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2 FOLLOWING DEPOSITION Part 1: Phenomenology and Model Description

4 DEPOSIO Parte 1: Descrio e modelagem dos fenmenos
6 DESPUS DE LA DEPOSICIN Parte 1: Descricin y modelacin de los fenmenos
15 This paper deals with the evaluation of the fate of interstitial water in tailings impoundments
16 for engineering design and environmental planning. An integrated review of all physical
17 processes experienced by tailings following deposition is presented; this progression
18 throughout the life cycle of the deposit to closure and reclamation is also included. The
19 review focuses on the description of the phenomena and their modeling using a constitutive
20 surface. A methodology for quantitative assessment of tailings discharge throughout the
21 processes is proposed by combining a stream of modeling tools available in the current
22 practice. It also calls attention to modeling the behavior of silt-like materials throughout all
23 flow processes. Handling of the atmospheric boundary with proper hydrological modeling is
24 emphasized as well as the role of knowledge-based systems to estimate material parameters
25 where experimental data is unavailable.
26 Key words: consolidation, desiccation, desaturation, sedimentation, silt, modeling.
29 Este artigo trata da avaliao do destino da gua intersticial presente nos rejeitos de minerao
30 dispostos em lagoas de decantao com vistas a sua aplicao em projetos de engenharia e no
31 planejamento ambiental. Uma viso integrada de todos os processos fsicos experimentados
32 pelos rejeitos aps sua disposio apresentada; essa progresso ao longo da histria da
33 formao do depsito at seu fechamento e reabilitao tambm includa. A reviso
34 focaliza-se na descrio dos fenmenos e suas modelagens usando uma superfcie

1 constitutiva. Uma metodologia para a avaliao quantitativa da drenagem da gua instersticial
2 dos rejeitos proposta atravs da combinao de um conjunto de ferramentas de modelagem
3 disponveis na prtica corrente. O trabalho chama tambm ateno para a modelagem do
4 comportamento de materiais siltosos durante os diversos processos de fluxo. O tratamento da
5 fronteira atmosfrica com uma adequada modelagem enfatizado assim como o papel dos
6 mtodos estatsticos em geotecnia para estimar propriedades dos materiais quando dados
7 experimentais no esto disponveis.
8 Palavras-chave: adensamento, ressecamento, desaturao, sedimentao, silte, modelagem.
11 Este editorial habla de la evaluacin de la destinacin del agua intersticial que existe en los
12 rejetos de mineria depositados en las lagunas de decantacin. Una visin global de los
13 procesos fsicos experimentados pelos rejetos despus de su disposicin es presentada; la
14 progresin ao largo de la historia de formacin del deposito hasta su cerramiento y
15 rehabilitacin esta inclusa. La revisin enfoca la descricin de los fenmenos y de sus
16 modelaciones empleando una superficie constitutiva. Una metodologia para la evaluacin
17 cuantitativa de la drenaje del agua intersticial dos rejetos es presentada a travs de una
18 combinacin de un conjunto de herramientas de modelacin disponibles en la prctica. El
19 trabajo enfoca la modelacin del comportamiento de materiales siltosos durante los diferentes
20 procesos de flujo. El tratamiento de la frontera atmosfrica con la adecuada modelacin es
21 enfatizada, tambin la actuacin de los mtodos estadsticos en geotecnia para evaluar las
22 propriedades de los materiales cuando los datos experimentales no estn disponibles.
23 Palavras-clave: consolidacin, resecamiento, desaturacin, sedimentacin, silte, modelacin.
27 Industrial water is essential for all milling processes to economically extract minerals in the
28 mining industry. Technologies involved in those processes very often manage to recover part
29 of the total amount of water before the rest of it is discharged in the form of a very fluid
30 slurry. To make up for water discharged with the tailings, the industry resorts to different
31 sources of fresh water and procedures to reclaim water from the tailings.
32 It is impossible to recover all the industrial water, and if it is harmful to the environment the
33 remaining interstitial water, which could discharge to the impoundment surface or seep into
34 the foundation of unlined facilities, should be treated before being discharged into the

