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Slope Stability 2013 P.M.

Dight (ed)
2013 Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, ISBN 978-0-9870937-5-2

Slope Stability 2013, Brisbane, Australia 1111
D. McInnes Golder Associates Pty Ltd, Australia
C. Haberfield Golder Associates Pty Ltd, Australia
P.J.H. de Graaf Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Australia
C. Colley Golder Associates Pty Ltd, Australia

Geotechnical investigations were carried out as part of the Feasibility Study Extension (FSE) and Trial Mining
program for the development of below the water table (BWT) expansion at Rio Tinto Iron Ores (RTIOs)
Marandoo Mine. The Marandoo Mine site is located in the Pilbara region of Western Australia,
1,500 kilometres north of Perth.
Previous studies have indicated that a 40 m thick, at approximately 40 m depth, layer of Tertiary clay, will
present significant challenges relating to slope and waste dump design as well as operational challenges
(trafficability and handleability). Due to uncertainty over the confidence of parameters derived from triple
tube sampling and testing, conservative design parameters were adopted for the previous studies. It was
recognised that significant upside could be realised through improved material characterisation techniques.
The main objectives of the investigation and testing program were to: 1) characterise the physical
properties and variability of the clay; and 2) obtain design parameters for the slopes for mining of the pit.
This was carried out with conventional drilling, sampling and logging procedures. Hyperspectral scanning of
diamond core was undertaken, which provided useful information on the vertical distribution of clay species
through the detrital stratigraphy. Following review of the historic sample test results, it was hypothesised
that sampling and testing methods had contributed to pre-softening of samples. Subsequent testing focused
on Shelby tube and in situ testing; both resulted in significant improvement in measured shear strength
parameters over triple tube sampling.
A self-boring pressuremeter was used in two locations to carry out in situ testing of the clay at various
depths. The results of the pressuremeter testing have indicated that the permeability of the clay is
significantly lower than assumed in previous studies. An assessment of the effect of the structure of the clay
on the stability of the slopes will be an objective of further studies.
Key outcomes so far have emphasised the significant impact of sampling method, preservation, timely
testing on derived material properties, and recognition of the limitations of various techniques in
characterising heavily over consolidated clays. The material characterisation has also confirmed the critical
importance of water management in mining in relation to preserving clay strength. This work has enabled
detailed planning to be undertaken for studies covering trafficability, handleabilty, waste dump and slope
performance; with field trials scheduled in the mine plan.
Previous studies have indicated that in the area of the proposed mining there is a layer of clay, the upper
tertiary lacustrine clay (UTLC), approximately 40 m thick, at approximately 40 m depth, through which the
mine excavation will penetrate.
Mine design for below water table clay detritals mining: Marandoo Mine, Western Australia D. McInnes et al.
1112 Slope Stability 2013, Brisbane, Australia
The main objective of the investigations and testing program were to obtain design parameters for the
slopes for the mining pit. This was carried out with conventional drilling, sampling and logging procedures.
A self-boring pressuremeter (SBPM) was used in two locations to carry out in situ testing of the clay.
The results of the pressuremeter testing have indicated that the permeability of the clay is significantly
lower than assumed in previous studies, but the effect of any structure in the clay is expected to increase
the mass permeability and this could affect the time the slopes remain stable.
The behaviour of the UTLC suggests that the significant stress reduction occurring during excavation will
reduce the pore pressures from the pre-excavation conditions and pore pressures are expected to become
negative. The negative pore pressures will initially act to preserve the effective stress state and the strength
of the UTLC. However, the Factors of Safety are expected to reduce with time as the negative pore
pressures dissipate. This behaviour is well documented for materials such as London Clay and Cambridge
Clay, which have similar engineering characteristics to the UTLC based on comparisons with available data.
Slope stability assessments have been carried out for the mining pit and indicate that an overall slope of
approximately 36 will have a Factor of Safety in excess of 1.2 for up to two years after excavation through
the UTLC. However, the computed Factor of Safety is dependent upon a number of factors which have not
been fully defined or rely on assumptions that may change as more data becomes available. Consequently
the Factor of Safety should not be relied upon until further studies have been completed.
The slope stability analyses carried out to date have assumed that the groundwater pressures in the strata
below the clay are hydrostatic until the base of the excavation reaches the Lower Calcrete and then
groundwater pressures in the lower strata will start to dissipate at a rate dependent on their
hydrogeological properties. Without dewatering of the strata below the clay, base failure could occur prior
to slope failures in the UTLC. The stability analyses have not reliably modelled the depressurisation of the
underlying strata as the hydrogeological properties of the underlying strata are not known in sufficient
detail. Further slope stability analyses will be inconclusive without additional hydrogeological data from the
underlying strata and detailed information from the dewatering model.
The primary ore zone is the Archaean Newman Member banded iron stone of the Marra Mamba Iron
Formation which is overlain by West Angelas Member weathered shales. Transported detrital units
uncomformably overly the weathered shales. The significant units within the detritals assemblage include
Tertiary lower conglomeratic breccias and pisolites (3050 m), overlain by a 4060 m thick Upper Tertiary
Lacustrine Clay (UTLC). Thin secondary calcrete lenses occur both above and below the UTLC, with
Quaternary alluvial sediments (30 m thick) exposed on the surface.
The fieldwork program comprised 16 cored geotechnical boreholes and two boreholes for the self-boring
pressuremeter testing. Eight boreholes were drilled using a Sonic drilling rig. The boreholes were designed
to sample the UTLC and to confirm the lithology of the strata immediately underlying it. Boreholes were
drilled to a maximum depth of 120 m and locations are shown on Figure 1. Eight of the boreholes were
drilled at an inclination of 85 to the north to facilitate core orientation for structural data acquisition using
an electronic (ACE) orientation tool and gyroscopic deviation surveys were subsequently carried out in
these holes.
All boreholes were logged onsite by engineering geologists and samples were collected for geotechnical
testing. Gamma surveys were carried out on all boreholes, with the exception of one borehole which was a
test hole for the Sonic drill rig.
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Slope Stability 2013, Brisbane, Australia 1113

