Geological Influences of Glacially Rafted Clearwater Formation on the Design and Operation of an External Tailings Facility

Glacial rafts are glaciotectonic structures that can exhibit similar geotechnical properties and fabric to that of the parent geological unit. They can present a significant geohazard for the design and operation of dams and infrastructure. The Jackpine Mine External Tailings Facility, which is operated by Shell Canada Energy, is underlain by glacial rafts derived from the Clearwater Formation. The Clearwater Formation is a weak, overconsolidated clay-shale known to influence the stability of several existing tailings dams in the Fort McMurray region due to mobilized residual strength and a high pore pressure response to loading.

A previous case study by the authors focused on the distribution and geotechnical parameters of glacial rafts beneath the eastern component of the external tailings facility, known as Sand Cell 2. This paper builds on the findings of that earlier study and summarizes the use of drilling programs, laboratory testing, geological modelling, instrumentation data, and the Observational Method to manage geotechnical uncertainty in the design of the entire external tailings facility.

Bayliss, A.I., L. Philip, K. Masterson, R. Wong, M. Rahman, D. Hepp, M. Clarke, S. Martens and M. Elbanna. 2014. “Geological Influences of Glacially Rafted Clearwater Formation on the Design and Operation of an External Tailings Facility” in GeoRegina 2014: 67th Canadian Geotechnical Conference, September 28-October 2, 2014. Canadian Geotechnical Society.

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