GEOTECHNICAL SLOPE STABILITY

1.0 SCOPE
“Agreed” refers to a standard, level or criterion which if achieved ensures that no significant adverse environmental impact is likely to occur. Such standards, levels or criteria may be drawn from published sources or proven practice but, in all cases, must be to the satisfaction of the relevant Responsible Authority; “Angle of repose” is the angle of steepest slope at which material will remain stable when loosely piled; “Cut slope” refers to a man-made slope created by excavation into insitu material; “Factor of Safety” (FOS), in relation to a slope or embankment, is the ratio of total force available to resist sliding to the total force tending to induce sliding. When the slope or embankment is on the point of failure, the resisting and disturbing forces are equal and the FOS is 1.0. An FOS greater than 1.0 indicates stability; “Fill slope” refers to a man-made slope formed at the edge of material dumped or placed to create stockpiles, dumps, retaining embankments or similar structures; “Rehabilitation” refers to the measures and actions used to remediate land disturbed by mining operations and/or exploration activities; “Responsible Authority” means any State Government Department, corporation, statutory authority or local government empowered to determine an application for the granting of approval for a development proposal or any component of that proposal (by way of general consent, licence or permit, etc.).

This guideline provides advice on the geotechnical aspects of designing for stable sloping post-mining land forms. Such landforms include: • • low wall spoil (strip mines), out-of-pit dumps, waste rock dumps, reject or gangue dumps (strip, open pit and underground mines), haul ramp batters (strip mines), retaining embankments, and final void batters.

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This guideline recognises the different resources available to small scale miners and larger operators. Accordingly, some generally acceptable geotechnical slope stability criteria are described in Attachment 1. These criteria are intended to apply (subject to sitespecific conditions) to operations which are remote from population centres and involve pits: • • having volumes not exceeding 100,000 m 3, and depths of not greater than 20 m.

This guideline is ADVISORY ONLY and is not intended to prescribe mandatory standards and practices. This guideline is intended to assist the development of project-specific environmental management practices.

5.0

BACKGROUND

2.0

OBJECTIVE

To ensure the effective management of the risk of geotechnical instability in waste dumps, spoil piles and abandoned open pit slopes in the final void.

The stability of the final land form left at the end of mining operations is critical to the successful rehabilitation of the site. There are significant advantages in taking this into account when selecting mining and spoil disposal methods to be used during the mining operation. Reshaping, draining and capping of slopes can incur significant costs. Spreading the cost of such work through the project life is to be preferred to one high cost clean-up event at the end of the project when cash flow is reduced. Hence working to plans of operation that take into account the final land form, including final void and spoil tips, and provide for progressive rehabilitation of exhausted and completed areas is to be encouraged. The analyses and investigations of the geotechnical stability of slopes will incur costs which will normally have to be borne at project start-up. While geotechnical investigations can appear expensive in the short-term, they can save on the longer term costs of poor slope design. Poor design can lead to: • • lost production and resources, reduced personal safety,
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3.0
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RELATED GUIDELINES
Tailings Management Open Pit Rehabilitation Minesite Decommissioning

4.0

INTERPRETATION

For the purposes of this guideline, unless the context indicates otherwise:

