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Ecological Modelling 114 (1999) 275 286

Numerical modelling of biostabilisation for a coal mine

overburden dump slope
S.K. Chaulya a, R.S. Singh a, M.K. Chakraborty a, B.B Dhar b,*

Scientists, En6ironmental Management Group, Central Mining Research Institute, Dhanbad 826 -001, India
Department of Mining Engineering, Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu Uni6ersity, Varanasi 221 -005, India

Accepted 2 September 1998

An integrated study on biological stabilisation of the dump slope has indicated that biological reclamation should
be considered for long term stability of dump. The grasses have good soil binding capacity and help to control soil
erosion and improve dump stability. Native grasses viz. Bamboo (Dendrocalmus strictus) and Kashi (Saccharum
spontaneum) are the important constituents of grass species which can stabilise the dump slopes. Field observation of
root development of these grass species has indicated that the roots can proliferate upto 0.5 m depth on a coal mine
overburden dump after three years of vegetation. From the numerical modelling it has been analysed that roots of
these grasses which significantly enhance the factor of safety of dump slope from 1.2 to 1.4 have a positive role in
maintaining long term stability. 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Revegetation; Modelling; Overburden dump; Slope stability

1. Introduction
Opencast mining operations involve huge quantities of overburden removal, dumping and backfilling of excavated area. Substantial increase in
rate of accumulation of waste materials in recent
years has resulted in greater height of dumps to

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +91-326-203010; fax: + 91326-202429; e-mail:

minimise ground cover area. Consequently it has

given rise to the danger of dump failures, gully
erosion and various associated environmental
problems (Campbell, 1992).
Revegetation is one of the widely used technique for controlling erosion and stabilisation of
dump slope (Akers and Muter, 1974; Singh et al.,
1996), and thereby maintaining ecological equilibrium in the area (Jorgensen, 1994). Role of
vegetation growth upon dump slope can be described as hydrogeological and mechanical actions
(Cherubini and Geiasi, 1997). With respect to the

0304-3800/99/$ - see front matter 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 3 0 4 - 3 8 0 0 ( 9 8 ) 0 0 1 5 7 - 4


S.K. Chaulya et al. / Ecological Modelling 114 (1999) 275286

Fig. 1. 3D view of the Mudidih dump.

hydrogeological action, roots of vegetation play

an important role to enhance dump stability by
controlling interception of rain water and evapotranspiration and the resulting pore pressure reduction (Blight, 1987; Hussain, 1995). Whereas
mechanical action in turn, reinforced the dump
material by roots and enhanced the shear strength
of dump material. This action is closely related to
root density, depth and strength (Greenway, 1987;
Jha, 1989; Suyama, 1992; Hall et al., 1994). However, quantitative evaluation of the biological stabilisation is still unknown and the subject requires
further study.
Therefore, to understand the stabilisation of
dump slope by plant and quantify the improvement in stability, numerical modelling technique
which has been applied is a more accurate method
and having flexibility to assign various material
properties for different layers to simulate field
conditions (Naylor, 1982). The present study deals
with the dump slope stabilisation through revegetation of a coal mine overburden dump in India
for long term protection of the environment.

2. Study site

2.1. Location and description

This site is located at Katras area of Bharat
Coking Coal. The dump is situated in Dhanbad
district of Bihar state of India with longitude and
latitude of 8618%E and 2348%N, respectively. Topography of the area is undulating. The dump
was formed by backfilling in 1984 with shoveldumper combination. Earlier mining operation
was opencasting and now it is working by underground method of mining. Maximum dump
height, slope angle and reduced mean sea level
(R.L.) at the top are 30 m, 35.5 and 216.04 m,
respectively. Fig. 1 shows the 3D view of Mudidih
dump on which the study has been conducted.

2.2. Climate
The climate of the area is dry tropical and a
year can be divided into the cold winter (DecemberFebruary), a very hot summer (AprilJune)

S.K. Chaulya et al. / Ecological Modelling 114 (1999) 275286


Fig. 2. Flow chart of the methodologies adopted for the study.

and a rainy season (July September). Mean minimum daily temperature within the annual cycle
ranges from 10-28C and mean daily maximum
temperature varies between 26 and 45C. The
average annual rainfall is 1376 mm of which 1107
mm occurs between late June and September.

sandy loam to clay loam with subangular blocky

structure. Ferromanganese concretions and clay
content are found in sub soil. The overburden
consists of alluvium loose sand, gravel, shale and

2.3. Geology and soil

3. Methodology

This site is located in Jharia Coalfield, which is

a member of the Damodar Valley coal belt, occurring as an outlier in the Archaean basement
area. The bedrock is formed of medium to course
grained sandstone clay with ferruginous bands
and carbonaceous shales. The soil surface layer is
10 11 cm thick grey brown to very pale brown