1 environment. While it is initially a design problem during the operational period of a mine, it
2 is finally a problem that occurs after closure, and the evaluation of water quality and quantity
3 through time is an important aspect of reclamation planning (Caldwell et al., 1984).
4 Overall water balance calculations are conducted for any new mine tailings management
5 project (Welsh, 2001; Rykaart, 2002; and Wels & Robertson, 2003). However, the degree of
6 refinement is dependent on the project and site specific requirements and may not include all
7 the processes. For example, studies regarding physical processes that tailings exhibit in the
8 field such as consolidation, desiccation, and desaturation are not always performed. Thus, the
9 change in interstitial water over time is usually miscalculated, or not calculated at all, and this
10 may considerably affect the overall estimates of amounts of discharge and its time-dependent
11 behavior.
12 Modeling flow processes related to the fate of interstitial water is not an easy task. It requires
13 a sound understanding of the main theories and equations that govern the phenomena. While
14 it is correct that nowadays there are several modeling tools available, it is also true that care
15 must be taken to deliver reliable results. This is especially the case when considering the
16 assumptions and limitations of each model and considering whether they fit the conditions of
17 the tailings body to be modeled. Another challenge is modeling silt-like tailings behavior,
18 since most of the modeling tools are devised to evaluate clay or sand behavior as well as their
19 dominant phenomema such as consolidation and seepage (no volume change), respectively.
20 These difficulties are especially true for tailings that, in the field, experience several
21 phenomena between the time of deposition and final draindown. An integrated analysis of the
22 whole time dependent process is required. This paper provides an approach for the logical
23 combination of all these phenomena, theories, and modeling tools to properly address the
24 discharge of interstitial tailings water throughout the life cycle of a tailings deposit. This is the
25 main goal of this work.
26 This paper is the first of two dealing with the time dependent fate of interstitial water in
27 tailings impoundments. It develops the methodology while the second part applies this
28 methodology to a real problem. Note that the terms entrainment and interstitial water is
29 used somewhat interchangeably in this paper. While interstitial water can be considered as
30 the more generic term, entrainment reflects the specific amount of water that is held in the
31 pores at the onset of consolidation.

1 2.1 Phenomenology
3 The timeline of events that tailings experience in the field upon deposition is shown in Figure
4 1. Firstly, the solid particles separate from the bulk water of the slurry by falling without
5 touching one another; this stage is called plug sedimentation (Schiffman et al., 1988).
6 Secondly, particles start accumulating in the bottom of the sedimenting layer and come into
7 contact with each other starting to apply interparticle forces, a true stress state is created, and
8 simultaneously deformation takes place through a process called consolidation due to the self-
9 weight (Schiffman et al. (1984). This consolidation process dominates in the operational
10 period as more tailings are deposited. After filling ceases, at the end of mine life,
11 deformations may continue due to consolidation, but soon the tailings body starts to desiccate.
12 This latter process is triggered by surface drying and/or lowering of the ground water table
13 (Abu-Hejleh & Znidarcic, 1995). The desiccation process is initially one-dimensional until
14 suctions are high enough to crack the surface, creating a three-dimensional compression. The
15 shrinkage phenomenon spreads spatially in all directions, with primary cracks followed by
16 secondary ones, meeting these two families of cracks at almost right angles, forming columns
17 of mostly hexagonal shape (Morris et al., 1992). Cracks also propagate in depth as the
18 desiccation progresses, reaching depths of a couple of meters in some cases (Blight, 1997).
19 This desiccation process occurs in the upper part of a deep tailings deposit and ends usually
20 when the moisture content reaches the shrinkage limit. Further water discharge from the
21 tailings is possible by draindown of the entrainment water in a desaturation process.
22 Unsaturated flow dominates this portion of the timeline and marks the final discharge stage as
23 the soil columns approach the residual volumetric water content (Rykaart, 2002). Subsequent
24 water movement through the tailings body is only possible as water vapor, assuming no
25 infiltration.

Free water
Water level
Top of sedimenting tailings
Top of sedimented tailings Sedimenting tailings

Free water

tailings Consolidating

Plug sedimentation Sedimentation / Consolidation /

Consolidation Sedimentation


Free water


Consolidation Consolidation /



1 1D - Desiccation 3D - Desiccation Shrinkage Limit Desaturation

1 Figure 1- Phenomenology of physical processes experienced by tailings throughout the life
2 cycle of the facility.

4 The importance of each one of these phenomena for tailings facilities depends on several
5 factors: type of tailings, disposal method, climate, foundation, reclamation strategy, etc. The
6 type of tailings is certainly the most significant, and Table 1 summarizes its impact. For fine-
7 grained tailings, such as phosphate clays, consolidation will be the most dominating process,
8 as far as time and magnitude of volume change. Even at slow filling rates, it is expected that
9 discharge from phosphate tailings continues for a long time after the end of operation. On the
10 other hand, for materials with a high percentage of sand, the dominating discharge process is
11 certainly desaturation. In this case, total volume change during the drainage process is very
12 small even almost nil, but entrainment water easily comes out in liquid form at relatively low
13 suction until residual volumetric content is reached. For tailings with predominantly silt
14 fraction, very common in many milling processes of gold, copper, nickel, iron ore, etc., there
15 is not a clear dominating process. It may happen that a silt material experiences all stages in a
16 very similar manner.
18 Table 1 Importance of the phenomena through mine life cycle.
Stage Phenomenon Fine Medium Coarse
construction period consolidation
seepage NA NA
immediately consolidation NA
following closure seepage
long term behavior desiccation NA
21 dominating process participating process low impact process
22 Note: NA stands for not applicable
24 The processes of sedimentation, consolidation, desiccation and partial draining of entrainment
25 water through unsaturated flow occur during managed deposition of tailings. In this case a
26 layer of tailings is deposited and allowed to dry before the next layer is placed. Such
27 managed deposition, practiced since the early part of the 20th century in South Africa
28 (Ruhmer, 1974), has also been referred to in the more recent literature as sub-aerial deposition