January 1995

Geotechnical Slope Stability

(f) Refine slope geometries to conform with agreed Factors of Safety. During mining operations. All slopes should be identified and categorised with respect to consequence of slope failure and type of slope.• • • increased risk of equipment damage. 6. waste rock dumps. (b) Collect geotechnical data.2 and 1. and unnecessary rehandling of materials during slope reshaping. Restoring forces are dependent on the available shear strength in the materials plus any introduced supports (such as anchors or rock bolts). pore pressures.3 Concept Slope Design • • • • • At concept design stage. (e) Analyse geotechnical slope stability. reject or gangue dumps. surcharges and earthquake loadings within the slope. Long term geotechnical stability should be maintained within agreed standards dependent on the geomorphology of the surrounding landform and the proposed post-mining land use. Types of slope may include: • • • 2 Abandoned slopes in final void Haul ramp batters (strip mines) Retaining embankments Geotechnical Slope Stability January 1995 .0 6. (b) the stability of slopes formed in the dumped material. (c) Define design parameters. When developing concept designs and amending designs. Conventionally used safety factors for temporary and permanent slopes are 1. slope stability performance should be reviewed and designs amended as necessary. However. while disturbing forces are a function of applied shear stresses. 6.1 MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES Geotechnical Stability Data collection should be relevant to the type of slopes required and should be directed to the relevant factors affecting geotechnical stability. • • Low wall spoil Out of pit dumps. and (c) the permeability and drainage characteristics of the dump Data collected should include: (a) A description of the soil profile below the dump/stockpile site in terms of: • • • • • soil type particle size distribution plasticity (Atterberg limits) moisture content density shear strength (total and effective stress angle of friction and cohesion) compressibility thickness and depth to rock. damage to rehabilitated areas.5 respectively. some Responsible Authorities may specify different values and these should be confirmed. Factors of Safety against failure are generally defined as the ratio between restoring forces and disturbing forces within the slope. slope geometries should be based on local experience and with similar materials in similar environments. (d) Define Factors of Safety. • • • (b) Hydrogeological conditions below the dump/stockpile site including: • • groundwater levels permeability.4 Data Collection 6. the possibility of future extensions or deepening of the pit should be taken into account. Geotechnical stability is defined as the stability of an excavated slope or spoil pile against mass failure. The design and safety of the final landform should be suitable for the agreed end land use. No landform is stable in geological time.2 Assessment Procedures The following steps are recommended in approaching the assessment of the geotechnical stability of slopes: (a) Prepare conceptual mine layout and select concept design for open pit and spoil slopes. (1) Dumps and Stockpiles Data for dumps and stockpiles is required for assessing: (a) the bearing capacity of the underlying foundation materials. (c) Geotechnical properties of the dump/stockpile materials including: • • • particle size distribution density anticipated compacted density plasticity (Atterberg limits) dispersion index mineralogy shear strength permeability 6.

Slope performance monitoring generally includes: • • • Selecting several typical profiles normal to the slope contours. All new data must therefore be carefully examined and filtered before being grouped for statistical analysis. (k) earthquake loadings. (b) soil parameters as listed above for dumps and stockpiles. particularly in the particular project environment. (c) rock density and uniaxial compressive strength. For preliminary and conceptual design purposes use can be made of stability charts published in readily available texts (see references). (d) Any other relevant data such as earthquake loadings and surcharges. surcharges (during and after mining operations). Stability analysis and slope design is an iterative process of successive trials whereby potential sliding surfaces are chosen and the Factor of Safety determined. and 6. 6. or spatial variation. (g) permeabilities. 6. due to different dumping methods a second spoil pile of the same material might vary from 17 kN/m3 to 20 kN/m3 (spatial scatter between dumps). Driving or concreting-in survey levelling points along the profile. Any scatter in raw data may be due to any one of the following: • • • a real natural variation of the parameter. Photographing and surveying the profiles once or twice a year . measurement errors or inaccuracies. (i) (j) depth of soil cover and paleotopography (eg.6 Stability Analysis .say at the start and finish of the wet season. (2) Open Pit Slopes Data for final slopes and batters remaining within the open pit is required for: (a) designing long term pit slopes. rock fill and spoil dumps and embankments • • • • • • • • • circular non-circular semi-infinite slope multiple block plane wedge log spiral (bearing capacity of foundations) flow slides. (e) shear strength along discontinuities.5 Design Parameters Design parameters should be selected to represent the characteristics of the slope forming materials. occurrence and spacing of bedding. (b) assessing long term slope deterioration. buried channels). In addition to material parameters it is very important to select the correct groundwater and pore pressure distribution for the slope. The critical surface is the one with the lowest Factor of Safety. such as in the bulk density example given above. January 1995 Geotechnical Slope Stability 3 .Detailed Design (a) Earth. insitu bulk density measurements of one particular spoil pile may vary from 3 3 15 kN/m to 18 kN/m (local scatter). If this is below the minimum design Factor of Safety for the project. faults and other discontinuities. This can achieve more effective designs that are suitable for the particular project environment and that can reduce rehabilitation costs. This is continued for all kinematically possible surfaces until the critical surface is found. or construction materials need to be varied until the minimum Factor of Safety is achieved or exceeded. should be employed to facilitate the analyses. and (c) determining hydrogeological effects on the local groundwater. Data collected should include: (a) a description of soil and rock profile through the slope. (h) depth of weathering.and any variations of the above if the material is expected to weather or deteriorate. drainage. However. joints. Measured values of soil parameters may show a scatter both locally and spatially. (f) groundwater levels. Typical types of failure that can occur include: (b) Final void slopes in earth and rock block slide wedge toppling circular (normally earth slopes only). (d) rock structure including orientation. However. these designs need to be confirmed and refined by detailed analysis at final design stage. For example. the slope geometry.7 Performance and Feedback Progressive rehabilitation of completed or exhausted areas allows the performance of early areas to be used in modifying designs for subsequent areas. Computer programs are commercially available to perform most stability analyses but personnel experienced in their operation.