A summary of the geology encountered for each of the boreholes drilled is presented in Table 1.
Borehole
Reference
No.
Quaternary
Detritals
(m bgl)
Upper
Calcrete
(m bgl)
UTLC
(m bgl)
Lower
Calcrete
(m bgl)
Lower
Sediments
(m bgl)
Archaean
Units
(m bgl)
BH01 0.031.5 to 41.0 to 83.0 to 95.0 to 118.0 to 120.0*
BH02 0.024.5 to 35.0 to 47.5*
BH03 0.028.0 to 39.0 to 82.5 to 95.2 to 113.0 to 120.0*
BH04 0.025.0 to 35.0 to 82.0 to 98.1 to 108.5 to 120.0*
BH05 0.023.0 to 32.0 to 41.0*
BH06 0.033.0 to 41.5 to 89.0 to 100.0 to 113.0 to 120.0*
BH07 0.020.0 to 39.2 to 81.3 to 90.6 to 98.8 to 103.7*
BH08 0.025.7 to 38.7 to 72.6 to 80.8 to 90.5*
BH09 0.024.6 to 36.4 to 75.5 to 98.3 to 120.0*
BH10 0.034.4 to 44.3 to 64.5 to 90.5
BH11 0.029.0 to 40.5 to 66.5 to 91.5
BH13 0.028.8 to 46.0 to 67.8 to 90.0
BH14 0.028.2 to 42.3 to 85.5 to 91.5
BH15 0.027.2 to 43.8 to 85.3 to 90.0*
BH16 0.027.7 to 43.8 to 84.7 to 90.0*
BH17 0.033.0 to 43.0 to 76.0 to 89.0*
BH18 0.027.3 to 41.9 to 83.9 to 90.0*
BH19 0.035.0 to 43.0 to 73.0 to 80.0*
Notes: All depths are provided in metres below ground level (m bgl)
* indicates total depth and may not be the limit to identified strata, boreholes 2 and 5 were abandoned at shallow depth
Holes BH17 and BH19 were drilled for the SBPM.
Mine design for below water table clay detritals mining: Marandoo Mine, Western Australia D. McInnes et al.
1114 Slope Stability 2013, Brisbane, Australia
The Quaternary Detritals unit is typically a matrix supported silty sand which is moderately cemented, and
ranges from very dense sand to low strength rock with up to 40% angular and sub-rounded gravel clasts.
The matrix generally becomes finer grained with depth and clasts become finer and less abundant. Large
scale coarsening and fining is observed on a metre scale throughout the Quaternary Detritals. While few
true joints are present within this unit, the core tends to break sub-horizontal and parallel to the apparent
banding or bedding.
The thickness of the Upper Calcrete ranges between 6.4 m and 13.0 m. The calcrete varies from a very
weakly cemented and calcretised fine sandy silt to a well cemented, medium strength calcrete, sometimes
having a vuggy texture.
The UTLC generally comprises a moist, fissured, high plasticity, very stiff, clay and silty clay. No free water
was observed on joint surfaces during field logging. Pocket penetrometer tests were conducted in the field
at intervals in the cored UTLC and in Shelby tube samples. The pocket penetrometer results indicate that
the UTLC core is generally of uniform strength and the undrained shear strength in the core and the Shelby
tubes, calculated from penetrometer readings, is typically just below 400 kPa. The UTLC can be subdivided
into three zones, an upper ferruginous clay, a middle weakly ferruginous clay and a lower non-ferruginous
clay as outlined below.
Pale grey and red brown, the red brown ferruginised material is often oriented along fissures and
discontinuities, typically present from top of clay to between 49.6 m depth in BH07 and 58.8 m depth in
BH01, with an average thickness of about 15 m for all boreholes in this investigation.
Khaki brown mottled red brown and pale grey, the pale grey clay is often found on the discontinuity
surfaces. Observations indicate that weakly ferruginised clay was encountered between 65.0 m depth in
BH07 and 74.0 m depth in BH06, with an average thickness of about 16 m in all boreholes in this
investigation.
Khaki brown occasionally mottled red brown and pale grey. Traces of fine ferricrete nodules up to 10 mm
diameter occur within this zone. Non-ferruginised clay is observed from the base of the weakly ferruginous
material to the base of the UTLC, representing an average thickness of 11.4 m in boreholes logged as part
of this investigation.
The clay core samples appeared to desiccate quickly when exposed to the environment and rapidly
disaggregate in water (typically within an hour) from a dry or moist condition. The desiccation cracks are
often orientated along the fissures and joints, and the material shows very little resistance to shear along
these surfaces after short periods of exposure (one to two days). This effect was observed on all samples of
the UTLC exposed to the air. Samples from the middle and lower clay units generally took longer to
disaggregate than the upper ferruginised clay samples. Photographs of these characteristics are presented
Hydrogeology
Slope Stability 2013, Brisbane, Australia 1115
as Figures 2(a) and (b). Further study into the mineralogy and soil water chemistry will be required to better
understand this behaviour.

