge failure overlay (from Markland, 1972)
.

The nished overlay is a crescent. Intersections between pairs of discontinuities that fall into this crescent may represent potentially unstable wedges.

Superimposition of the overlay on an intersection plot of great circles (one for each cluster of poles) will allow a simple assessment of the possibility of wedge failure. The effect of variations in the friction angle or dip of the design slope can be judged. The objective in design is to select a parameter (like slope angle, face angle or dip, orientation of the face or dip direction) that allows exclusion of as many intersections as possible from the region of potential instability. The large number of observations normally accompanying a stability assessment makes the task of graphically drawing each great circle and dening every intersection impractical. Instead, only the main pole concentrations found by contouring the pole plot are used. Great circles are drawn to these and the intersections identied. A qualitative assessment of their importance to stability is then made using the overlay described above. A semi-quantitative evaluation can be obtained by taking into consideration the relative importance of each pole concentration which may be assessed on the basis of persistence.
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## SHORT COURSE IN SOIL AND ROCK SLOPE ENGINEERING

Plane failure may be regarded as a special form of wedge failure. A block undergoing plane failure has a single sliding surface and is bounded by lateral release surfaces. The intersection between the discontinuities representing the lateral release surfaces and the slip surface will appear within the crescent of the wedge failure overlay. It is necessary therefore to classify potentially unstable wedges into single plane sliding blocks (plane failure) and double plane sliding blocks (wedge failure). Hocking (1976) describes a simple tests based on the dip directions of the two planes, the line of intersection and the slope face. Consider two planes A and B with dip directions shown in Fig. 8.6. If dip direction of plane A

Plane B

Intersection of A and B

Plane A

(a)

Cut slope

Plane B

Plane A

Intersection of A and B

(b)

Cut slope

Fig. 8.6 A method for determining whether a potentially unstable wedge will slide on one or two planes (from Hocking, 1976). (a) Sliding on plane A. (b) Sliding on intersection of A and B

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## CHAPTER 8 TYPES OF ROCK SLOPE FAILURES: KINEMATIC FEASIBILITY

falls between the dip directions of the slope face and the line of intersection between the planes, single plane sliding will occur on plane A (Fig. 8.6(a)). If neither plane has a dip direction between that of the slope face and the line of intersection between the planes sliding will take place along the line of intersection (i.e. double plane sliding). This test can be applied to all intersections which fall inside the crescent of the wedge failure overlay.

WORKED EXAMPLE Identify the potentially unstable wedges in a slope face with dip 708 and dip direction 0908 excavated in a rock mass with discontinuity orientations shown in Fig. 7.21. We are not given any information about the angle of friction or the roughness of the discontinuities. In this case, therefore, a friction angle of 308 will be assumed.
N A B

CA

CB
DB
DC

DA
A D

BA
B A

Fig. 8.7 Construction of intersection plot based on data given in Fig. 7.21

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## SHORT COURSE IN SOIL AND ROCK SLOPE ENGINEERING

In order to identify the potentially unstable wedges in this face it is necessary to identify the highest concentrations of poles and to use these to determine the most likely lines of intersection that will outcrop in the proposed face. The peaks associated with each cluster of discontinuities shown in Fig. 7.21 have been labelled A to C in Fig. 8.7. The great circles associated with each of these poles have been drawn in Fig. 8.7 and the intersections labelled. The point of intersection between two great circles represents the orientation of the line of intersection between the planes they represent. The overlay shown in Fig. 8.8 has been constructed using a slope dip of 708 and an angle of friction of 308. This is superimposed onto the plot of intersections (Fig. 8.7). Alignment of centres is achieved using a drawing pin in a similar manner as that described in the worked example for plane failure. The overlay must be rotated so that the

Slope angle,

50

60

70 80

30 Friction cone

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## CHAPTER 8 TYPES OF ROCK SLOPE FAILURES: KINEMATIC FEASIBILITY

D N A B

CB DB C

CA
CB

DC

DB

DC

DA
A D

D A

B C

BA
B A

Fig. 8.9 Use of overlay with intersection plot arrow representing the dip direction of the face is pointing towards 0908. The intersection DC falls within the zone of potential instability (Fig. 8.9). The Hocking test indicates that this wedge will slide along the line of intersection.

