Geotechnical Problems with Pyritic Rock and Soil

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Virginia Tech

Oxidation of pyrite can significantly affect properties and the behavior of soil and rock in civil construction. Problems with pyritic rock and soil extend globally and across many disciplines. Consequences of pyrite oxidation include heave, concrete degradation, steel corrosion, environmental damage, acid mine drainage, and accelerated weathering of rock with concomitant effects on strength and stability. Affected disciplines include soil science, mining, engineering geology, geochemistry, environmental engineering, and geotechnical engineering.

While pyrite problems may be well known in their respective disciplines, there has been to date relatively little cross-disciplinary communication regarding problems with pyritic geomaterials. Thus, there is a need to establish an inter-disciplinary and inter-regional awareness regarding the effects of pyrite oxidation and their prevention or mitigation.

This engineering research is a compilation of information about geotechnical problems and engineering behavior of pyritic rock and soil, the underlying physicochemical processes, site investigation strategies, and known problematic formations. Several case histories documenting consequences of pyrite oxidation are provided. The results of chemical analyses performed on pyritic shale samples from a formation with acknowledged heave problems are presented. Digital data and ESRI's ArcGIS digital mapping program were used to create maps showing results of sampling and testing performed during this study. Appendices include mitigation options, results of a practitioner survey, chemical test procedures, a glossary, a visual identification key for sulfidic geomaterials, and a summary table of the literature review for this research.

geotechnical consequences, sulfide-induced heave, pyritic shale and other geomaterials, sulfate-induced heave, pyrite oxidation