Not a good year for tailings dams

It will be interesting when the official reports detailing the geological/engineering reasons and human factors for the Fundao tailings dam failure in Brazil start to come out. At the moment the mining companies (BHP Billiton and Vale) are saying that the dam was regularly inspected and monitored, was deemed to be safe and was government licensed. But with twelve people dead, eleven still missing and extensive environmental damage, then clearly something major has been missed. Following on from the Mount Polley tailings dam failure of August last year in British Columbia (which was also an environmental disaster, but luckily had no deaths or injuries) then it’s fair to say that it hasn’t been a good year for the public perception of tailings dams (particularly in Brazil, where three workers were also killed by a tailings dam failure in the same Brazilian state of Minas Gerais in September 2014).

Here is a sponsored content article in the Guardian with some more details:

Prof Dave Petley has also written several blogs posts with lots of interesting details and photographs on the Fundao failure (and also depressing details of a recent landslide at a jade mine in Myanmar):

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Engineering geological models – recommended reading

I recently read a paper from IAEG commission 25 (Parry et al. 2014) and I wanted to recommend it to all engineering geologists, geotechnical engineers and other interested professionals.

This paper does a great job of drawing together many of the concepts that have been developing around engineering geological models and presents these in a coherent and practically applicable manner – it is well worth a read.

At some point I also plan to update my page on models to incorporate some of the aspects of the paper that I found to be the most thought-provoking and useful.

The full reference for the paper is:

Parry, S., Baynes, F.J., Culshaw, M.G., Eggers, M., Keaton, J.F., Lentfer, K., Novotny, J. & Paul, D. (2014). Engineering geological models: an introduction: IAEG commission 25. Bulletin of Engineering Geology and the Environment. Vol. 73, No. 3, pp 689-706.

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Parameters page update

I have resurrected the parameters page and I’m in the process of adding some UCS values for various rock types and units (I recently added some parameters from Bell for igneous, metamorphic and arenaceous rocks). The intention is to regularly and slowly update the spreadsheet, so it might be worth checking back from time-to-time.

Please drop me a line if you have any parameters you would like me to add, or if you find that anything isn’t working with the spreadsheet.

Best, Chris

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Reviewing 3D geological models

I read an interesting blog post today from Bluecap on the importance of carefully reviewing 3D geological models.

While the post is specifically discussing the review of geological models for mining projects, many of the issues mentioned also apply to engineering geological models.

I particularly liked the emphasis on the need for rigorous QA/QC of geological models and this reminded me of a paper by Baynes which is well worth a read:

Baynes, F.J. (1999). Engineering Geological Knowledge and Quality. Proceedings, 8th Australia New Zealand Conference on Geomechnics. Hobart. 1, pp 227-233.

Finally I have just ordered Geomodels in Engineering Geology by Fookes, Pettifer and Waltham and I am quite excited to see what it is like, given the brilliant work done by the authors in the past. It would be great to hear from anyone who has had a look at the book or on the issues surrounding QA/QC for geological models.

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Also on Mars

It’s not just on Earth that drilling doesn’t always work out quite right the first time; the Curiosity Mars rover is having some drilling problems as well, as reported in an interesting story by the BBC here.

Anyone ever had similar issues when drilling on Mars?

The Curiosity Mars rover

The Curiosity Mars rover


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Landslides in Japan

The BBC are reporting here that at least 32 people have been killed by landslides in Hiroshima prefecture in Japan.

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Missouri S&T – Engineering Geology and Geotechnics video lectures

I came across a great looking resource today, courtesy Randy Post’s excellent site.

It is a series of 15 videos (total length 32 hours) presented by Dr David Rogers of Missouri S&T, covering their Engineering Geology and Geotechnics course (GeoEng 341). I haven’t watched any of the videos yet, but it is an excellent way of increasing access.

The videos can be viewed here.

Study picture

“Study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow.” ― Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor

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