1 (Ulrich et al., 2000). The modeling approaches described in this paper can also be applied to
2 optimizing the managed deposition process. This is beyond the scope of the present paper.
4 2.2 Deformation and Stress State Variables
6 Discharge of interstitial water from tailings in a modeling context means that both total
7 volume change of the tailings and water volume changes within in the tailings deposit must be
8 considered. Figure 2 is a phase diagram showing all important mass/volume relationships as
9 well as definitions for a porous medium such as tailings. Traditionally in soil mechanics, total
10 volume change is described by void ratio changes, and water volume changes are tracked by
11 changes in gravimetric water content measurements (Fredlund & Rahardjo, 1993). Soil
12 scientists prefer volumetric water content to express the influence of drainage (Gardner et al.,
13 1991), while mining professionals are more used to the term solids content (Vick, 1983).

Va Ma
Void ratio, e Air
V Gravimetric water content,w
e= v Vv= e
Vs Mw
Vw Mw Ms
V= 1+ e

Volumetric water content, Solids content, P

Vw Vs=1 Solids Ms Ms
= P=

16 Figure 2 - Soil phase diagram and mass volume relationships

18 During most tailings disposal operations, as illustrated in Figure 1, total volume change equals
19 water volume, and saturated conditions prevail. In this situation, void ratio and volumetric
20 water content are both equally suitable for describing interstitial water tailings discharge. This
21 is the case during consolidation, where reduction of void space is due to mechanical stresses
22 by sources such as self-weight, seepage forces, surcharge or a combination of those.
23 Saturated conditions may also apply to desiccation until late stages and void ratio can be used
24 to describe total volume change. Figure 3 shows a typical shrinkage curve for fine or silt-like
25 tailings. During the normal shrinkage stage, the tailings material is saturated, i.e., all volume

1 lost is due to water being removed (Oliveira-Filho, 1998). Unsaturated conditions result close
2 to the shrinkage limit, i.e., the removal of water is bigger than the total volume reduction. This
3 stage in the shrinkage curve is known as residual shrinkage. Further removal of water will
4 happen at constant volume (zero shrinkage).

V Unsaturated Saturated
e V =0 V <Vw V =Vw
Zero Shrinkage Residual Normal Shrinkage



SL w Vw
8 (a) (b)
9 Figure 3 Typical soil shrinkage curve in two types of display
11 In unsaturated conditions, void ratio can still be used to monitor volume changes, especially
12 to calculate settlements, but it is not suitable to track interstitial water discharge. As for
13 volumetric water content, this index is ambiguous during residual shrinkage since not all
14 change in volumetric water content can be due to change in water volume, it can also be due
15 to the change in total volume. At the moisture content below the shrinkage limit, however,
16 volumetric water content perfectly describes the change in the water volume since there is no
17 more total volume change.
18 The causes of volume changes and ways of describing them are related to the constitutive
19 relations that link deformation state variables to stress state variables. In this regard, it is well
20 known in traditional soil mechanics that effective stresses control the mechanical behavior of
21 soil in a saturated state. This relationship is obtained from standard oedometer tests or using
22 more sophisticated techniques like constant rate of deformation (CRD) and seepage induced
23 consolidation tests (Lee, 1981; Abu-Hejleh & Znidarcic, 1994). The latter techniques are
24 more appropriate for large strain consolidation analysis.

1 Not all volume change in the saturated state is caused by mechanical origins such as self-
2 weight, seepage, or surcharge. When a fine-grained soil shrinks, the driving force is soil
3 negative pore water pressure and the related phenomenon is capillarity.
4 All previous rationale is useful to address volume change for an unsaturated soil and to
5 introduce a more general approach to the problem. Several authors have recognized the need
6 for dual stress state variables to relate volume change in an unsaturated soil: a net normal
7 stress and a matric suction (Fredlund & Rahardjo, 1993). These coupled state variables have
8 been proven sufficient to describe overall volume change and water volume change in
9 unsaturated soils and this approach can also be applied to saturated soils. For the latter case,
10 the net normal stress converts to effective stress, and matric suction is pore pressure. Because
11 normally volume change of saturated soils is due to mechanical causes, effective stress is the
12 only stress state variable.
13 Within this framework, in a three-dimensional space of void ratio (e) versus net normal stress
14 (-ua) versus matric suction (ua-uw), an integrated modeling approach to consider interstitial
15 water discharge throughout all phenomena of deposition, consolidation, desiccation and
16 unsaturated flow is proposed. Figure 4(a) shows an idealized constitutive surface in the three-
17 dimensional space and paths of field tailings elements (Figure 4b) during most of the
18 interstitial water discharge processes (as discussed below).

