Dynamic stability analysis of tailings dams

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The regulation of dams and dam safety falls under the responsibility of the provincial/territorial government. Canada is unique from other countries in the fact that no federal agency or over-arching program which guides the development of requirements for the safe management of dams. In the 1980’s the Canadian Dam Association was formed to provide dam owners, operators, consultants, suppliers and government agency with a national forum to discuss issues of dam safety[1]. It is evident that in high or moderate seismicity areas the design of tailings dams must take potential seismic activity into consideration. Many failures have occurred due to a lack of concern with respect to seismic hazard. Most failures are strongly related to inertial and/or weakening instabilities of the dam slopes[2]

Classification of Dams

Due to the size of these structures and the impacts that a failure a dam can have, dam safety regulations and recognized practices are in place for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance. As some structures carry more risk than others, the required standard of care can vary based on dam classification. Dams are classified based upon estimates of potential consequences association with dam failure. This classification provides guidance on the standard of care expected of dam owners and designers as well as distinguish lower risk dams from higher risk dams (Table 1). [3] [4]


  1. P. Campbell, P.Eng., MCIP, M. Dolbec, ing, M.B.A., G. Ford, G. I. Haack, P.Eng, N. Heisler, W. Jolley, R. Kamel, Ph.D., P.Eng., S. Kaczmarek, L. Marcoux, C. McLean, MASc, MBA, P.Eng., T. Moulding, M.Sc, M. Passey, A. Roy ing, M.Sc., X. Su, Ph.D., P.Eng, J. Theakston, P.Eng., and K. M. Wog, M.Eng., P.Eng., "Regulation of Dams and Tailings Dams in Canada," in CDA 2010 Annual Conference - Congres annuel 2010 de l'ACB, Niagara Falls, 2010.
  2. P. N. Psarropoulos and Y. Tsompanakis, "Stability of Tailings Dams Under Static and Seismic Loading," Canadian Geotechnical Journal, vol. 45, no. 5, pp. 663-675, 05 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Canadian Dam Association - Association Canadienne des Barrages, Dam Safety Guidelines 2007 (2013 Edition), Toronto, Ontario: Canadian Dam Association, 2013.
  4. Government of British Columbia: Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, "Downstream Consequence of Failure Classification Interpretation Guideline for Dam Safety Officers," Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Victoria, 2016.