The methodologies adopted for the field and

laboratory studies are systematically presented in
Fig. 2. Reconnaissance has been carried out in
and around the dump site for selection of suitable
grass species for biological reclamation of dump
slope. Dendrocalmus strictus (Bamboo) and Saccharum spontaneum (Kashi) which are the two


S.K. Chaulya et al. / Ecological Modelling 114 (1999) 275286

Fig. 3. Relation between normal and shear stresses during

sliding stage.

dominating native grass species have been selected

for revegetation of dump slope. Both the grasses
have good soil binding capacity by their roots.
Grass tillers were collected from the laboratory
plant nursery and transplanted on the dump
slopes (0.25 0.25 m spacing) after the onset of
rain during July, 1993. Grass root biomass was
estimated by digging the monoliths (Jha, 1989) of
0.50.5 0.5 m at the time of peak biomass i.e.
October, 1996. Physico-mechanical properties of
Table 1
Standard procedures for dump material testing


Grain size distribution

Moisture content
Bulk density

Sieve analysis
Calcium carbide method
Measurement of weight and
Constant weight method
Measurement of weight and
Measurement of weight and
Liquid limit test apparatus
Thread (3 mm) test
Falling head test
Direct shear and triaxial

Dry density
Specific gravity
Void ratio
Liquid limit
Plastic limit
Shear strength parameters
(c and f)

the dumps have been studied in the month of

October, 1996, in the laboratory for index and
shear strength properties. To get the in-situ shear
strength of the dump materials (with and without
grasses) in-situ jack shear tests have been carried
out at Mudidih site. Two models have been formulated to simulate the field conditions (with and
without grasses) and analysed by finite difference
method (FDM).
Numerical modelling has been studied by assigning the dumps geometry, material properties
and boundary conditions to the simulated models.
It is assumed that the dump formation is gravity
loaded and no external load is applied on the
model. Nodal displacement (i.e. movement of element due to gravitational loading) of each zone is
calculated first. From the nodal displacements
strains are calculated and from strains maximum
shear stresses are calculated. Lambe and Whitman
(1979) has reported that dump failure occurs due
to shear stress. Therefore, utilizing MohrCoulomb constitutive relation, FOS is calculated for
each zone. Contours of FOS safety have been
drawn by Kriging method for the whole domain.

3.1. Numerical modelling

Numerical modelling for the problem has been
simulated by FDM. In this method, the whole
domain has been discretised into small two-dimensional zones (elements) which are interconnected with their grid points (nodes). Over each
zone the differential equation of equilibrium has
been approximated. This has resulted into a system of simultaneous equations which are generally solved by iteration methods. A 2D FDM
package FLAC version 2.27 (developed by Itasca
Consulting Group, USA) has been utilised for the

3.2. Constituti6e model

MohrCoulomb pasticity constitutive model
has been used to represent the behaviour of dump
materials. This model assumes an elastic, perfectly
plastic solid in plane strain which confirms to a
MohrCoulomb yield condition and non-associated flow rule.

S.K. Chaulya et al. / Ecological Modelling 114 (1999) 275286

Fig. 4. In-situ jack shear test.


S.K. Chaulya et al. / Ecological Modelling 114 (1999) 275286


Fig. 5. Geometry of the dump used for numerical modelling with boundary conditions.

De2 = De e2 + De p2

The yield surface is given by:

f = s1 Nfs2 + 2c(Nf )



and the plastic potential function is given by:

g= s Ncs2 + 2c(Nc )1/2


Where, Nj = (1+ sin j)/(1 sin j) [j=f or c], c

is cohesion (positive sign), f is friction angle, c is
dilation angle, s1 is major principal stress, and s2
is minor principal stress.
The strain increments are assumed to be composed of elastic and plastic parts:
De1 =De e1 + De p1



The plastic strain rates are given by the non

associated flow rule:
e p1 = l (g/(s1 = l


e p2 = l (g/(s 2 = lNc


where l is the multiplier which is determined from

the stress state.

3.3. Shear strength properties

Shear strength properties of dump material play
a vital role in the dump stability. Determination


S.K. Chaulya et al. / Ecological Modelling 114 (1999) 275286

Fig. 6. Area of interest with different dump material properties.

of reliable shear strength values is a critical part

of any dump slope design and small variation in it
can result in significant change in the dump slope
stability. For most of the evaluation regarding the
stability on dump slope, it is necessary to use
failure relationship which is a straight line as
shown in Fig. 3 and is also known as Mohr Coulomb failure law (Lambe and Whitman, 1979).
Shear strength is defined as the maximum resistance to shear stress. This is expressed as:
t= c + s tan f


Where,t is shear strength, kg/cm , c is cohesive

strength, kg/cm2, s is normal stress, kg/cm2 and f
is the angle of internal friction, .