2 Figure 4 - Void ratio-stress paths throughout the life cycle of a tailings deposit.

1 In the following section, a brief review of the modeling of each of the phenomena related to
2 interstitial water discharge after tailings deposition is presented using the hypothetical
3 constitutive surface of Figure 4(a).
5 3. Modeling Approach
7 3.1 Sedimentation Model
9 Analysis of the sedimentation process provides two important results regardless of disposal
10 method. First, it gives an estimate of how long it takes water to clarify, i.e., to be free from
11 particulates and be suitable for recovery. Second, it provides the final void ratio of the
12 sedimented tailings, or the void ratio at zero effective stress to be used in consolidation
13 analysis. Sedimentation theory is described by Kynch (1952) and Richardson & Zaki (1954),
14 and extensively used especially in the hydrometer test analysis. Pane (1985) presented a
15 coupled theory of sedimentation and consolidation. However, from a practical point of view,
16 many researchers have replaced more in-depth analysis of sedimentation for simple column
17 tests (Abu-Hejleh& Znidarcic, 1995). In their view, the importance of the analyses relates to
18 the final void ratio, and that can be easily assessed by simple sedimentation column test
19 procedures (Liu, 1990). With that in mind, and considering the constitutive surface depicted
20 in Figure 4 (a), the sedimentation process of a tailings column from the slurry condition to soil
21 formation is represented, for the four elements shown in Figure 4 (b), by the paths a-a that is
22 equal to b-b, c-c, and d-d. Along these paths these elements have the same final void ratio
23 after the sedimentation stage. The positive pore water pressures are equal to total stress and
24 the matric suction and net normal stress (effective) are zero.
26 3.2 Consolidation Model
28 While sedimentation and consolidation are supposed to coexist during operations as shown
29 previously in Figure 1 it is useful to separate the processes for modeling purposes. Prediction
30 of volume change, excess porewater pressure, and progresses in void ratio profiles requires
31 the development of consolidation theories, in which the infinitesimal theory of Karl Terzaghi
32 is well known (Schiffman et al., 1984). For tailings deposits, however, that theory was
33 improved by consolidation models that take into account large deformations expected to occur
34 in the hydraulically deposited tailings. For that matter, the works of Gibson et al. (1967), and

1 before them Mikasa (1963), contain the rigor missed in the simpler infinitesimal theory. These
2 more realistic models have the capability to take into account self-weight and seepage forces,
3 besides surcharge as causes of the consolidation phenomenon. While the models have the
4 potential to deliver good assessment of the interstitial water discharge, the difficult task was to
5 develop laboratory tests to obtain material parameters for the analyses. New technologies
6 were developed such as constant rate of deformation (CRD) and seepage induced
7 consolidation, which can provide the constitutive parameters (Lee, 1982; Abu-Hejleh &
8 Znidarcic, 1994).
9 On the constitutive surface in Figure 4 (a), points a, b, c , and d represent the final
10 condition at the end of the consolidation stage. The tailings elements a, b, c and d are
11 consolidated under self-weight and seepage forces. The material is saturated and porewater
12 pressures are positive, and matric suction is zero (ua = uw). A sharp change in void ratio is
13 noticeable in the low effective stress range followed by a gentle void ratio profile as effective
14 stress increase.
16 3.3 Desiccation Model
18 The next phenomenon that takes place in deposits of fine-grained clay-type tailings, and
19 medium-textured soils like silty tailings, is desiccation. This happens in circumstances of
20 surface drying and/or lowering of the ground water table. To some extent, it can be seen as an
21 extension of the consolidation phenomenon, since it occurs as an additional reduction in
22 volume due to soil shrinkage. However, the driving force of the phenomena is different. In the
23 consolidation process, the volume change is a response to effective stress increase
24 (corresponding to dissipation of excess of pore water pressure) driven by mechanical forces of
25 self-weight, seepage forces, surcharge, or a combination of them. In desiccation, the driving
26 force of the shrinkage is ultimately negative porewater pressures (or suctions) that develop in
27 the fine soil as water is removed by surface drying and/or lowering of the groundwater table.
28 Comprehensive desiccation theories were developed in the middle 90s by Abu-Hejleh &
29 Znidarcic (1995) and more recently by Yao et al. (2002). Konrad & Ayad (1997) also
30 developed a numerical code to deal with the desiccation processes. In these models, new tests
31 were introduced to obtain additional material characteristics necessary for analysis.
32 The desiccation paths in the constitutive surface in figure 4 (a) can be described as follows: it
33 is supposed that all surface water is removed from the tailings surface and all consolidation
34 has already taken place. Tailings begin to compress with no change in the net normal stress

