The critical state line of nonplastic tailings

L. A. Torres-Cruz, Carlos Santamarina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The probability of failure of tailing dams and associated risks demand improvements in engineering practice. The critical state line provides a robust framework for the characterization of mine tailings. New experimental data for nonplastic platinum tailings and a large database for tailings and nonplastic soils (grain size between 2 and 500 μm) show that the critical state parameters for nonplastic tailings follow the same trends as nonplastic soils as a function of particle-scale characteristics and extreme void ratios. Critical state lines determined for extreme tailings gradations underestimate the range of critical state parameters that may be encountered in a tailings dam; in fact, mixtures with intermediate fines content exhibit the densest granular packing at critical state. The minimum void ratio emin captures the underlying role of particle shape and grain size distribution on granular packing and emerges as a valuable index property to inform sampling strategies for the assessment of spatial variability. Mineralogy does not significantly affect the intercept Γ100, but it does affect the slope λ. The friction coefficients M of tailings are similar to those of other nonplastic soils; while mineralogy does not have a significant effect on friction, more angular grains lead to higher friction coefficients.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1508-1517
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Geotechnical Journal
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 10 2019

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-05
Acknowledgements: This work was supported by the University of the Witwatersrand and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). G. Abelskamp edited the manuscript.


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