(a) (b)
The clays displayed some jointing, generally planar, closed, and continuous across the core axis. Observed
defect surfaces were typically polished and slickensided. Core orientation was carried out within the UTLC
using an electronic (ACE) orientation tool. Orientation of the clay was problematic because orientations
could not reliably be carried through from one drilling run to the next and the assessed structural
information is ranked as unreliable according to RTIOs core orientation procedures. A combined defect
data set is presented as Figure 3.

Notwithstanding the confidence ranking, the data indicate structural features within the UTLC to show a
range of dip angles between 12 to 60. Four sets can be recognised from the data with dip directions
appearing to cluster at four almost equally distributed directions.
Mine design for below water table clay detritals mining: Marandoo Mine, Western Australia D. McInnes et al.
1116 Slope Stability 2013, Brisbane, Australia
The lower calcrete is less well defined than the upper calcrete and varies from very weakly calcretised silty
clay to clayey silt of medium to low plasticity to a well cemented, medium strength calcrete. The lower
calcrete varies in thickness between 7 and 17 m. The boundary between the UTLC and the Lower Calcrete
can be gradational and in these cases the boundary is generally identified by a decrease in plasticity,
combined with colour and textural changes. Previous studies identified that the Lower Calcrete can be
discontinuous within the investigation area and is typically absent in the west of the project area. The
Lower Calcrete is absent in BH08 (the western most of the FSE boreholes) which is consistent with the
current geological model.
The Quaternary through Tertiary sequence is bounded below by a Tertiary-Archaean unconformity and
underlain by weathered Archaean units generally comprising discontinuous horizons of:
Clay breccias with sub-rounded banded iron formation (BIF) clasts, underlain by:
completely weathered West Angela Shale, represented by firm to stiff clayey silt to silty lay
with moderate to low plasticity with complete overprinting of rock fabric; and
BIF of the Archaean age Newman Group (basement).
The Tertiary-Archaean unconformity is often difficult to clearly identify during field logging even when
supplemented by gamma log information.
Results of Atterberg limit testing are summarised in Figures 4, 5 and 6.