1 (-ua) and increased negative pore water pressures or suction (ua>uw). In Figure 4 (b), points
2 a, b, c, and d are all related to the moment when the top surface reaches a limit void
3 ratio equals to the shrinkage limit. Other elements in the profile may have void ratios higher
4 than that limit (point b), and consequently they may still experience volume change as
5 desiccation continues. Soil elements with void ratio equal or lower to the shrinkage limit
6 (points C and D), inherited from the consolidation stage (compression), theoretically would
7 not compress more due to desiccation. For these soil elements, capillary forces may increase
8 but do not produce further compression.
9 Desiccation gives rise to an important discussion regarding our ability to use the proposed
10 constitutive surface to assess water volume changes. As pointed out previously, material at a
11 certain stage in the desiccation process starts to dessaturate as it shrinks (residual shrinkage);
12 therefore, changes in void ratio do not equal changes in water volume. An alternative to
13 tracking interstitial water discharge would be to replace void ratio by gravimetric water
14 content as deformation state variable. This would require a constitutive surface defined in
15 the space gravimetric water content (w) versus net normal stress (-ua) versus matric suction
16 (ua-uw), as suggested by Fredlund & Rahardjo (1993).
17 Another important challenge for modeling desiccation is to correctly assess the net surface
18 flows, especially in late stages of the desiccation where the soil surface is very dry.
19 Hydrological models must take into account the actual evaporation rate from the tailings
20 surface instead of the potential evaporation rate. These models recognize that the actual
21 evaporation rate is governed by both meteorological and soil conditions (Swarbrick & Fell,
22 1992). While tailings are in a very wet state, weather conditions are responsible for
23 evaporation, but as the material dries, it limits the actual evaporation. This two-limit stage,
24 meteorological conditions first and then soil conditions, is a necessary requirement for
25 correctly assessing the evaporation rate to be used in the desiccation analysis.
27 3.4 Desaturation Model
29 As previously discussed, a tailings deposit initially saturated and left to drain gives rise to an
30 unsaturated state in the soil as it approaches the shrinkage limit. On the one hand, analysis of
31 unsaturated flow requires the development of a new framework with different stress state
32 variables necessary to describe volume change behavior. On the other hand, it has been
33 demonstrated elsewhere that the governing equation of unsaturated flow is rooted in the same
34 general flow equation that governs other flow processes like consolidation and saturated flow

1 (Machado & Oliveira-Filho, 1999; Hwang, 2002). Moreover, traditional analysis of
2 unsaturated flow assumes no volume change. Thus, volumetric water content can be used to
3 describe water volume changes without any ambiguity. As it happens to more complex
4 consolidation analysis, the definition of material parameters for unsaturated flow analysis is
5 challenging. These constitutive relations are known as the soil water characteristic curve (or
6 water retention curve) and unsaturated hydraulic conductivity vs. matric suction. These
7 material parameters are dependent on the degree of saturation and ultimately on matric
8 suction.
9 These relationships required for modeling desaturation are highly non-linear and their
10 experimental determination is costly and time consuming, which gives rise to the
11 development of indirect techniques. Increasing interest was recently directed to knowledge-
12 based systems using neural techniques, basic soil properties (such as grain size analyses and
13 bulk densities) and an extensive database of soil water characteristic curves to predict those
14 constitutive functions (Fredlund et al., 1998).
15 Considering the constitutive surface shown in Figure 4(a), it has been seen that the uppermost
16 soil element a has already reached the shrinkage limit in the desiccation stage and therefore
17 does not experience any void ratio change upon dewatering. Theoretically there is also no
18 increase in suction in the water that fills the soil porous in this location since the radius of the
19 meniscus is at its minimum, and only menisci recession is observed inside the pores as water
20 evaporates and air occupies the pore space (Holtz & Kovacs, 1981). Similarly for soil element
21 b that at beginning was not at the shrinkage limit (b) but as the soil desiccated eventually
22 reached that limit (biv). Thus for soil elements a and b, the material is experiencing mostly
23 desaturation during the void ratio-stress paths a aiv, b biv. As for the other soil
24 elements, c and d, which have void ratios equal and lower, respectively, than the minimum
25 void ratio (shrinkage limit), no further volume change will occur as the material desiccates
26 although saturated conditions prevail. Thus, the void ratio-stress paths c civ, d div may
27 occur under saturated conditions without any volume change, but they will eventually
28 desaturate if the dry pattern continues (not shown). In conclusion, the proposed constitutive
29 surface for describing interstitial water volume change has limited application in the
30 desaturation state. A solution would be to present a constitutive surface that would replace
31 void ratio with gravimetric water content as suggested before, this is left for future
32 consideration.

