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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2020-199
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2020-199
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  23 Jul 2020

23 Jul 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal NHESS.

Tailings-flow runout analysis: Examining the applicability of a semi-physical area–volume relationship using a novel database

Negar Ghahramani1, Andrew Mitchell1, Nahyan M. Rana2, Scott McDougall1, Stephen G. Evans2, and Andy Take3 Negar Ghahramani et al.
  • 1Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, V6T 1Z4, Canada
  • 2Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, N2L 3G1, Canada
  • 3Department of Civil Engineering, Queen's University, Kingston, K7L 3N6, Canada

Abstract. Tailings-flows result from the breach of tailings dams. Large-scale tailings-flows can travel over substantial distances with high velocities and cause significant life loss, environmental damage and economic costs. Runout modelling and inundation mapping are critical components of risk assessment for tailings dams. In an attempt to develop consistency in reporting tailings data, we established a new tailings-flow runout classification system. Our data analysis applies to the zone corresponding to the extent of the main solid tailings deposit, which is characterized by visible or field-confirmed sedimentation, above typical surface water levels if extending into downstream water bodies. We introduced a new database of 33 tailings dam breaches by independently estimating the planimetric inundation area for each event using remote sensing data. This paper examines the applicability of a semi-physical area–volume relationship using the new database. Our results indicate that the equation A = cV2/3, which has been used previously to characterize the mobility of other types of mass movements, is a statistically-justifiable choice for the relationship between total released volume and planimetric inundation area. Our analysis suggests that, for a given volume, tailings-flows are, on average, less mobile than lahars but more mobile than non-volcanic debris flows, rock avalanches and waste dump failures.

Negar Ghahramani et al.

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Negar Ghahramani et al.

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Short summary
Tailings-flows result from the breach of tailings dams. These flows contain waste products of the mineral processing operations and can travel substantial distances causing significant life loss, environmental damage and economic costs. This paper establishes a new tailings-flow runout classification system, describes a new database of events that have been mapped in detail using the new system, and examines the applicability of a semi-physical area–volume relationship using the new data.
Tailings-flows result from the breach of tailings dams. These flows contain waste products of...
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