Toppling failure Toppling failure involves either one or a combination of exural toppling and block toppling (see Table 8.1). Flexural toppling involves the overturning of rock layers like a series of cantilever beams. This is common in thinly bedded or foliated rocks such as shale, slate or schist or closely jointed rock where the fractures dip steeply into the face as shown in Table 8.1. Each layer tends to bend
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## SHORT COURSE IN SOIL AND ROCK SLOPE ENGINEERING

Fig. 8.10 Ideal discontinuity geometry for toppling failure downhill under its own weight and hence transfers force downslope. If the toe of the slope is allowed to move either by sliding or overturning, exural cracks will form in the upper layers to a signicant distance behind to crest of the slope. Block toppling involves the overturning of fracture-bounded blocks as rigid columns rather than having to fail in exure (see Table 8.1). In the ideal case shown in Fig. 8.10 a set of relatively widely spaced discontinuities dipping out of the slope at a low angle combines with a set of more closely spaced discontinuities dipping steeply into the face together with a set of discontinuities which dip steeply in a direction approximately perpendicular to the face to form either columnar or tabular shaped blocks whose individual centre of gravity lies outside a basal pivot line or point located at the block edge. This combination of steeply dipping discontinuities rarely occurs in practice. The dip direction of these discontinuities need not be approximately parallel and perpendicular to the slope face to bring about block toppling failure. Any combination of dip directions can result in overturning blocks provided the spacing of the steeply dipping discontinuities is sufciently close relative to the spacing of the low angle basal planes which dip out of the face. Such combinations can be identied by examining the orientation of the lines of intersection between discontinuities. If these dip steeply into the face in combination with a low dip set of basal planes, there is potential for toppling. As with the other failure mechanisms an overlay may be constructed using the stereonet to identify the different toppling modes in a slope face from discontinuity orientation data. The criteria for the construction of the overlay are now described.
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CHAPTER 8 TYPES OF ROCK SLOPE FAILURES: KINEMATIC FEASIBILITY Criteria for exural toppling The mechanism of exural toppling involves exural slip between closely spaced layers (Fig. 8.11). The steeply dipping fractures must therefore be in a state of limiting equilibrium. The angle between the normal stress active in the slope face and the normal to the discontinuities which are undergoing exural slip is in Fig. 8.11. If there are no external forces or water forces limiting equilibrium along the steeply dipping discontinuities will be achieved when , where  is the angle of friction of these discontinuities. The angle can be expressed in terms of the dip of the slope face () and the dip of the steeply dipping discontinuities ( ) as
 90 where 90 is the dip of the pole to the steeply dipping discontinuity.

90

Pole Horizontal

Discontinuity

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## SHORT COURSE IN SOIL AND ROCK SLOPE ENGINEERING

Limits on dip direction 30 Poles falling in these zones provide the potential for flexural toppling provided the joint spacing is sufficiently close Dip direction of slope face

15

15

## Angle of friction 30 Dip of slope face

Fig. 8.12 Construction of overlay for exural toppling Limiting equilibrium will occur when 90   . Flexural toppling can occur when the dip direction of the steeply dipping discontinuities is up to 308 away from that of the slope face, but is much more likely to occur when the difference in dip directions is less than 158. These criteria are combined to form a stability overlay in the following manner.
. . . . .

Secure a piece of tracing paper over the equal area stereonet (Fig. 7.9). No rotation of the tracing paper is required. Mark the centre of the stereonet on the tracing paper by piercing it with a drawing pin. Mark the dip direction of the face with an arrow pointing towards the West along the EW line of the stereonet (Fig. 8.12). Trace the great circle representing the slope face (Fig. 8.12). Mark the point on the EW line which is a distance  from the great circle representing the slope face towards the W point. Trace the great circle which passes through this point (Fig. 8.12). This great circle represents the limit of poles which dip at  . Trace two small circles starting at the circumference of the stereonet at points 308 above and below the W point and terminating at the great circle drawn in the preceding step (Fig. 8.12).

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## CHAPTER 8 TYPES OF ROCK SLOPE FAILURES: KINEMATIC FEASIBILITY

.

Repeat the above step at points 158 above and below the W point (Fig. 8.12).

## Criteria for block toppling (Matherson, 1983).

. . .

The dip direction of the basal plane must lie within approximately 208 of the slope face dip direction. The dip of the basal plane must be less than the friction angle on that plane. The dip direction of lines of intersection between discontinuities must lie within approximately 208 of the slope face dip direction. For steep slopes this can be extended to 908 The dip of the lines of intersection must exceed 90 , where  is the friction angle on that plane.

The overlay based on the above criteria is constructed using the following procedure.
. .