2 This section presents a summary description of the modeling tools used during this research.
3 While there are multiple validated modeling tools for calculating desaturation, this is not the
4 case for finite strain consolidation and desiccation.
6 4.1 CONDES0
8 Several numerical models to evaluate finite strain consolidation were developed in the past,
9 especially in the 1980s and 90s (Schiffman et al, 1984, Schiffman et al. 1988; Abu-Hejleh &
10 Znidarcic, 1995a). Attempts were made to develop charts and simplified closed-form solution
11 for the problem, but the most successful approaches were numerical codes, which addressed
12 large deformations, used lagrangian coordinates, and automatically updated the domain
13 meshes. Material constitutive functions implemented in these models are continuous highly
14 non-linear exponential or extended exponential functions. In this research the software
15 CONDES is used. It is a finite difference, one-dimensional numerical code developed by Yao
16 & Znidarcic (1997) based on large strain consolidation and desiccation theories presented by
17 Abu-Hejleh & Znidarcic (1994, 1995). It provides one-dimensional time-dependent solutions
18 of void ratio distribution, layer thickness, boundary cumulative discharges, and other
19 information on crack formation and propagation.
20 The CONDES software allows consolidation analysis of both instantaneous and continuous
21 filling. Its main input includes constitutive relations such as:
e = A1 ( '+ Z 1 )
23 (1)
24 for compressibility, where e and are the void ratio and vertical effective stress respectively;
25 A1, B1, and Z1 are empirical constants;
27 k = Ce D (2)
28 for hydraulic conductivity, where k and e are saturated hydraulic conductivity and void ratio,
29 respectively; C and D are empirical constants.
31 Other input data required for the modeling include specific gravity, initial height, stage filling
32 information, and boundary conditions. Two top boundary conditions are possible: flow
33 velocity type, and surcharge type. For the bottom, four options are available: impervious (no

1 flow), flow velocity type, pervious, and pore water pressure head. CONDES is capable of
2 providing solutions for a single soil with initially uniformly or non-uniformly distributed void
3 ratios.
4 Regarding desiccation analysis, CONDES provides the user the ability to automatically pass
5 from consolidation to one-dimensional desiccation analysis when the flow rate on the top
6 surface due to consolidation is matched by an evaporation rate imposed as a top boundary
7 condition. In this sense, one-dimensional desiccation is treated by the program as an extension
8 of the consolidation analyses. An interesting discussion regarding this passage, evaporation
9 rates and its consequences can be found in Abu-Hejleh & Znidarcic (1995b).
10 Later stages of desiccation give rise to crack initiation and propagation. CONDES also
11 addresses this phenomenon as a three-dimensional case. The three-dimensional desiccation
12 analysis is much more complex and requires additional material parameters (Abu-Hejleh &
13 Znidarcic, 1995b; Yao & Znidarcic, 1997; Oliveira-Filho, 1998). This includes a three-
14 dimensional desiccation compressibility function:
e = A2 ( '+ Z 2 )
16 (3)
17 where A2, B2, and C2 are empirical constants.
18 Another constitutive relationship needed in the analysis is the cracking function. The cracking
19 function is defined as a function between total vertical stress and cracking void ratio. The
20 cracking void ratio is the void ratio that marks the crack initiation at surface and its
21 propagation with depth. It is an empirical function, whose model is given as:
1 1
23 ecr = + (4)
d (bc + a )c
24 where a, b, c, and d are empirical parameters.
25 The other material function required is the -function. The -function is defined to
26 characterize the crack geometry. In this sense, it is the proportion of vertical and lateral
27 deformations of the crack. It is an empirical material function, but in the program it is
28 implemented considering small strain theory and isotropic material conditions rendering the
29 following relationship:
1+ e
31 = (5)
2 1
1 + ecr + e
3 3