0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140
P
l
a
s
t
i
c
i
t
y

I
n
d
e
x

% < 2m
PSM Data
FSE Data
FSE Nov-2010
Activity 0.75
Hydrogeology
Slope Stability 2013, Brisbane, Australia 1117

(a) (b)
One oedometer test was performed to assess the degree of over consolidation of the UTLC and the results
are summarised in Table 2.
Test
Depth
(m bgl)
Moisture
Content
(%)
Liquid
Limit
(%)
Plastic
Limit
(%)
Overburden
Pressure
(MPa)
Yield
Stress
(MPa)
Over-Consolidation
Ratio
65 27 89 23 1.1 >3 2.7
The maximum vertical stress of 4 MPa applied by the oedometer apparatus was insufficient to fully define
the post-yield pressure to void ratio relationship. The yield stress interpreted from the test (3 MPa) is
therefore a lower bound to the actual value. The corresponding OCR value ( 3) is also a lower bound to the
actual OCR which the SBPM results indicate to be in the range 4 to 8.
For the stability assessment the effective stress parameters, effective cohesion c and effective friction
angle may be obtained from the triaxial testing. The shear strength results from the ten samples tested
are summarised in Table 3.
Where noted above: (Joint) indicates that the result may have been affected by incipient failure surfaces
within the sample. All tests were carried out on single samples using multi-stage (three stage) testing
procedures (refer Section 4.3.3). Results of two stages of testing have been obtained from the samples
from BH06 at 81 m depth.
There is a range of results, c varies between 0 and 71 kPa, and varies between 6.6 and 15.9. The
factors that may have affected the results are discussed below.


20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
0 50 100
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)

Plasticity Index
PSM Data
FSE Data
FSE Nov-2010
Below UTLC
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
-1 -0.5 0 0.5 1
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)

Liquidity Index
PSM Data
FSE Data
FSE Nov-2010
Below UTLC
Mine design for below water table clay detritals mining: Marandoo Mine, Western Australia D. McInnes et al.
1118 Slope Stability 2013, Brisbane, Australia
Borehole
Number
Test
R.L.
(m)
Test
Depth
(m bgl)
Moisture
Content
(%)
Liquid
Limit
(%)
Plastic
Limit
(%)
Liquidity
Index
Effective
Cohesion
(kPa)
Friction
Angle
(deg)
BH01 649.6 65 27 89 23 0.2 0 9 (Joint)
BH03 640.4 71 38 110 43 -0.1 56 11.1
BH03 631.4 80 40 133 43 -0.1 69 6.6 (Joint)
BH04 639.5 74 39.7 132 31 0.3 44 11.1
BH04 632.5 81 41.7 111 38 0.1 34 7.9
BH06 644.1 71 38 122 41 -0.1 71 13.6
BH06 641.1 74 40 133 41 0 49 12.6
BH06 634.1 81 34 107 30 0.1 38 18
2
BH20 661.4 56 38.8 111 43 -0.1 11 17
BH20 643.4 74 29.6 112 36 -0.2 56 15.9
1 = all samples classify as Hard Clay (CH) under the USCS.
2 = the 18 degree result was produced using an alternate triaxial sample consolidation method refer Section 4.3.2.
The low friction angle reported for the sample from BH01 at 65 m depth is due to the sample failing during
the first load stage, along an inclined joint plane. Testing of a joint was specifically targeted in this test with
the specimen cut from the sample such that the joint plane was in the centre of the specimen.
The sample from BH03 at 80 m depth exhibited failure at the end of the specimen, with the shear plane
passing through the top of the specimen. This failure mode is associated with non-homogeneity, as end
restraint encourages a specimen to fail in the central part of the specimen. Given the similarity of the
friction angle to the value obtained on a joint from BH01 it is possible that the failure of this sample also
was joint controlled. The relatively high c value may reflect the effect of the end restraint and multi-stage
testing. For very stiff clays a shear plane usually forms at the first stage and this can impact on the results of
the second and third stages, usually resulting in a high cohesion and lower friction angle.
A modified test procedure was applied to the sample from BH06 at 81 m depth, whereby the specimen was
reconsolidated to a saturated condition using external cell pressure rather than by applying internal back
pressure. Pressure saturation is preferred by some research orientated laboratories (such as the Norwegian
Geotechnical Institute) as the moisture content of the specimen is not changed. The back pressure
technique used for the other samples has the advantage that it is quicker, but may lead to results that
underestimate the shear strength of some clays. The result of this test, c = 38 kPa = 18, gave the
highest friction angle in this test series.
There appears to be a large range in the effective strength parameters as there are two components that
are not wholly independent; that is, high c, low can give the same shear strength as low c, high
.There are a number of valid techniques for deriving a realistic value for use in design of which taking a
numeric average is the simplest and is considered reasonable for discussing this set of results.
The samples tested are taken from the lower two thirds of the stratum, i.e. below the upper ferruginous
zone. Averaging the eight test results in Table 3 which are thought not to be structurally controlled,
provides effective strength parameters c = 47.5 kPa, and = 14.7. Stability studies to date have been
Hydrogeology
Slope Stability 2013, Brisbane, Australia 1119
based on: c = 24 kPa, = 16.5 which appear to be reasonably supported by the current data set. Note
that the friction angle used in plain strain slope stability analysis is 10% greater than the measured triaxial
shear value to account for stress path differences.
Drained and undrained shear strength are related by Mohr Circle relationships, the effective stress
parameters c and , and the excess pore pressure coefficient A
f
which expresses the pore pressure change
caused by the change in shear stress: u/(
1