Chaulya (1993) has analysed that shear strength

of spoil material decreases as the cohesive
strength decreases while normal stress and angle
of internal friction remain same. This decrease in
shear strength reduces the stability of dump. Also,
shear strength of spoil material decreases as the
angle of internal friction decreases, which in turn
reduces stability of the dump.

3.4. Factor of safety

The critical approach for evaluating the stability of slopes is to evaluate the factor of safety
(FOS). The FOS is generally defined as the ratio
of available shear strength of the dump material


S.K. Chaulya et al. / Ecological Modelling 114 (1999) 275286

Table 2
Index and shear strength properties of dump material

4. Field and laboratory analysis



4.1. Index and shear strength properties of dump



Dump material samples have been collected

and analysed by standard methods. References for
the methods of testing of dump material are
Tayor (1962), Jumkis (1965), Afanasyev (1976),
Lambe (1977), Desai (1986), Hribar et al. (1986)
and Punmia (1987).The procedures with respect to
various index and shear strength parameters are
presented in Table 1.


4.2. In-situ jack shear test


Grain size distribution (\4.75mm separated)

Moisture content
Bulk density
Dry density
Specific gra6ity
Void ratio
Shear strength
Angle of internal friction

to the shear resistance required to maintain equilibrium. The FOS is then expressed as:

Shear strength available to resist sliding

Shear strees mobilized along failure surface

FOS may also be defined as that factor by

which the shear strength parameters must be reduced in order to bring the potential failure mass
into a state of limiting equilibrium. When the
material has both c and f, it is usual to apply the
same factor to c and tan f. Denoting the reduced
parameters by an asterisk (*) and the factor by l:
c* = c/l
tan f* = tan f/l
l = FOS
when c* and f* are associated with incipient

A block of known dimension (40 cm height, 80

cm width and 100 cm length) is made and pushed
gradually to fail by a fixed reaction face (Anand
and Rao, 1967; Singh, 1992). The observation is
recorded at various stages of failure. The loading
face of the block is kept at a distance equal to the
total length of the equipment assembly. The sides
of the test block are separated from the main soil
mass by a narrow cut of 15 to 20 cm width to the
full depth and loosely backfilled by the excavated
soil (Fig. 4). Both reaction face of the pit and the
test block must be vertical so that the load applied
is horizontal.
The shear jack assembly is lowered in the pit
and put into the testing position. The load is
applied in increments of 0.5 t. It is maintained for
a period of 1015 min after which the load is
increased to the next stage. It can be noticed that
after the application of some load the block of
soil starts moving up along a sliding plane exhibiting cracks and heaving of the failed material. The
application of load is continued till the test block
moves by a distance of approximately 10 cm
horizontally. The load at the start of movement

Table 3
Results of in-situ (jack) shear test


Natural dump material

Dump material with grasses

Cohesion (c)
Angle of internal friction (f)




S.K. Chaulya et al. / Ecological Modelling 114 (1999) 275286


Fig. 7. Factor of safety for the barren dump.

(Pmax) and at the time when block moves by 10

cm (Pmin) are recorded. After the test, the assembly is taken out from the pit. The true shape of
the sliding surface is determined by removing the
soil which shears off along the sliding plane. After
the removal of failed soil, the depth of the failure
surface is measured at three locations along the
width of the block and at every 10 cm intervals
along the length of the block. The average value
of h which is measured at three locations is used
to determine the shear strength parameters.
The shear strength parameters, c and f, have
been determined as discussed below.

A cross section as sown in Fig. 4 has been

drawn for all the pits tested by making use of the
average depth of the sliding surface. It has been
further subdivided into suitable number of slices.
The weight of each slice (w) and length (l) along
the sliding plane have been determined. Further,
the weight of the whole sliding mass (W) has been
determined from following equations:
w= ghmxb


W= %wn



S.K. Chaulya et al. / Ecological Modelling 114 (1999) 275286

Fig. 8. Factor of safety for the dump with grasses on slope.

where, hm is midheight of the slice (m), g is unit

weight (t/m3), x= width of the slice (m), b = the
width of the test block (i.e. 0.8m) and n = the
number of slices.
Using the value of Pmax, Pmin, lengths and
weight of slices, the values c and f have been
calculated from the following equations:
c =(Pmax Pmin)/(bx)


tan f ={(mA)B (cX)}/{(mB) + A}


m =Pmax/(bW)