1 The last special function is called the - parameter. The - parameter is used for controlling
2 the evaporation process through the side of the crack. It is an empirical property that is
3 assumed constant at the present stage.
4 Additional information of interest about CONDES for the purpose of this paper includes: the
5 soil remains fully saturated in one-dimensional compression and three-dimensional
6 desiccation; for desiccation analysis, the program terminates as soon as the void ratio reaches
7 a minimum void ratio usually set at shrinkage limit; only processes in which monotonically
8 increasing loading is encountered can be analyzed; and one-dimensional compression can be
9 handled separately by the program from three-dimensional desiccation, if that is desired.
11 4.2 HYDRUS-2D
13 Several modeling tools are available that address the issue of saturated and unsaturated flow.
14 Solutions to the saturated flow problem exist in diverse forms, including closed analytical
15 approaches for simple, geometrical and one-material problems. More powerful tools are
16 required for more complex scenarios such as two- or three-dimensional spatial domain, two or
17 more different hydraulic material properties, or anisotropic material conditions. Modern
18 numerical codes include the capability of unsaturated flow analysis and feature user-friendly
19 interfaces for both pre-processing and post processing tasks. Besides finding the solution of
20 the flow problem, usually in terms of volumetric water content and its spatial distribution in
21 time, these new codes have implemented several approaches for input of material functions
22 required in the analysis. Thus, soil water characteristic curves following different empirical
23 formulations are acceptable and recognized by the models. Another important issue is how
24 boundary conditions are treated. Some codes have included modeling techniques to evaluate
25 atmospheric boundaries at the top surface. For the bottom boundary, it is also possible to
26 assign variable flow or pressure head conditions.
27 In this research the computer code HYDRUS-2D was used; this code includes all the features
28 mentioned above for modern software with regard to material hydraulic parameters.
29 HYDRUS-2D (Simunek et al. 1998) allows the user to enter soil water characteristic curves
30 according to most popular models such as van Genuchten and Mualem (van Genuchten, 1980)
31 and also has the capability of generating those material functions using knowledge-based
32 systems which rely on neural techniques and basic material parameters such as texture, bulk
33 density and one or more points of the soil water characteristic curve. The Rosetta software
34 included in the HYDRUS-2D package provides an indirect way to obtain the material

1 hydraulic parameters necessary for the analysis. The accuracy increases as more information
2 is provided.
3 For the atmospheric boundary, HYDRUS-2D allows variable boundary values of net
4 infiltration. It also differentiates meteorological and soil limit stages, regarding actual
5 evaporation (AE) as opposed to potential evaporation (PE). Thus, till a certain suction value,
6 PE equals AE; passed that value, a reduced AE is calculated, making for the two limit stages.
10 The importance of modeling soil-atmosphere interaction has been noted above for evaluating
11 desiccation and desaturation of tailings deposits. A number of hydrological models have been
12 proposed to handle surface fluxes, but only few of them make a clear distinction between
13 potential and actual evaporation. In this research the SoilCover software was chosen to assess
14 actual evaporation (SoilCover, 1997). The package is based on a modified Penman equation
15 as proposed by Wilson (1990). Meteorological data can be entered in two forms: complete set
16 of meteorological variables for the site; or pan evaporation records and basic meteorological
17 data. The initial soil conditions regarding water content or pore water pressure are also
18 needed. Hydraulic characteristics including soil water characteristic curves and hydraulic
19 conductivity functions must also be provided, especially the former. The user-friendly
20 interface in a Windows/Excel environment helps the user enter all data needed for analysis.
21 The output provides daily evaporation rates, diverse net fluxes, and other complementary
22 information.
26 The long stream of models proposed in this methodology supposes the availability of a
27 formidable set of material parameters. These are not easy, often not cheap, and sometimes not
28 feasible to obtain to readily address the needs of a particular engineering design. Recent
29 knowledge-based system developments have made it possible to estimate the missing data for
30 preliminary analyses. Based on sound material parameters, advanced statistics (neural
31 techniques), and the increased database of laboratory test results, these models are getting
32 better and better. In this research the SoilVison software (SoilVision Systems, 2001) was used
33 to obtain some material parameters not available from laboratory testing. This is especially
34 true for the case of soil water characteristic curves and unsaturated soil hydraulic

1 conductivity. As it will be shown later in the case study (in the second part of this paper),
2 SoilVision was helpful to estimate the soil water characteristic information of a material with
3 different soil densities. SoilVison can be used to estimate soil constitutive functions or to fit
4 laboratory data to many theoretical or experimental models.
8 The methodology described in the previous sections is next applied to model the interstitial
9 water behavior of existing and planned tailings disposal projects. However, giving the
10 extension of the proposed methodology, very few, if any, reports exist that cover the total
11 range of the phenomena experienced by tailings following deposition. Tables 2 and 3 show
12 information on the authors previous experiences related to analyses of flow processes of
13 mine tailings. This information can be used to address interesting aspects of the problem.
14 First, the tailings texture of deposited tailings ranges from that of fine to coarse-grained soils;
15 this is dependent on the ore type, milling process, and tailings disposal scheme. Second, none
16 of the previous projects covers the entire range of the phenomena, nor the entire life-cycle of
17 the tailings deposits as described in previous sections. Third, not all required data for a
18 complete analysis of the phenomena is available in each one of the projects. Fourth, soil water
19 characteristic curve information is the most absent experimental data, followed by detailed
20 climatological information. Fifth, silt-like material is the most common form of tailings
21 texture.
23 Table 2 Availability of material parameters
Type of Grain Atterbe Sedime Consoli Soil Surface Shrin Reference
tailings size / rg ntation dation Water Evapor kage
Gs Limits e00 characteri ation
stic curve
iron ore x NA NA NA x x NA Gomes et al. (2000)
iron ore - x x x x - x x Silva & Oliveira-Filho
fine (2003); Almeida (2004)
copper x x x x - - x Oliveira-Filho (2003)
nickel x x x x - - x Oliveira-Filho (2004)
gold x x - x - - - Caldwell et al. (1984)
bauxite x x x x - - - Gomes & Oliveira-Filho
(1999); Botelho (1998)
24 Note: NA stands for not applicable; e00 means void ratio at zero effective stress.