geomechanical logging downhole geophysical methods groundwater sampling insitu testing in boreholes including a) b) c) d) e) f) • • permeability tests. insitu vane shear test for undrained strength of soft clays. geological structure. analysis and design is a specialised discipline. • • • 4 Geotechnical Slope Stability .1 IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES General 7. More detailed guidance on geotechnical slope stability applicable to small scale mining operations remote from population centres is given in Attachment 1. similar foundations and water pressures. Much of the fieldwork for such data gathering can be carried out as a small extension to an exploration programme. i) j) spoil piles. standard penetration test (SPT) for relative density of soils. stockpiles. pressuremeter tests for elastic moduli determinations. Methods of data gathering include: A typical design implementation would be: • Divide the pit into areas of similar material ground properties. and similar geometry Select a representative typical cross section through each group. stratigraphy.3 (1) Geotechnical Analysis and Design Open Pits Geotechnical investigation. and pumping/dewatering tests. Assign material parameters and groundwater levels January 1995 electric friction core profiling laboratory tests on rock. • • • • • (2) • • Dumps and Stockpiles Analytical methods for dumps and stockpiles include: the method of slices. circular or non-circular multiple wedge/sliding block analyses. Select a typical cross section for each area Assess discontinuity data and rock mass strength data and decide on likely failure modes (there may be more than one) Select groundwater levels in the slope Perform stability analyses Re-configure slope geometry if Factor of Safety is unacceptable. Comparing surveys cumulatively and assessing slope degradation. g) h) trial mine pits. and compaction trials for engineered embankments. Consideration should be given to employing geotechnical consultants for this work. either undisturbed or disturbed continuous rock coring. geotechnical input may only be required at specific and infrequent times. Depending on the size of the project. causeways. Analytical methods for cut slopes have been well documented in published texts ( Reference 1) and these methods include: • • • • • • Stereographic projection graphical techniques for the analysis of discontinuity data Plane failure analysis Wedge failure techniques Toppling failure analysis Circular and non-circular analysis by the method of slices Finite element and finite difference computer techniques. 7. roadways. insitu stress measurement. 7. soil materials and water according to Australian Standards (AS) or international rock testing standards (ISRMS) Field trials of the proposed works.2 • • • • • • • Data Gathering surface mapping and sampling test pitting and costeans borehole sampling of soils. data assessment. eg. Keeping a record book of any slips and slope failures that occur on any slope (not necessarily along profile lines). Mobilisation costs can be minimised if the two activities are carried out together. core orientation.0 7.• • • Installing standpipes and measuring water levels on a similar basis. grade of weathering etc. A typical design implementation would include: • Group together all slopes that comprise similar dump/stockpile material.

