Geotechnical and Geological Engineering

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 243–261 | Cite as

Hydraulic Conductivity of Fly Ash-Amended Mine Tailings

  • Sultan A. Alhomair
  • Mohammad H. Gorakhki
  • Christopher A. Bareither
Original paper


The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of fly ash addition on hydraulic conductivity (k) of mine tailings. Mine tailings used in this study were categorized as synthetic tailings and natural tailings; two synthetic tailings were developed via blending commercially-available soils and natural tailings were collected from a garnet mine located in the U.S. Two fly ashes were used that had sufficient calcium oxide (CaO) content (17 and 18.9 %) to generate pozzolanic activity. Hydraulic conductivity was measured on pure tailings and fly ash-amended tailings in flexible-wall permeameters. Fly ash was added to mine tailings to constitute 10 % dry mass of the mixture, and specimens were cured for 7 and 28 days. The influence of fly ash-amendment on k of mine tailings was attributed to (1) molding water content and (2) plasticity of the mine tailings. Tailings that classified as low-plasticity silts with clay contents less than 15 % exhibited a decrease in k when amended with fly ash and prepared wet of optimum water content (w opt ). Tailings that classified as low-plasticity clay exhibited a one-order magnitude increase in k with addition of fly ash for materials prepared dry or near w opt . The decrease in k for silty tailings was attributed to formation of cementitious bonds that obstructed flow paths, whereas the increase in k for clayey tailings was attributed to agglomeration of clay particles and an overall increase in average pore size. The results also indicated that the effect of curing time on k is more pronounced during the early stages of curing (≤7 days), as there was negligible difference between k for 7 and 28-days cured specimens.


Binder Fly ash Hydraulic conductivity Mine tailings 

Coal combustion by-products


Cemented paste backfill


Maximum particle size


Electrical conductivity


Final void ratio


Initial void ratio


Fly Ash A


Fly Ash B


Specific gravity


Hydraulic conductivity


Arithmetic average of the last four k measurements


Ratio of k of amended tailings to k of unamended tailings


k of unamended tailings


Liquid limit


Plasticity index


Particle-size distribution


Pore volumes of flow


Solids content


Final degree of saturation


Initial degree of saturation


Unified soil classification system


Ratio of effluent volume to influent volume


Final water contents


Initial water contents


Optimum water content


Water-to-binder ratio


Water content


X-ray fluorescence


Maximum dry unit weight


Change in void ratio



Financial support for this study was provided in part by the Mountain Plains Consortium awarded to North Dakota State University. Support also was provided by Colorado State University. The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Mountain Plains Consortium, North Dakota State University, or Colorado State University.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sultan A. Alhomair
    • 1
  • Mohammad H. Gorakhki
    • 1
  • Christopher A. Bareither
    • 1
  1. 1.Civil and Environmental EngineeringColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

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