3
). The A
f
coefficient is closely related to OCR, reducing
with increasing OCR to approach zero at OCR 5. Adopting A
f
= 0 for simplicity, the relationship between
undrained shear strength, c
u
, and the effective stress strength parameters, c, , is:
c
u
= (c.cos +
v0
.k
0
.sin)/(1 sin) (1)
Taking the average values:
c = 47.5 kPa.
= 14.7.
k
0
= 1.2.

v0
= 1,150 kPa.
Corresponding to the lower part of the UTLC, results in c
u
= 535 kPa. This is reasonably consistent with the
undrained shear strength obtained from Self Boring Pressuremeter (SBPM) tests in the lower part of the
UTLC. If A
f
is slightly positive at 0.1, the corresponding c
u
= 510 kPa. Based on the likely range of OCR = 4 to
8, and the associated range of A
f
= 0 to 0.1, there is fairly good agreement between the effective stress and
total stress shear strength parameters for the UTLC.
Difficulties in drilling through the UTLC have been attributed to the expansion of the clay after release of
the confining stress with core swelling by up to 25% in length in some instances. In order to understand the
mechanism of the swelling some non-routine tests were carried out.
Mineralogical characterisation and petrographic examination were carried out on samples of drill core from
UTLC. A complete section of the UTLC between 35.8 and 81.0 m bgl from BH3 was scanned by infrared
scanner to assist in identification of minerals within the clay sequence. Complimentary to this, four samples
were analysed by X ray diffraction (XRD) analysis and X ray fluorescence (XRF) assay and a further five
samples sent for petrographic study.
The infrared scanner collates the result of reflectance scans with high definition photographs taken at
10 mm intervals down the core column. The reflectance from the scans is compared against a spectral data
base from known mineralogy. The best two reflectance matches are recorded. Some reflectances, which
are not clear or have not been defined, are presented as unknown. No depth correction has been provided.
Four categories of minerals from the processed scan results were plotted with respect to hole depth. The
categories are Iron oxides, Carbonates, Magnesian Clays and Kaolin. There is an apparent relationship
between mineral suites and the sub-layering observed within the UTLC. A summary of the observed
relationship is shown in Table 4.
The mineralogy appears to vary within the UTLC and further study of the mineralogy may be required to
determine if this will significantly affect the performance of the cut slopes during excavation. The behaviour
of the trial slope should assist in refining material handling techniques, taking into account the proportions
of the above mineralogy.

Mine design for below water table clay detritals mining: Marandoo Mine, Western Australia D. McInnes et al.
1120 Slope Stability 2013, Brisbane, Australia
Observed Sub-layers Data Sourced from CSIRO Infrared Scanning Test
Possible
Sub-stratum
Depth
(m bgl)
Depth
(m bgl) Comments
Upper CALC 22.836.8 35.838.7 Near kaolin free dolomite, palygorskite rich zone
UTLC A 38.755.45 41.256.6
38.7-54.0
Hematite rich zone
Kaolinite and Montmorillonite are dominant clay
mineralogy
UTLC B 55.4565.4 56.664.8 Mixture of goethite and hematite rich zones
UTLC C 65.482.4 64.881.0 Goethite rich zone
Lower CALC 8288 Near kaolin free dolomite, palygorskite rich zone
The Self Boring Pressuremeter (SBPM) was used in two boreholes drilled with the sonic rig. The testing
targeted the UTLC, to provide information for assessing pit wall stability. The SBPM device used in the
investigation represents the state of the art in pressuremeter testing. Its self-boring capability minimises
ground disturbance, which facilitates measurement of critical parameters including the in situ lateral stress,
shear strength and permeability. The latter requires pore water pressure sensors and advanced test control
software which are features of the SBPM used in the investigation. The pre-failure stiffness of the ground is
also measured. A summary of the SBPM test data is given in Table 5.
Borehole
Test Depth
(m bgl)
Limit
Pressure
(kPa)
Shear
Strength
(kPa)
Shear
Modulus
(MPa)
Lateral
Stress
Ratio (k0)
Horizontal
Permeability
(m/s 10
11
)
BH17 44.5 9,100 1,500 275 8.0
BH19 51.4 7,100 860 120 1.35 2.6
BH19 54.5 6,300 785 115 1.4 4.3
BH19 55.5 6,300 800 1.2
BH19 60.0 5,300 610 75 1.25 1.9
BH19 62.9 5,000 550 65 1.1 1.0
BH19 64.3 5,100 615 70 1.1 2.0
BH17 65.5 5,200 620 60 1.5
BH17 66.9 5,500 715 55 1.0
BH19 69.0 5,200 545 75 1.15 3.7
BH19 70.5 5,300 555 80 1.1 2.5
BH19 72.0 5,300 555 2.0
BH17 75.1 5,300 475 85 1.25 2.1
Note: Derivation of the permeability assumes = 0.2
The ground surface elevation was taken as RL 717.7 m, and the UTLC was present between 43 and
77 m bgl. The groundwater level was approximately 38 m bgl. The first test, at 44.5 m bgl, was performed in
the ferruginous zone at the top of the UTLC, close to the interface with the overlying calcrete layer at
43 m bgl. The results from this test are quite different from those of the deeper tests and are
Hydrogeology
Slope Stability 2013, Brisbane, Australia 1121
representative only of the top of the UTLC stratum. The remaining tests show a general reduction in shear
strength and shear modulus with depth with a more distinct change below the ferruginous zone in the
upper third of the stratum.
Values for the in situ lateral stress coefficient (k
0
)

