Dam Failures: Recent Experience with Mine Tailings and Coal Ash Impoundments
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The accident at the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant in 2008 had a revolutionary impact on the coal-powered energy generation community.

Essentially, the most common coal ash disposal practices in the southeastern U.S. will no longer be permitted and former ash disposal facilities have been ordered to close… at considerable expense and utilization of resources. Coal ash (also referenced as coal ash residuals or CCRs) at the Kingston facility were managed in a dredge cell that was constructed as a tailings dam using upstream construction practices. Forensic investigations led to numerous potential explanations for the failure, but some of these explanations suggest that the failure could have been prevented. Fast forward several years and two catastrophic dam failures in Brazil, specifically the Fundão Dam (2015) and the Brumadinho Dam (2019). Forensic investigation suggest that these failures could have been avoided. These accidents rocked the international community and elicited a call for action from the public and from stakeholders to minimize the potential for future accidents. One problem with this challenge relates to the sheer numbers of tailings dams across the globe and the critical need to understand the current state of stability of these facilities. This presentation will discuss and describe the recent experiences regarding these failures and discuss various activities that are underway to assess the current stability and to develop go-forward actions regarding the fate of existing and future tailings dams.

Publication Summary

  • Geosyntec Authors: Robert Bachus
  • All Authors: Robert Bachus
  • Title: Georgia Geo-Institute Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers' (ASCE)
  • Event or Publication: Event
  • Practice Areas: Levees, Dams, and Subsurface Hydraulic Barriers
  • Citation: Robert Bachus, Ph.D., P.E., D.GE (Georgia) will present "Dam Failures: Recent Experience with Mine Tailings and Coal Ash Impoundments" at the Georgia Geo-Institute Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers' (ASCE) January 2020 meeting as part of the Cross-USA Lecture Tour at the Georgia Power Building in Atlanta, Georgia at 6:30 p.m. on January 21, 2020.
  • Date: January 21, 2020
  • Location: Atlanta, Georgia
  • Publication Type: Platform Presentation