2021 – Importance of adequate characterisation of fissured clay in dam foundations, a case study

Yuqi Tan, Behrooz Ghahreman-Nejad, Keith Seddon

Inadequate geotechnical investigation and hence undetected issues within the dam foundation have been responsible for many dam failures in the past. Fissured clay in the foundation poses a significant risk to the stability of the dam if it is not adequately detected and characterised. This paper presents a framework to evaluate the strength characteristics of fissured clay and its effect on the stability and performance of an embankment dam. The strength of fissured clay can be characterised from conventional triaxial test result based on the dip angle of the fissure plane. A design chart for the strength of the fissure has been developed based on the dip angle. The stability assessment for a tailings dam indicated that the dip angle of the fissure has significant impact on the overall stability of the embankment when the angle of the fissure aligns with the angle of the critical failure plane. Both fissure strength and fissure angle should be carefully evaluated for a site where fissured clay is observed.

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