are related to over-consolidation ratio (OCR), which is the
ratio of the effective yield stress to the current effective overburden stress. Generally k
0
is found to be
about 0.5OCR, which leads to OCR ranging from 4 to 8 for the k
0
values of 1 to 1.4 measured in the UTLC.
CPTs were performed in 2009 near the SBPM test boreholes. The cone resistance in the UTLC varied
between 6,000 kPa and 10,000 kPa, averaging about 8,000 kPa. The ratio of cone resistance to undrained
shear strength for clays is termed the cone factor. From international geotechnical literature an
appropriate cone factor for stiff clay is unlikely to be less than 14, which leads to an undrained shear
strength range of 430 to 715 kPa with an average of approximately 570 kPa.
The undrained shear strengths deduced from the SBPM tests below the ferruginous zone are typically
550 to 620 kPa, which are reasonably consistent with the earlier CPT data.
More generally, it is known that the undrained shear strength obtained from pressuremeter tests in very
stiff fissured clay can overestimate operational values separately determined by large scale in situ testing
(Marsland and Powell, 1990). Marsland and Randolph (1977) indicate that the reduction factor depends on
the nature and scale of the fissuring relative to the size of the pressuremeter. Where the fissuring is
intense, as at Marandoo, the theoretical pressuremeter shear strength approaches the mass value.
Marsland and Randolph (1977) take the undrained shear strength as about 15% of the difference between
the limit pressure and the lateral stress, based on cavity expansion theory. Clarke (1996) observes that the
undrained shear strength of London Clay is observed to be not less than 10% of the limit pressure from the
SBPM. The empirical Clarke criterion provides the more conservative interpretation, and would lead to
shear strengths in the range 500 to 700 kPa, excluding the initial limit pressure value in Table 5. This range
is reasonably consistent with the results of the SBPM below the ferruginous zone and the shear strengths
derived from the CPTs.
The shear modulus derived from the SBPM results decreases from 275 MPa near the upper surface of the
UTLC to approximately 80 MPa towards the base. However, the shear modulus is reasonably consistent at
approximately 120 MPa in the upper third, i.e. in the ferruginous zone, and between 60 and 80 MPa in the
lower two thirds of the strata.
A critical stiffness parameter used in finite element slope stability analyses is the undrained Youngs
modulus, E, at a reference effective stress, typically 100 kPa. Taking a realistic, but conservative, value of
70 MPa for the shear modulus for the lower horizons of the UTLC this gives an equivalent E of 170 MPa.
The measured stiffness value is scaled down to the reference stress based on proportionality with the
square root of the effective stress ratio, as is appropriate for stiff, over-consolidated clay. The effective
stress in the lower part of the UTLC is about 1,200 kPa. Consequently, the scaling factor is (100/1,200)
0.5
or
about 0.3, which leads to E
ref
50 MPa.
Mine design for below water table clay detritals mining: Marandoo Mine, Western Australia D. McInnes et al.
1122 Slope Stability 2013, Brisbane, Australia
In summary, based on the information available from this program and previous investigations, it is
considered reasonable to conclude that an undrained shear strength of 500 kPa is conservative for the
UTLC. The measured stiffness corresponds to a drained Youngs modulus of about 50 MPa at a reference
stress of 100 kPa. The SBPM indicates an in situ lateral stress coefficient of just above unity, which
corresponds to an over-consolidation ratio of about 6.
The horizontal permeability given by the SBPM is typically less than 5 10
-11
m/s, and may be
approximately 2 10
-11
m/s ( 2 10
-6
m/d) in the lower half of the UTLC. This value is significantly less than
assumed by the stability analyses carried out previously.
The FSE investigation has provided additional information to characterise the UTLC, which is a significant
stratum in regard to pit wall stability. Examination of continuous core from the UTLC indicated the stratum
could be subdivided into three zones: an upper ferruginous zone, an intermediate zone of reduced
ferruginisation, and a lower non-ferruginous zone. There is a corresponding change in classification
characteristics of the materials; notably a reduction in plasticity with depth in the stratum matching the
visual-manual perception of the soil. The upper ferruginised material feels gritty and friable. It readily
breaks apart on discontinuities characterised by the presence of nodules. The lower non-ferruginous zone
is significantly more plastic and competent. This material is difficult to penetrate with a steel blade and is
resistant to splitting under (manual) tensile stress. Discontinuities are visible, but when the core is broken
apart it does so, on fissures rather than on the discontinuities, which contrasts with the ferruginised clay in
the upper part of the stratum.
Potential failure surfaces predicted from stability analyses and observed in slope failures in stiff fissured
clays develop within the clay at the base of the excavation. Therefore, the strength of the non-ferruginised
clay in the lower portion of the UTLC is of primary consideration with respect to a major instability.
The results of laboratory shear strength testing conforms to the trend of sequential investigations
improving shear strength parameters as sampling techniques improve and there is a reduction in soil
disturbance and storage times prior to testing. The undrained shear strength of the UTLC is in the order of
500 kPa indicating a hard soil. Conventional soil mechanics theory predicts that under undrained conditions
a vertical face in clay with a shear strength of 500 kPa could be cut to 90 m without failure. However, long
term stability is much less as the effective (i.e. fully drained) shear strength parameters are relatively low.
A permanent slope would need to be excavated at an angle of less than 15 degrees to avoid eventual
failure. Experience of stiff fissured clays elsewhere indicates that the time frame for the eventual failure of
a steeper slope could be measured in decades. The factors controlling time-dependent reduction in stability
are the in situ permeability and soil stiffness and in particular the horizontal values of both these