Use the tracing paper with the exural toppling overlay (Fig. 8.12). Draw a line from the centre of the stereonet to a point on the circumference 208 above the eastern end of the EW line. Draw a second

Intersections that fall into zones A and B represent potentially unstable blocks when combined with poles in zone A (basal planes) Dip direction of slope face

## Dip of slope face

Angle of friction

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## SHORT COURSE IN SOIL AND ROCK SLOPE ENGINEERING

line from the centre to a point 208 below the eastern end of the EW line (Fig. 8.13). These lines represent the limits on the dip direction of basal planes and lines of intersection. Draw a semi-circle on the east side of the stereonet with radius equal to the angle of friction measured along the EW as shown in Fig. 8.13. This represents the upper limit on dip for basal planes and the lower limit on lines of intersection.

A stereonet does not have dimensions and so it is not possible to represent centre of gravity. Any potential for toppling (either exural or block) identied using the overlays must be validated by examining the spacings of the discontinuity sets involved.

WORKED EXAMPLE Using the discontinuity orientation data presented in Fig. 7.21, determine the face directions which are most likely to have a toppling failure hazard if the dip of the face is 708 and the angle of friction for all discontinuities is assumed to be 308.
Solution . Construct a toppling failure overlay as shown in Fig. 8.14. Note that since  308 the edge of the wedge shaped zone dening the basal planes coincides with the edge of the semi-circular zone dening the critical discontinuity intersections for block toppling. . Combine the contoured pole density plot (Fig. 7.21) with the intersection plot used in the wedge failure analysis (Fig. 8.7). . Superimpose the overlay (Fig. 8.14) onto the combined pole density and intersection plot and centre using a drawing pin. . Rotate the overlay to nd the critical slope directions dened by combinations of poles falling into zones 1, 2 and 3 and intersection falling into zone 4. Critical slope directions Face direction 1808. The highest concentration of poles in set D fall inside zone 2 (see Fig. 8.15) suggesting that there is a signicant hazard from exural toppling if the spacing of set D is close. The intersection of sets B and D (Point DB in Fig. 8.15) is on the edge of the semi-circular shaped zone 4 used to identify block toppling. There is however only a small amount (2%) of low angle discontinuities belonging to set A which have poles falling into zone 3 (basal planes). This suggests that there is little potential for block toppling and the main hazard is from exural toppling. The degree of hazard will

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## Zone 3 use with poles and intersections Zone 2

Zone 2

High flexural toppling hazard if joints are closely spaced Low to intermediate flexural toppling hazard if joints are closely spaced + High block toppling but requires a 3rd joint set to form blocks. Look for intersection in

Fig. 8.14 Construction of combined exural and block toppling overlay for worked example depend principally on the spacing of set D. If set D is widely spaced then the hazard will be reduced. Face direction 2808. Poles representing a steeply dipping set of discontinuities (set B in Fig. 8.16) fall with their highest concentration inside zone 2 indicating a high exural toppling hazard. In addition,

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CA

CB DB
B
DA

DC

BA

180

High risk of flexural toppling is high if set D is closely or very closely spaced

## D dips @ 60 A dips @10

Fig. 8.15 Preliminary evaluation the potential for toppling failure in a 708 face dipping towards 1808 based on the data given in Fig. 7.21 the highest concentration of poles associated with discontinuity set A falls inside zone 3 indicating the presence of basal planes for block toppling. The line of intersection between sets B and D fall on the edge of zone 4 reinforcing the likelihood of block toppling failure. The hazard of block toppling is of course highest when the spacing of sets D and B are much less than that of set A. In this case the rock mass would be dominated by steeply dipping tabular or columnar blocks.

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## CHAPTER 8 TYPES OF ROCK SLOPE FAILURES: KINEMATIC FEASIBILITY

CA

CB DB
B 280
DA

DC

BA

High risk of flexural toppling from set B if spacing is close enough. High risk of block toppling on basal planes formed by set A. Sets B and D will form unstable blocks if spacing of sets B and D is much less than set A

Fig. 8.16 Preliminary evaluation the potential for toppling failure in a 708 face dipping towards 2808 based on the data given in Fig. 7.21 Face direction 1008. Poles representing set B fall inside zone 2 and only a small concentration of poles from set A fall inside zone 3. No intersections fall inside zone 4. This suggests that the principal hazard is associated with exural toppling of set B. The spacing of set B will determine the how real this hazard is.

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