Applying the Material Point Method to Identify Key Factors Controlling Runout of the Cadia Tailings Dam Failure of 2018

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Virginia Tech

This thesis examines the 2018 failure of the Northern Tailings Storage Facility at Cadia Valley Operations, located in New South Wales, Australia. First, the importance of examining and understanding failure mechanisms and post failure kinematics is described. Within which we understand that in the current state of affairs it is exceedingly difficult, or nigh impossible to perform without the use of large strain analyses, which have yet to permeate into the industry to a significant degree. Second, the initial construction and state of the dam just prior to failure is defined, with the materials and their properties laid out and discussed in depth as well as our means of modeling their behavior. Third, we validate and discuss our results of the base model of the dam based on key topographic features from initial and post-failure field measurements. After validation, we examine the influences of each of the different materials on the runout, comparing final topographies of different simulations with the actual final topography observed. This study was a valuable method of validating the Material Point Method as a means of modeling large deformations, as well as demonstrating its powerful applications towards catastrophic disaster prevention. The study validates and provides a greater understanding of the event of the Cadia Tailings Storage Facility Failure, and presents a framework of steps to perform similar examination on future tailings dams as a means of providing risk management in the event of failure.

Numerical Modeling, Liquefaction, Tailings, Dam, Material Point Method