Finding practical solutions to the world’s most challenging soil mechanics problems
BGC’s Soil Mechanics Team comprises geotechnical and geological engineers who focus on “getting the soil mechanics right” as they work to solve complex earth science problems in Canada, the US, and beyond. The team collaborates with geologists, hydrologists, hydrogeologists, and other earth scientists and engineers within the company to integrate soil behaviour principles with a broader understanding of geology. In this way, we find solutions that are both theoretically rigorous and practical.
The Soil Mechanics Team provides expertise in the application of theoretical soil mechanics to develop relevant, practical, geomechanical models, tailings dam assessment and design, numerical modelling, civil geotechnical engineering, and geotechnical earthquake engineering. We support a variety of projects within BGC through the advanced geotechnical laboratory.
BGC benefits greatly from an in-house, state-of-the-art soil and rock testing laboratory. Laboratory testing and result interpretation and application are central to the Soil Mechanics Team’s role within the projects we support. The laboratory includes the full suite of conventional soil testing equipment and specializes in “outside-the-box” laboratory testing. We have developed unique equipment to suit the most challenging project requirements including innovative sample preparation equipment for soft sensitive soils, a large-scale direct shear box, and a large-scale dynamic triaxial cell. We have also developed expertise in critical state testing and interpretation to determine the critical state line, strength, and dilatancy parameters, and are actively involved in research to advance the standard of practice for critical state soil mechanics.
Soil mechanics involvement in mining projects covers many aspects with a large portion associated with tailings dams. BGC’s other mining-related soil mechanics work includes plant site and infrastructure foundations and retaining wall structures. Our involvement encompasses project stages from pre-feasibility to detailed design, construction, operation, and closure. In the early stages of mining projects, the Soil Mechanics Team assists with site characterization, hazard assessment, concept evaluation, and feasibility design for tailings dams, working to ensure the plans and decisions are in line with global practice standards and that they facilitate eventual closure. In later design stages, the team will assist with more comprehensive site investigation and advanced lab testing to understand and quantify soil and tailings behaviour. This feeds into a variety of assessments including application of critical state soil mechanics, numerical modeling, and seismic analyses that support the detailed design of the initial tailings starter dam and subsequent dam raises. For complex and challenging projects, advanced numerical modelling is performed using 2D or 3D finite difference or finite element methods (e.g. FLAC, PLAXIS, etc.), employing sophisticated user-defined material constitutive models (e.g. UBCSAND, PM4Sand, PM4Silt, NorSand, etc.). Typically, we remain involved throughout construction and operation as the designs are brought to life and design changes or optimizations are required. Construction monitoring is critical to confirm that the structure is built according to the design intent, and the Soil Mechanics Team works in close collaboration with BGC’s Instrumentation Team to provide these services. We are also involved with analyses and designs to solve the challenge of managing and reclaiming soft, highly compressible tailings deposits that can be stored within the tailings facility.
The Soil Mechanics Team plays a large role in linear infrastructure projects for roads, railways, and pipelines. Most of these projects are in areas with challenging geohazards, such as rockfalls, landslides, debris flows, and unusual site conditions. The team applies fundamental mechanics to comprehend the issues and potential solutions to complex projects. Some examples include stabilizing a landslide providing access to First Nation communities, designing bridge foundations through ecologically sensitive terrain, or designing pipeline crossings exposed to geohazards. We take pride in supporting our clients through the entire project lifecycle from site characterization and interpreting geomechanics through design and construction monitoring. The team works together with other BGC discipline specialists, such as hydraulic engineers, geohazard specialists, and geoscientists, to find the most sustainable, practical, and economical solutions.