DFOS measurement during plate load test on foundation of a Tailings Storage Facility

The measurement setup described involves the use of a fiber optic cable to monitor the stability and changes in settlement in the foundation of a Tailings Storage Facility (TSF). This method provides a means to assess the foundation’s stability throughout the lifespan of the TSF, which is crucial for ensuring the overall integrity and safety of the facility. Traditional monitoring methods such as satellite imagery or piezometers are effective in tracking water levels and changes in pore pressures in the tailings, but they do not directly provide information on the foundation’s stability.

In this particular case, two 1.3m lengths of Solifos BRUsens DSS 3.2mm V9 grip fiber optic cable were installed on the liner of the TSF before the tailings were placed. These fiber optic cables were connected to a fibrisTerre fTB 5020 interrogator, which is the device used to collect and analyse the measurement data from the fiber optic system.

During the plate load test, a pressure load was gradually applied to a 0.6m plate that was positioned on top of the tailings. This gradual increase in pressure allowed for the consolidation of the tailings between measurements, mimicking the loading conditions experienced by the foundation during the operation of the TSF. The measurement results obtained from the fiber optic system clearly illustrate the pressure application area, providing valuable information on the load distribution within the foundation.

Strain on fiber during 0.6mm plate load test, this is an example of the data obtained by a DFOS measurement

The fiber optic system’s results indicate that the fiber is highly sensitive to local changes in pressure, making it possible to determine the stability of the foundation and identify any localised changes that may occur. By monitoring these pressure variations over time, engineers and operators can gain insights into the behaviour of the foundation under different loading conditions and assess its long-term stability.

The real-time monitoring approach using fiber optic cables offers several advantages. It provides continuous and accurate data on the foundation’s response to the applied load, enabling early detection of any potential stability issues. This information can guide decision-making processes, such as implementing remedial measures or adjusting the operational parameters of the TSF to ensure its safe and sustainable operation.

Overall, the use of fiber optic cables is a powerful tool for monitoring the stability and settlement of the foundation in a Tailings Storage Facility. By incorporating this technology into the regular monitoring program, operators can improve the understanding of the TSF’s behaviour, enhance safety measures, and mitigate the risks associated with foundation instability.

Additionally, fiber optic cables can also be utilised to monitor slope stability by inserting strain and temperature cables into the walls of the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF). This allows for comprehensive monitoring of the TSF’s overall stability and provides valuable data for proactive management and mitigation of potential slope instability risks.

A graph showing the measured strains obtained during a DFOS measurement
The DFOS measurement terminal on site during a plate load test on foundation of a Tailings Storage Facility