Geotechnical performance of fine tailings in an oil sands pit lake

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Syncrude Canada Ltd.’s Base Mine Lake (BML), the first commercial-scale demonstration of an oil sands pit lake, was commissioned in December 2012, following in-pit deposition of fine tailings (FT) between 1995 and 2012. The geotechnical design basis for the FT in BML is that it will consolidate and densify over time, contributing to fines sequestration below the water cap. This paper presents the geotechnical performance of the FT in BML within the context of this geotechnical design basis. The FT has settled from 196.0 to 171.6 Mm3 by 2019, with cumulative settlement varying spatially between 0.3 and 6.7 m. FT settlement is consistent with the expected self-weight consolidation as modeled by finite-strain non-linear consolidation theory, and is reflected as temporal increase in the profiles of solids content and effective stress. Sonar surveying, profile sampling, shear strength, and underwater photography show that the transition of geotechnical properties at the mudline becomes increasingly distinct over time. These observations support the geotechnical design basis for BML and indicate the fines continue to be sequestered below the water cap.




Dunmola, A., Werneiwski, R. A., McGowan, D., Shaw, B., & Carrier, D. (2023). Geotechnical performance of fine tailings in an oil sands pit lake. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 60(5), 595–610.

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