Design and Operation of Large Waste Dumps

Areas of Study: Geotechnics

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A comprehensive course and technical reference for mine operators and consultants on the investigation, planning, design, operation and monitoring of mine dumps and a review and analysis of dump failures (formerly Mined Rock and Overburden Piles). *** This is a premium course which has been peer-reviewed by a committee appointed by the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) and the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME).

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  • Audience Level:
  • Professional
  • Enrollment:
  • Required
  • Duration:
  • 25 hours

Course Summary


Mine waste rock and overburden dumps are massive structures. Mountain top coal mines in British Columbia are constructing the largest man-made structures on the face of the earth. These immense waste dumps are often up to 400 meters high, contain in excess of one billion cubic meters of material, and often form mid-valley fills or rock drains. Instability of the structures has caused increased concern by mine operators and government regulators because of risk to the safety of personnel, equipment and infrastructure, and their impact on the environment.

In mid-1990 representatives of industry, CANMET, and the Ministries of Environment, and Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources formed the Mine Waste Rock Pile Research Committee to foster research work and ensure a common understanding of these waste dumps.

Design and Operation of Large Waste Dumps is based on three of the documents resulting from a series of studies directed at improving our understanding of behaviour and developing a consistent database for waste dumps: Investigation and Design Manual (1991), Operating and Monitoring Manual (1991) and Review and Evaluation of Failures (1992). Prominent geotechnical consultants and industry representatives have contributed their expertise to the studies.

The studies are being widely distributed by the Ministry of Energy, Mines And Petroleum Resources in the hope that all concerned with mine dumps will find them useful in establishing dumps that are stable, safe, and economically feasible.

Course Content

The full course consists of 19 viewing sessions of 30-60 minutes each, plus supporting figures and tables and interactive reviews. Appendices include detailed reporting of dump failures and dump operating procedures in BC. Course duration is equivalent to approximately 25 hours of viewing content.

Learning Outcomes

  • Participants gain an in-depth, practical knowledge of dump investigation, analysis, design, operating, monitoring and reporting procedures and methods, and an appreciation of environmental and safety issues and the regulatory permitting process in BC.

Recommended Background

  • Design and Operation of Large Waste Dumps is intended as both a course and a technical reference for an audience of mine operators, consultants, regulators and final year/graduate students in the mining and geotechnical sectors.

Tim Eaton MSc P.Eng (Editor)

Tim Eaton completed a BSc in Civil Engineering from the University of New Brunswick in 1978. He then worked as a civil engineering consultant and construction engineer on municipal and pipeline projects in Alberta from 1978 to 1983. In 1986 he completed a MSc in Civil Engineering from the University of Alberta. He specialized in geotechnical engineering with emphasis on soils and hard rock mechanics.

From 1986 to 1991 Mr. Eaton worked as a geotechnical engineer in the mining industry. During that period he was employed with consultants Steffen, Robertson and Kirsten in Vancouver, Island Copper Mine on Vancouver Island and subsequently Ok Tedi Mine in Papua New Guinea. Since the start of 1992 Mr. Eaton has been with the British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines as manager, geotechnical engineering for mines in the province. He has extensive knowledge and experience with design, construction and operation of waste dumps, tailings facilities and pit slopes. The open pit coal mines of the Canadian Rockies in British Columbia construct some of the largest waste dumps in the world, situated in mountain valleys and side slopes. These large structures must be built to ensure safety of equipment operators on dump platforms and or protection of infrastructure or environment below the dumps.

The Design and Operation of Large Waste Dumps interim guidelines and reports were produced out of concerns about the performance of the coal mine waste dumps. Mr. Eaton chaired the Mine Dump Committee which provided the direction and review for the production of this series of reports (11 to date) and funded by the governments of Canada, British Columbia and the mining industry.

Scott Broughton (Co-Author)

Author of the report for the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines which forms the basis for the Review and Evaluation of Failures sessions for the course on Design and Operation of Large Waste Dumps.