4. As a general guide. These stress parameters are referred to as follows: Cu c’ φu φ’ = = = = cohesion intercept for undrained. and internal angle of friction for effective stresses. Guidelines on Safety Bund Walls Around Abandoned Open Pits. Within the open pit or quarry distinguish between production faces and final slopes. Returning to an area to clean up final slopes is expensive since it often requires activities outside of the normal mine operation. London. or using smooth blasting techniques as the final round. then multiple wedge/sliding block type analyses should also be carried out to assess sliding along these weak layers.45. (1991). Modifications may include reducing the height between benches. As a production face approaches the limits of the mine.W. IMM. and Bray. Manual on Tailings Dams and Dumps. cohesion intercept for effective stresses. January 1995 Geotechnical Slope Stability 5 . Hence progressive formation of final slopes is considered most desirable. Rock Slope Engineering. Western Australia. 7. 8. an effective stress analysis using effective stress parameters (c’and φ’) and pore water pressures should be used for final design. Department of Mines. (1982). A production face does not need to fulfil the stability requirements of a final slope and should be designed to maximise mine productivity. However. If the foundations soils below the dump or stockpile contain soft or weak layers sandwiched between stronger layers. internal angle of friction for undrained. since slopes must be stable in the long term. J. total stress conditions. φu). circular stability analysis should always be carried out. REFERENCES Hoek. Short term slope stability can be assessed using the undrained total stress shear strength parameters of the soils (Cu. total stress conditions. “Methods of Testing Soils for Engineering Purposes”. (1981). 3.4 Construction The construction programme should minimise the need to return to an area more than once.. E. Australian Standard AS 1289. ICOLD Bulletin No. the mining method may have to be modified to form the final slope. 2.• Perform stability analyses to determine the required slope angles to ensure Factors of Safety are acceptable. (1991). Perth.0 1. International Committee on Large Dams.

More severe restrictions are required for cut slopes which remain above areas freely accessible to people and stock. then specific geotechnical studies should be carried out. and along which the overlying rock could slide. cut pit slopes and waste dumps slopes. Fill slopes to retaining embankments (eg. dumps. The conditions controlling stability will always be site specific. with individual bench faces no steeper than 2V:1H. This approach needs to incorporate barriers above and behind the cut slopes to physically prevent access to the potentially unstable pit edge zone. Where access is prohibited. (4) General CUT SLOPES The two main cut slope categories depend on whether access is allowed below the slope. particularly during mining operations. TABLE 1. The procedure is as follows: (a) Prepare a site plan indicating all areas of excavation (pits). In particular. still standing old and abandoned faces. eg. Slopes to dumps and other stockpiles. These criteria are intended to apply to operations which are remote from population centres and involve pits: • • having volumes not exceeding 100. (preferably). If there is a history of stable slopes at steeper angles supported by documented evidence and. and hence initial steeper slopes may be permitted. then the slopes should be assessed on a case by case basis.000 m 3.ATTACHMENT 1 SOME GEOTECHNICAL SLOPE STABILITY CRITERIA FOR SMALL-SCALE MINING OPERATIONS IN AREAS REMOTE FROM POPULATION CENTRES (1) APPLICATION OF CRITERIA For small scale mining operations in Queensland. and depths of not greater than 20 m. (b) Allocate to each area one of the slope classifications given in Table 1. Type C1 Slopes Generally. (2) GEOTECHNICAL SLOPE STABILITY A slope is geotechnically stable if it does not physically collapse.1. stockpiles. Groups of similar slope types can then be assessed separately.1 SLOPE TYPE CLASSIFICATION Slope Type C1 C2 F1 F2 F3 Description Cut slopes above areas which will be open to access by the public and by stock. tailings dams. allowing gradual collapse to a stable state may be acceptable and feasible. Cut slopes above areas where access is prohibited. The first step in ensuring stable slopes is to categorise areas on the mine site according to slope type. overall slope angles in unweathered (unoxidised) rock should not be steeper than 1 vertical to 1 horizontal (1V:1H). and dams. hence due care should be taken when applying these criteria. filling. The Factor of Safety is a measure of the confidence that collapse will not occur. if there is a history of unstable slopes in the area. Unstable slopes will require battering back to a safe angle or made inaccessible and treated as if a Type C2 Slope. If the rock slopes are cut by unfavourable geological features such as weak fault zones or joints (or bedding planes dipping steeply out of the face). then steeper slopes may be acceptable. Low wall spoil slopes (strip mines). 6 Geotechnical Slope Stability January 1995 . certain generalised criteria can be provided to assist the selection of acceptable slope angles. (c) For each slope classification. water dams). (3) SITE CLASSIFICATION Any mine operation will contain several types of slope. refer to the guidelines given in the following sections.