A= W cos un
B= W sin un

X= %xn

4.3. Formulation of models

Observation in the field has indicated that the
average depth of grass roots is 0.5 m after 3 years
of vegetation. MohrCoulomb plasticity constitutive model has been used to represent the behavior of dump materials as discussed earlier. To

S.K. Chaulya et al. / Ecological Modelling 114 (1999) 275286

study the effect of grass plantation on dump

slopes following two models have been formulated and run separately:
1. The whole domain has been assigned with
same properties as measured in the respective
field to simulate the natural dump material
i.e. without grasses (Fig. 5).
2. A modified layer with c and f values as
measured in the field of 0.5m thick along the
dump slope has been assigned to represent
dump with grasses (Fig. 6).
Slope angle and height of the dump are observed to be 35 and 30 m, respectively. Base
length of 70 m is selected considering the geometry of the dump and influence of stress. Whole
domain has been discretised into two different size
of two-dimensional elements. Near the slope (area
of interest) fine elements of 0.5 0.5 m size and
for rest area 0.5 2 m size elements have been
selected. The boundary conditions applied include
roller boundary (i.e. displacement in vertical direction is allowed and horizontal direction is
fixed) along the rear side of the dump and fixed
boundary (i.e. no displacement by horizontal and
vertical directions) along the base which are
shown in Fig. 5.

5. Results and discussion

The summary of the laboratory test results of
physico-mechanical properties of dump materials
is given in Table 2. Results of in-situ shear (jack)
tests have also been presented in Table 3.
Field study on growth performance of grasses
have indicated that mean grass height, root depth
and belowground root biomass are 224 cm (9
72), 45 cm ( 94) and 467 g/m2 ( 976), respectively after 3 years of grass growth on the dump
slope. The value of belowground biomass is
within the range of 455 g/m2 ( 943) which is
reported from the natural succession of plant
species on twelve years old age dump slope of a
dry tropical coal mine spoil in India.
Results of numerical modelling have indicated
that maximum displacement of elements occurs
near the crest of the dump (top portion of slope).
Therefore, any dump deformation monitoring


programme should be planed near the crest of the

dump slopes as dump failure generally occurs
after significant movement over a long time
(British Columbia Mine Waste Rock Pile Research Committee, 1991). Thus for large dump
with high dump slope and height continuous
monitoring of dump deformation is essential and
wireline extensometer with continuos recording
facility may be used for the same. Wireline extensometer is a simplest type of equipment having
easily readable and adjustable features (Chaulya,
From the stress analysis of dump slope it has
been observed that grass root has reduced the
stress concentrations near the surface of dump
slope in comparison to barren slope. It has been
observed that FOS has enhanced from 1.2 to 1.4
due to plantation of grasses on dump slope and
thereby enhancement of shear strength of dump
material by the root matrix and path of critical
failure surface has also changed. Contours of
MohrCoulomb FOS is illustrated in Figs. 7 and
8 for the dump without and with grasses, respectively. Depth of critical failure surface (i.e. the
surface along which dump failure occurs) has
increased from the dump slope surface in case of
slope with grasses than the barren slope, which is
also an important factor for maintaining long
term stability of coal mine overburden dump.

6. Conclusions
It may be concluded from the analysis that
grass roots play a very crucial role in the stabilisation of coal mine overburden dump slopes. It
creates mechanical reinforcement of dump material by the proliferation of roots. Shear strength of
dump material is also enhanced by the root matrix which in turn increases the long term stability
of dump slopes. On most of the occasions mine
dump failure occurs after significant deformation
with prior warning signals. Results of numerical
modelling analysis of slope stability have indicated that the maximum deformation occurs near
the crest region. Therefore, any deformation monitoring programme should be conducted near the
crest of dumps. In case of steep and high faces of


S.K. Chaulya et al. / Ecological Modelling 114 (1999) 275286

dumps, continuous monitoring of deformation is

recommended by wire line extensometer fitted
with continuous recording arrangement so that
dump failure and risk hazards can be minimised.

Authors are thankful to T.N. Singh, Director,
Central Mining Research Institute (CMRI),
Dhanbad, for giving permission to publish this
paper. Thanks are also due to B.K. Tewary, M.
Prasad and V.K. Singh, Scientists, CMRI, Dhanbad, for their immense support during the field
study and laboratory analysis. Grateful acknowledgment is also due to the Ministry of Coal,
Government of India, New Delhi, for sponsoring
this research work under the project entitled Environmental
Dumps. Finally, the help and cooperation extended by the management of Mudidih mine during the field study is sincerely acknowledged.

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