Insights from the Compilation and Critical Assessment of Breach and Runout Characteristics from Historical Tailings Dam Failures: Implications for Numerical Modelling

Insights from the Compilation and Critical Assessment of Breach and Runout Characteristics from Historical Tailings Dam Failures: Implications for Numerical Modelling

Journal: Mine Water and the Environment
Issue: Volume 42, pages 650–669, (2023)
Authors: Daniel A. M. Adria1,2, Negar Ghahramani1,3, Nahyan M. Rana4,5, Violeta Martin2, Scott McDougall1, Stephen G. Evans4, W. Andy Take6

1 Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
2 Knight Piésold, Vancouver, Canada
3 WSP USA, Lakewood, USA
4 Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada
5 Klohn Crippen Berger, Toronto, Canada
6 Department of Civil Engineering, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada


Numerical models are used for detailed and site-specific tailings dam breach analyses (TDBAs) to estimate the downstream inundation and deposition resulting from a potential breach at a tailings dam. The results of TDBAs are key inputs into risk assessments, consequence classification, and emergency planning. This paper describes the research and development of a database of 12 tailings dam breach events with a specific focus on observations that are needed for numerical modelling, in conjunction with an assessment of existing dam breach conventions to improve consistency in reporting. The characteristics relevant to modelling include outflow volumes, breach processes, breach geometries, and runout observations local to the downstream area. This study and the new database shed light on the diversity of outflow materials, facility arrangements, breach processes, and downstream environments that affect the breach development and tailings runout. Familiarity with case studies is a crucial element of expert judgement for forward-analysis TDBAs, which this database supports. The database can also be used to define model inputs for back-analysis of additional tailings dam breach events, and simultaneously provides calibration or validation constraints with the runout observations. Continued review and critical assessments are needed to reduce uncertainties and to enhance case history data availability and quality in this database.


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Ghahramani, N., Adria, D., Innis, S., Rana, N.M., Dina, E., Kunz, N., Evans, S.G., Take, W.A. and McDougall, S. (2023). Methods for empirical and numerical analysis of tailings flow runout. Proceedings of Tailings and Mine Waste 2023.

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