There must be a book in the story of the advances and successes of mine geotechnics at the Syncrude property in Alberta. I refer to a 1998 paper recently posted in the InfoMine Library by kind permission of BiTech’s Geotechnical News. The paper is Celebrating 25 Years: Syncrude’s Geotechnical Review Board by Gord McKenna. The story the paper tells is so instructive that I cannot resist posting the paper and writing about it here. To encourage you to refer to the full paper, here is a partial list of some of the geotechnical issues the mine has faced and solved:

  • Dam construction on muskeg foundations
  • Spillway construction and maintenance on weak valley slopes
  • Heavy foundations on gassy and temperature sensitive soils
  • Trafficability of heavy equipment on oil sands
  • Depressurization of watersand aquifers
  • Winter construction of water-retaining embankments
  • Frost effects of foundations and stockpiles
  • Short-term and long-term excavations into clay shale slopes
  • Empirical highwall monitoring for draglines
  • Progressive failure of clay and sands
  • Highwall failure due to gas and bulging
  • Pit floor heave
  • Long-term stability of reclaimed landscapes.

Most of the paper is about the peer review board that has advised the mine for over 25 years. This in itself is a monument to progressive mining. And maybe one day the story will be brought up to date and the totality of the geotechnical success collated into a single volume. For now, see the paper and other writings in InfoMine on oil sands.