InSAR and Numerical Modelling for Tailings Dam Monitoring – the Cadia Failure Case Study

Maral Bayaraa
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Catapult Co-Authors: Maral Bayaraa & Cristian Rossi.

Abstract: In this paper, ground deformation measurements from Synthetic Aperture Radar Interferometry (InSAR) and ground-based prism monitoring are compared to Finite Element (FE) simulation results for a recent tailings dam collapse. The InSAR monitoring demonstrated the complex spatial and temporal variability of the tailings dam deformation that is not captured in traditional, point-based monitoring approaches. Potentially anomalous deformation behaviour could have been detected from InSAR one year preceding the dam failure. A 2D coupled-consolidation analysis was used to predict the dam behaviour during construction stages. The FE modelling results were in broad agreement with the deformation measurement sources, both in terms of magnitude and trends preceding failure. The results, however, deviate significantly immediately before failure, following the construction of the buttresses. Moreover, the FE modelling is sensitive to parameter uncertainties such as spatial variability of foundation soil properties. The FE results revealed that deformation in both the upstream and downstream parts of the dam are sensitive to changing foundation properties. However, this impact is potentially much higher on the downstream compared to the upstream parts of the dam, which are dominated by the behaviour of the tailings. This study highlights the efficacy and complementarity of geotechnical and remote sensing techniques for the monitoring of tailings dams.

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