n Journal of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering = Joernaal van die Suid-Afrikaanse Instituut van Siviele Ingenieurswese - A review of important and interesting technical findings regarding the tailings dam failure at Merriespruit : technical paper - : technical paper

Volume 41, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1021-2019


The Merriespruit tailings dam failure was a tragic event that resulted in loss of life and much damage to property owing to the extensive mudflow. Because of the restraints imposed by a long, drawn-out inquest/inquiry, attempts to establish the cause of failure required an exercise in intensive investigative engineering without the direct assistance of those who had good information on the likely cause. The investigations conducted on behalf of the State included a careful analysis of eye-witness accounts, evaluation of weather and hydrological data, assessment of tailings properties through both laboratory and in situ testing, the interpretation of satellite imagery, and overtopping studies in a small-scale field experiment. This paper provides further insight into various geotechnical aspects that were of particular relevance and records details of new techniques that are of wider technical importance. It also highlights the need for the involvement of appropriate expertise in the design and operation of major mining facilities above ground to prevent similar failures in future.

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