1 Table 3 Tailings disposal studies
Type of Classification Life cycle Studies Reference
tailings USCS
iron ore silty-sand operational desaturation Gomes et al. (2000)
iron ore silt operational; consolidation/desiccation Silva & Oliveira-Filho
- fine immediately (2003); Silva et al. (2003);
after closure Almeida (2004)
copper silt operational; consolidation/desiccation Oliveira-Filho (2003)
after closure
nickel silt operational consolidation Oliveira-Filho (2004)
gold silt immediately consolidation Caldwell et al. (1984)
after closure
bauxite clayey-silt operational consolidation Gomes & Oliveira-Filho
(1999); Botelho (1998)
3 From the discussion above and the information in Table 1, it is apparent that for clay-like
4 tailings, consolidation is the most important phenomenon that happens during the operational
5 period and immediately after stage filling ceases. For sand-like tailings, concerns are related
6 to the drainage of the tailings deposit during operations; there are also questions regarding
7 pore-water pressure dissipation (silty-sands). With silt-like materials, previous studies
8 concentrate on volume change phenomena such as (primarily) consolidation and (less
9 importantly) desiccation, and are likely to impact impoundment storage capacity and heights
10 of the containment structures. This may explain the lack of studies regarding desaturation,
11 since it usually happens without volume change. However, with more emphasis on mine
12 closure the impacts of desiccation and desaturation are becoming more significant.
13 The feasibility of the proposed methodology is shown in a companion paper where an existing
14 tailings impoundment containing silty materials is analyzed throughout all its life cycle stages
15 (Oliveira-Filho & van Zyl, 2005b). The study targets silt-like materials, which are the most
16 common type of tailings material but is also the less studied materials in terms of soil
17 behavior. In addition, these are the materials where this research can be more effective since
18 there is no dominant phenomenon; thus, it provides an opportunity to study all the phenomena
19 in a comprehensive way.
23 Discharge of interstitial water from tailings has been addressed in this paper. Several aspects
24 were discussed, beginning with qualitative descriptions of the phenomena associated with

1 interstitial waters in tailings deposits, namely: sedimentation, consolidation, desiccation, and
2 desaturation. Not all of these flow processes may be present in a particular tailings disposal
3 project, nor will they have the same importance, but for silt-like tailings there is a great
4 chance that all the flow processes will occur with differing levels of importance. Theories of
5 the phenomena were reviewed using deformation and stress state variables in an idealized
6 constitutive surface in which each of the phenomena was described through hypothetical
7 paths on the surface. It was shown how tailings entrainment water can be assessed in each
8 one of the flow stages. This was accomplished by combining existent numerical codes and
9 stressing the role of each one in the analyses. The approach to the problem has shown the
10 potential for the feasibility of comprehensive studies for a particular project, especially for
11 silt-like tailings. A companion paper will show the effectiveness of the proposed
12 methodology.
16 The authors acknowledge the financial support for the first author from the Brazilian research
17 agency CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Pesquisa) towards a postdoctoral grant at the University
18 of Nevada Reno.
22 Abu-Hejleh, N. & Znidarcic, D. (1994) Estimation of the Consolidation Constitutive
23 Relations. 8th Int. Conf. on Comp. Methods and Adv. in Geomechnics. H.J. Siriwardane and
24 M.M. Zaman, editors, Morgantown, W.Va., 499-504.
25 Abu-Hejleh, N. & Znidarcic, D. (1995) Desiccation Theory for Soft Cohesive Soils. Journal
26 of Geotechnical Engineering, ASCE, Vol. 121, No. 6, 106-115.
27 Blight, G.E. (1997) Interactions between the Atmosphere and the Earth. Geotechnique, 47(4),
28 715-767.
29 Caldwell, J.A.; Fergusson, K.; Schiffman, R.L. & van Zyl, D. (1984) Application of Finite
30 Strain Consolidation Theory for Engineering Design and Environmental Planning of Mine
31 Tailings Impoundments. Proceedings of an ASCE Symposium on Sedimentation and
32 Consolidation Models, Raymond N. Yong and Frank C. Townsend, editors, San Francisco,
33 CA, USA, 581-606.

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