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

Ghahramani, Negar; Mitchell, Andrew; Rana, Nahyan M.; McDougall, Scott; Evans, Stephen G.; Take, W. Andy

Tailings flows result from the breach of tailings dams. Large-scale tailings flows can travel over substantial distances with high velocities and cause significant loss of life, 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 inline-formulaA=inline-formulacV2∕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.

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Ghahramani, Negar / Mitchell, Andrew / Rana, Nahyan M. / et al: Tailings-flow runout analysis: examining the applicability of a semi-physical area–volume relationship using a novel database. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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