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Field scale trials of a geosynthetic capillary break



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This thesis discusses the field testing of a newly-developed product, a geosynthetic capillary break (GCB). The GCB was developed for use in engineered soil covers when a cover incorporating a capillary break effect would be desirable, but the coarse-grained material (gravel or sand) is unavailable or uneconomical. Engineered soil covers aim to reduce the amount of acid generated from sulphide bearing waste by limiting the ingress of water and/or oxygen. The GCB is a geosynthetic system that is composed of a finely ground rock flour sandwiched between two nonwoven geotextiles and manufactured as a composite layer by needle punching in a process similar to the used for GCL (geosynthetic clay liner). The goal of the GCB is to recreate the capillary break that is achieved with soil layers using a geosynthetic product that is only a few centimetres thick and that can be rolled up and for transportation, The GCB concept has been demonstrated in a previous study (Park, 2005) based on laboratory column studies and computer modelling. The goal of this project was to determine the effectiveness of the GCB when applied at field scale. Four 25 square test plots were constructed at the tailings management area (TMA) of the HudBay Minerals Inc.(HudBay) mine site located near Flin Flon, MB. One plot contained 1 m of cover soil over top of the GCB (Plot A), one contained only 1 m of cover soil (Plot B), one contained 0.3 m of cover soil over top the GCB (Plot C), and one consisted of a conventional capillary break system with 1 m of cover soil over lying 0.2 m of sand. All of the plots, along with a control plot with no cover, were instrumented with water content sensors and gas sampling ports to monitor the movement of water and oxygen through the various covers. Matric suction sensors were also installed in Plots A and B to measure the water suction within the covers. A meteorological station was installed to gather climatic data which was used to develop a water balance for each of the plots. The plots were constructed and instrumented in the fall of 2005. Data was collected and analyzed until spring of 2007. Data from the water content sensors show that the GCB was effective in increasing the water content in the soil portion of the cover system. The suction sensors show that the suction across the GCB drops significantly (40 kPa versus less than 1 kPa) as compared to plots which contain no GCB. Data from the gas concentration sensors show that the plots containing capillary breaks reduce the oxygen flux into the tailings. The plots containing the GCB (Plots A and C) resulted in the lowest flux rates, followed by the sand capillary break (Plot D )and no capillary break (Plot B), respectively. This reduction in oxygen flux will reduce the amount of acid generated from waste, as oxygen is required for the creation of acid mine drainage. Overall the study demonstrated that at field scale that the GCB is effective in limiting the ingress of water and oxygen into the tailings under the observed conditions and the manufactured GCB is comparable to the performance of the previous hand constructed column tests.



capillary break, engineered soil cover, geosynthetic



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Civil and Geological Engineering


Civil and Geological Engineering


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