The Critical State Line of Nonplastic Tailings

by Tores-Cruz, Santamarina, J.C
Article Year: 2020 DOI:


L.A. Torres-Cruz and J.C. Santamarina (2020). The critical state line of nonplastic tailings. Can. Geotech J.


The probability of failure of tailing dams and associated risks demand improvements in engineering practice. The
critical state line provides a robust framework for the characterization of mine tailings. New experimental data for nonplastic platinum tailings and a large database for tailings and nonplastic soils (grain size between 2 and 500 m) show that the critical state parameters for nonplastic tailings follow the same trends as nonplastic soils as a function of particle-scale characteristics and extreme void ratios. Critical state lines determined for extreme tailings gradations underestimate the range of critical state parameters that may be encountered in a tailings dam; in fact, mixtures with intermediate fines content exhibit the densest granular packing at critical state. The minimum void ratio emin captures the underlying role of particle shape and grain size distribution on granular packing and emerges as a valuable index property to inform sampling strategies for the assessment of spatial variability. Mineralogy does not significantly affect the intercept 100, but it does affect the slope . The friction coefficients M of tailings are similar to those of other nonplastic soils; while mineralogy does not have a significant effect on friction, more angular grains lead to higher friction coefficients.


Tailings critical state line minimum void ratio nonplastic soils