Progressive failure analysis of windrow induced slope movements at the Syncrude Limited mine site

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  • The presence of Marine Sediments below the operating bench in the Syncrude Canada Limited oil sand mine (NE Alberta, Canada) has negatively affected dragline mining operation. Any material that exhibits strain softening behaviour is prone to progressive failure. The Marine Clays at the Syncrude site exhibit distinct strain softening behaviour and numerous windrow-induced failures have occurred along these layers. Some of these failures have resulted in highwall failures but no highwall failures have been reported in the absence of windrow or dragline loads. Therefore, the possibility of progressive failure of an idealized highwall due to external soil loading (windrows) was of interest to study. Elastoplastic finite element analyses were carried out to investigate the influence of several variables (oilsand stiffness, shear strength parameters of marine clay, pore water pressure coefficients, depth of embedment of clay layer, insitu stress field, windrow construction mode etc.) on highwall stability, and enable us to develop a better understanding of the progressive failure mechanism. The results of the numerical analysis revealed that windrow construction results in undrained loading of the clay layer and can induce progressive failure along the brittle marine clay layers. The progressive failure process is amenable to analysis by the finite element method. The analysis indicated the importance of identifying the location and the strength properties of any weak inclusion in an otherwise strong material.

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    Article (Published)
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    © 1997 Elsevier. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
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    • Mathioudakis, M., Morgenstern, N. R., Chan, D. H. (1997). Progressive failure analysis of windrow induced slope movements at the Syncrude Limited mine site. International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences, 34(3), 192.e1-192. e14. doi: 10.1016/S1365-1609(97)00152-4.