Sand tailings dams have historically been the most commonly used technology for tailings storage in Chile. Although engineering advances have resulted in the construction of approximately 250-m-high facilities, some operational challenges still remain, including compaction control. Control is currently performed at a few control points in a dam embankment, without considering a series of factors that affect its mechanical behavior (e.g.,layer thickness and material variability). Within this context, geostatistics can be applied in combination with low-cost geotechnical tools as an alternative to improve compaction control in tailings storage facilities. In this study, an extensive field investigation was carried out. A total of 91 PANDA penetrometer tests were conducted to monitor the degree of compaction in an experimental classified sand tailings dam. The results were analyzed using stochastic interpolation for ordinary kriging and considering the spatial distribution of the cone resistance and the degree of compaction determined for the dam. The results showed that spatial variability was associated with the material variability of sand tailings and the compaction method used, and deviations from design requirements. The article shows the value of the use of geostatistics in decision-making in the case of classified sand tailings dams. This is mainly due to the fact that it allows optimization of the compaction process used in these tailings dams. Additionally, a useful database is generated to continue deepening studies of physical stability during the useful life of the tailings storage facilities.

Keywords: sand tailings damscompaction controlvariabilityLightweight Penetrometer PANDA