parameters. Both these parameters are affected by the behaviour of fissures and other discontinuities in
the clay which cannot be satisfactorily investigated by conventional borehole investigations.
The SBPM tests conducted in the UTLC at Marandoo indicate horizontal permeability values less than
5 10
-11
m/sec (5 10
-6
m/d), which is well below the value of 1 10
-4
m/d assumed in the Marandoo BWT
pit studies to date. The SBPM device tests a zone extending up to about 0.5 m from the cylinder which
provides a more representative permeability than is associated with laboratory tests on samples recovered
from boreholes. The permeability results from the SBPM tests are at the lower limit of permeabilities
assessed from conventional soil classification systems and relationships, and correspond to massive, highly
Hydrogeology
Slope Stability 2013, Brisbane, Australia 1123
plastic clay formations considered to be practically impermeable. The permeability of the upper third of the
UTLC appears to be 2 to 4 times higher than the lower zones, again confirming the ferruginous has slightly
different properties.
The measured permeabilities of the UTLC are comparable to results from unweathered blue London Clay
in the UK, also a stiff fissured clay. There are documented cases of slopes in railway cuttings which have not
failed after 100 years old although similar slopes in similar material failed much sooner after excavation.
Measured pore pressure recovery rates (from initial negative values caused by the excavation) in the
London Clay are of the order of 3 or 4 kPa per year, indicating that the time to a slope failure in the blue
clay could be of the order of 400 years (Vaughan and Walbancke, 1973; Chandler, 1984). These slopes are
relatively shallow; typically 3H (horizontal) to 1V (vertical), i.e. 18.5. These case histories support the
possibility that steeper slopes in similar clays, such as the UTLC, could be stable for several years.
The previous engineering parameters for stability analysis of the north wall lead to an overall slope in the
UTLC and overlying materials of 11. While the strength parameters previously used represent a reasonable
assessment of the available information, some of the estimated pore pressure conditions appear unrealistic
in that they are based on existing (pre-excavation) piezometric conditions. The behaviour of the UTLC
suggests that the significant stress reduction during excavation will reduce the pore pressures from the
pre-excavation conditions and pore pressures are expected to become negative. The negative pore
pressures will initially act to preserve the effective stress state and the strength of the UTLC. However, the
Factors of Safety are expected to reduce with time as pore pressures dissipate. This behaviour is well
documented for materials that have similar engineering characteristics to the UTLC based on comparisons
of available data. Consequently, considering the thickness and low permeability of the UTLC the negative
pore pressures developed during excavation will dissipate slowly and the 11 overall slope angle proposed
is unnecessarily shallow.
Findings indicate that the slopes could be excavated to an overall slope of approximately 36 (1.33H:1V)
with a bench face angle of 65 and have a Factor of Safety greater than 1.2 after approximately two years.
These analyses used slightly less favourable shear strength parameters and considerably less favourable
permeability characteristics than now appear appropriate based on the investigation results. Consequently,
the Factor of Safety may be slightly higher and the time to failure is likely to be delayed. The investigations
have confirmed that steeper slopes (than the 11 previously adopted) will be stable for a period that will
allow excavation to the full depth. However, it has not been possible to take into account the mine
dewatering and predict with a sufficient degree of accuracy the time to the onset of slope failure.
The transition from above water table (AWT) to below water table (BWT) mining occurs in 2013 and 2014.
The AWT pit is largely complete (red pit crest line, Figure 6), and initial stripping has commenced, from
west to east, for the nearly 8 km long up to 180 m deep, ultimate BWT pit (Figure 6).
During the pre-feasibility study, the planned mine development schedules (with BWT approvals and
de-watering infrastructure all on the critical path) precluded any consideration for a BWT Trail Pit. As by the
time the necessary approvals and de-watering infrastructure would be in place, the BWT mining would be
ready to commence. A shallow (80 m deep) clay Trial Pit was considered during the feasibility study, which
would not require extensive dewatering as the primary aquifer would not be intercepted, and still provide
important in situ clay performance and characteristics information. Delays in various legislative approvals,
and significant escalation in contractor mining costs, resulted in the project being deferred.
A staged or Interim Trial Slope option has subsequently been adopted. The proposed location is shown in
Figure 6. This approach allows for the important slope performance information to be provided before
Mine design for below water table clay detritals mining: Marandoo Mine, Western Australia D. McInnes et al.
1124 Slope Stability 2013, Brisbane, Australia
significant final detrital walls are exposed (to the east of the trial slope); and also provides opportunity for
trafficability and material handling trials to be undertaken before significant clay intercepts are exposed.
The dewatering measures to be adopted during the excavation of the Trial Slope are dependent upon the
understanding of the progress of the mine dewatering. Work is currently underway to finalise the Trial
Slope design and respective mining trials. Confirmation of important hydrogeological properties of the
strata underlying the UTLC are also currently under review as the primary aquifer dewatering is advancing;
this will assist with the design of the Trial Slope dewatering scheme.
Clay mining trails (trafficability and handleability) are planned and the Trial Slope being integrated into the
mine plan. This includes planning and installation of the Trial Slope instrumentation programme, focussing
on monitoring of slope performance and measurement of the development (and persistence) of negative
pore pressures in response to mining.

