Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence Geotechnical Science and Engineering


Prediction of run-out distance and analysis of outflow hydrograph for mine tailings dam-break problem


Tailings dam failures can cause catastrophic result. So the prediction of characteristics of flow and potential flooding areas are critical.

My research focuses on three aspects of tailings dam failures: 1) Can small-scale experiments predict the full-scale (field size) tailings dam-break problems; 2) How does outflow hydrograph affect run-out distance; 3) Do numerical models reproduce consistent features of tailings dam-break problems. A series of experiments (2D & 3D flume tests) need to be carried out to simulate the dam break scenarios. Small-scale(2D & 3D) flume tests will be repeated several times by adjusting (i) how the tailings are released (ii) the initial dam height, (iii) tailings properties, and (iv) roughness/slope of contact surface.

Numerical modelling of such experiments need to be taken too. A comprehensive summarizing work about the conformability and applicability between numerical modelling and flume tests will be performed. If the four groups of dimensional parameters can be satisfied, by simply enlarging the small-scale flume test geometry to field-scale size, a new series of results can be achieved, including: large-scale run-out distance, frontal & rear velocity, flow depth and outflow discharge etc.

Why my research is important

Tailings dam failures are not only a great harm to people’s lives nearby, but are also a big threat to the downstream environment and cause great loss of property. Consequently it is important to understand the tailings dam failures, including the flow hydrograph, flow direction, run-out distance, flooding areas, breach location, breach initiation, volume of tailings poured out from impoundments and characteristics of the flow. These properties will allow for better design of tailings facilities and surrounding infrastructure. Ultimately the damage from tailings dam failures may then be avoided or at least reduced.