FINDING PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS TO THE MOST CHALLENGING SOIL MECHANICS PROBLEMS
BGC’s Soil Mechanics Team is comprised of 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, climate change specialists and other earth scientists and engineers within the company to integrate soil behaviour principles with a broader understanding of the geology. In this way, we find solutions that are both theoretically rigorous and practical.
The Soil Mechanics Team supports a variety of projects within BGC through the advanced geotechnical laboratory. We provide expertise in the application of theoretical soil mechanics to develop relevant, practical geomechanical models, numerical modeling, civil geotechnical engineering and seismic analysis and design.
Advanced Laboratory Testing
The Soil Mechanics Team at BGC benefits greatly from an in-house, state-of-the-art soil and rock testing laboratory. Laboratory testing and result interpretation and application is central to the 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 such as plant site and infrastructure foundations and retaining wall structures; however, a large portion of BGC’s soil mechanics work is associated with tailings dams. Our involvement encompasses all 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 various 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 begets stored within the tailings facility.
The Soil Mechanics Team plays a large role in projects for roads and railways. Most of our projects are in areas with challenging geohazards, such as rockfalls, landslides, debris flows, and unusual site conditions. The team works together with other BGC discipline specialists, such as hydraulic engineers, climate change scientists and geoscientists, to find the most sustainable, practical, and economical solution.
Linear Infrastructure and Communities
BGC supports linear infrastructure systems, such as oil and gas pipelines, from construction through to operations. In the design and construction phase, we help companies select and optimize pipeline alignments to minimize geohazard risk. During planning and construction phases, BGC is involved with evaluating, designing, and supporting construction of crossings in difficult terrain or potentially hazardous conditions. Once construction is complete, BGC helps manage pipelines by assessing the risk of geohazard impacts. This is done by using remote sensing technology and instrumentation, and by inspecting potential geohazard conditions on the ground.