Here is what I have written on the standard texts on geotechnical engineering. These are the books and resources you should read if you are a geotechnical engineer in the mining industry, if you seek to manage geotechnical engineers at your mine, or if you are a regulator trying to review a geotechnical report on a mine facility. Enjoy and appreciate these books as much as I do. Some you will have to purchase from Amazon; but most you can download for free on the web. How great a thing it is that these days we almost have no need to pay for knowledge if only we know what to look for and where to look.

If you elect to read only one book on geotechnical engineering in order to get to the basics, we can do no better than recommend Soil Mechanics in Engineering Practice (Third Edition) by Karl Terzaghi, Ralph B Peck, and Gholamreza Mesri. The original by Terzaghi & Peck was a standard university text book and thus we are partial & prejudice. Mesri has done a masterful job of updating the original, so it is as fresh and relevant today as it was way back then. This book has character and insight — unlike so many bland repetitions in so many modern textbooks stuffed with simple problems designed to train students to answer multiple-choice exams. Rather, this book gives you insight into the nature of geotechnical engineering and the philosophy that is so essential a part of its successful practice. In our opinion, you cannot call yourself a geotechnical engineer if you have not read and absorbed this book.

A great companion to Terzaghi and Peck is Soil Mechanics for Unsaturated Soils by D. G. Fredlund and H. Rahardjo. This book is published by Wiley as are Terzaghi and Peck’s, and is in the same binding. It is worthy of being the companion volume. In this volume you will find everything you want about the characterization, analyses, and use of unsaturated soils. Keep in mind that in many of the drier parts of the world where there are mines, the soil is not saturated, i.e., the pore spaces of the soil are not filled with water as tends to happen in the wetter parts of the world.

We are indebted to Bengt Fellenius for making a free electronic copy of his book, The Red Book Basics of Foundation Design and many other papers on soil mechanics and foundation design available to us at this link. The book includes a superb set of chapters on the basics of soil mechanics that would well augment this course.

The great book by Poulos & Davison stresses in soil and rock masses is available free in electronic format at this link. Dating from 1974, this book is still a valuable resource for any geotechnical engineer faced with establishing the load and stress distribution in almost any geotechnical situation. Note that at the website are also many other superb volumes relevant to geotechnical engineering available for free download.

Available in full free for electronic download is the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation’s Earth Manual. This book has the practical bent that is needed to design and build earthworks at mines. Here are the beginner’s guide to the identification and classification of soils, quantifying the index properties of soils and their engineering properties. Here are the principles of investigation, exploratory methods. Sampling and testing procedures, and how best to record data about soils. In an extended section on the control of earth construction are chapters of earthworks, foundations, embankments, dams, canals, and soil stabilization. We have used this book in the field, so have most U.S. geotechnicalengineers. It is readily available to you and should be a key part of your mining-related geotechnical library.

The greater part of Rock Slope Engineering by E. Hoek & J.W. Bray is available free on Google books. In this book are the fundamental principles of rock mechanics and their application to rock slopes. To the extent the pages are blocked or you cannot purchase a copy, see the website for RocScience where most of the important information is readily downloadable. Reading this will not make you a rock mechanics expert, but it will make you knowledgeable enough to solve (or at least manage the solution of) most mining-related rock mechanics problems.

Tailings impoundments are the great mining geotechnical structures. Still relevant and profound is Planning, Design, and Analysis of Tailings Dams by Steven G. Vick. As this book is getting a bit out of date, we recommend a Google search of any topic that is critical to the safe and cost-effective operation of your mine.

For a superb collection of design manuals related to geotechnical engineering go to the NAVFAC site. Do a search for geotechnicalor do a search for soil mechanics. These searches will bring up eminently usable and proven manuals that detail the design and construction of geotechnicalstructure. While originally written for naval facilities (hence NAVFAC) these volumes have gained a well deserved reputation amongst practicing civil engineers working in all areas of geotechnical engineering. We am certain you will find here what you need.

The geotechnical engineer is also generally a civil engineer. So go to the site for information about software, tools, new, and other information that is of interest to the civil and geotechnical engineer and can be used in a mining context.

Please also take a look at five courses I have up on EduMine, that site devoted to self-paced learning on topics in mining. Here they are:

  • Groundwater in Mining
  • Surface Water Management at Mines
  • Mine Water and Chemical Balance Analysis
  • Heap Leach Pads
  • An Introduction to Mining Investment - Understanding the Risks

This is a mixed bag of topics. I am no expert in any of them, but have general knowledge and project specific experience in all of them.

Now I am working on a course that more directly reflects my personal experiences gathered over 35 years in mining. It will be an introduction to the geotechnical engineering of tailings impoundments, waste rock dumps, and heap leach pads. Stand by!