(for example. hence operating slope angles approximate the angle of repose of the dumped material. Poorly compacted mudstone/shale spoils can become saturated and breakdown after repeated wet season exposure. When only oxidised rock is available for construction of the safety bund wall. the bund wall may need to be supplemented by a properly constructed fence. with ground slope less than 10%). Typical compacted bund slopes would be: (i) (ii) (iii) unweathered rock 1 (V) : 1. two options are available: (a) Long term steep side slopes can be developed by constructing a perimeter bund of compacted waste or stockpile material within which the bulk of the dump or stockpile can be end tipped or placed in the usual mine operation method. (b) Alternatively. Since most materials have angles of repose of less than or equal to 1(V):1. Where geotechnical stability is the determining requirement. Suitable signs. Type F3 Slopes All embankments retaining lagoons of tailings. dumps and stockpiles on sites which are steep or have weak foundation conditions should be individually assessed.5(H). up to 15 m high - weathered rock.5(H) are commonly adopted for embankments up to about 15 m in height and which also incorporate internal drainage blankets. end dumped rockfill. final graded slopes should not exceed 1(V):3(H). In many situations. overburden or soil should not be steeper than the following: • • 1 (V) : 1. with stable foundation soil and rock materials. and wherever possible. should be erected outside the safety bund wall. These slope angles assume that no instability problems have been previously experienced in the area or during operations.75 (H) 1 (V) : 2. the total of the width of the “potentially unstable pit edge zone” plus 10 m away from the existing pit edge (Figure 1. the least weathered or hardest material should be used.1). Additionally. are constructed from unweathered. As a general guide.5 (H) 1 (V) : 3 (H) weathered rock. the above maximum angles should be applied to each relevant material. for all other slope conditions. Flatter slopes will result. ie. overburden. actual slopes depend on the nature of the spoil and its degree of compaction. end tipped and hence poorly compacted materials can be dozed and graded out to flatter slopes at the end of operations. desired end landform and other environmental requirements will determine the final slope angle. In these cases. water or other materials should be designed and constructed using sound engineering practice. Coarse rock dumps will have side slopes steeper than dumps of finer grained and clayey materials such as soil and (oxidised) weathered rock. of weathered rock/overburden overlying unweathered rock). have a minimum height of 2 m and a minimum base width of 4 m. greater than 15 m high- These maximum slope angles apply to relatively level sites (ie. January 1995 Geotechnical Slope Stability 7 . shrub and/or tree planting at the outside edge of the bund wall should be implemented where practicable. clearly stating public safety risk and prohibiting public access.Slopes cut in weathered (oxidised) rock. freely draining. to lessen the visual impact of the wall. However.5(H). Sites that are steeper or have weak foundation conditions should be individually assessed by geotechnical investigation. Type C2 Slopes For cut slopes to which access will be prevented. slopes of 1(V):2. overburden. final slopes should be no greater than half the angle of repose of the end tipped material as measured on-site.5 (H) for slopes less than 5 m high and without groundwater seepage. As a general guide. bund walls should be provided which: • • • are located at least 10 m outside the area overlying the potentially unstable rock mass. Again. For slopes which cut through a mixed profile. (5) FILL SLOPES Type F1 Slopes Dumps and stockpiles tend to be constructed by end tipping.5 (H) 1 (V) : 2. Such requirements generally involve flatter slopes than those needed to ensure geotechnical stability. Type F2 Slopes Low wall spoil slopes commonly adopted in Queensland coal fields are generally in the order of 1(V):1.

FIGURE 1.1 EXAMPLES OF PREFERRED SAFETY BUND WALL LOCATIONS (from Reference 2) 8 Geotechnical Slope Stability January 1995 .

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