Important learnings from the recent Marandoo clay characterisation studies so far have emphasised the
significant impact of sampling method, preservation, timely testing on derived material properties, and
recognition of the limitations of various techniques in characterising heavily over consolidated clays. The
material characterisation has also confirmed the critical importance of water management in mining in
relation to preserving clay strength. This work has enabled detailed planning to be undertaken for future
studies covering trafficability, handleabilty, waste dump and slope performance; with field trials scheduled
in the mine plan. This work is fundamental to developing and implementing and effective below water
table mining strategy.
The authors acknowledge the contributions to this work by Dr Bob Semple (formerly Golder Associates) and
Philip Hawkins (Cambridge Insitu) and the many other people involved whose inputs are much appreciated.
Chandler, R.J. (1984) Recent European experience of landslides in over-consolidated clays and soft rocks, in Proceedings 4th
International Symposium on Landslides, 1621 September 1984, Toronto, Canada, Canadian Geotechnical Society,
Richmond, Vol. 1, pp. 6181.
Clarke, B.G. (1996) Pressuremeters in Geotechnical Design, Blackie, London, 218 p.
Marsland, A. and Randolph, M.F. (1977) Comparisons of the results from pressuremeter tests and large in-situ plate tests in London
Clay, Geotechnique, Vol. 27, No. 2, pp. 217243.
Marsland, A. and Powell, J.J.M. (1990) Pressuremeter tests on stiff clays and soft rocks: factors affecting measurements and their
interpretation, in Field Testing in Engineering Geology, Geological Society Engineering Geology Special Publication, No. 6,
pp. 91110.
Vaughan, P.R. and Walbancke, H.J. (1973) Pore pressure changes and the delayed failure of cutting slopes in overconsolidated clay,
Geotechnique, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 531539.

Proposed
Trial Slope
location
Above water
table pit
crest
Below water table
(life of mine) pit