AGS Western Australia Symposium 2023

Geotechnical Engineering for a Sustainable Future

Geotechnical Engineering is a critical aspect of modern infrastructure development, providing the foundation for buildings, transportation systems, and energy networks. As we look towards a sustainable future, geotechnical engineering will play an even more significant role in creating resilient and adaptive structures that can withstand the challenges of climate change, population growth, and technological advancement. From both onshore and offshore wind farms to the construction of tunnels and bridges for urban development, geotechnical engineering is essential for designing structures that are efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly.

In this symposium, we will explore recent work and developments in geotechnical engineering and their implications for sustainable infrastructure. Case studies will be presented from site investigation through to geotechnical design and academic research. Geotechnical engineers and engineering geologists from academia, industry, and government will come together to share their insights on the latest technologies, design principles, and regulatory frameworks driving innovation in the field.

The symposium will serve as a platform for collaboration and discussion, fostering new ideas and partnerships that will help drive geotechnical engineering towards a sustainable future. The WA Chapter of the AGS invites local and national practitioners, academics, contractors and other interested parties to submit abstracts related to the symposium theme.

Keynote Speakers

Hugo Acosta-Martinez

Mr. Hugo Acosta-Martinez Technical Director – Geotechnical, BG&E Resources

Geotechnical Considerations for Solar Farm Foundation Design

Solar power provides a clean and cost-effective energy source and is key in the transition to clean energy. The construction of solar farms in Australia has increased significantly, including Western Australia, and is expected to continue in future. Renewable energy is preferred in terms of sustainability and energy security, especially for industrial and resources projects. Solar trackers are rising in popularity due to benefits in increased energy production, cost effectiveness and sustainability. Foundation geotechnical design for solar trackers generally involves large areas and thousands of foundations (mostly piles). Basic design methods generally focus on a simple approach centred on saturated soil mechanics. This presentation will discuss specific issues to be considered in the design of solar farm foundations, from site investigation aspects to effects of extreme weather conditions and climate change, dealing with reactive soils, impacts of ULS loadings (wind and flooding) and soil-structure interaction aspects. Lessons learnt from the study of problematic projects will be shared.


Hugo Acosta-Martinez is a Technical Director – Geotechnical at BG&E Resources. He has more than 25 years of consulting experience, mainly in transport and resources infrastructure. He has been involved in numerous renewable energy projects involving solar and wind across Australia.

In his current role, Hugo provides technical leadership and independent verification on projects across the country. As a passionate advocate for inspiring the next generation of geotechnical engineers, Hugo is involved in mentoring young and emerging professionals, and has previously served as the National Chair of the Australian Geomechanics Society (AGS). With strong links to academia, Hugo is also a regular peer reviewer of leading geotechnical engineering journals and actively participates in forums that promote industry-academia collaboration.

Prof Britta Bienen

Professor Britta Bienen Professor of offshore geotechnical engineering, University of Western Australia

Strong foundations for offshore wind

Offshore wind will play a key role in the diversified sustainable energy portfolio into the future. Offshore wind is an established industry overseas, with a generation of experience in the North Sea region. Australia does not yet have a single turbine in the water, but momentum has been building significantly with the regulatory framework coming into effect, some states announcing targets, offshore renewable energy infrastructure areas being declared, and a large number of applications submitted for the first feasibility licences. This presentation draws on examples to highlight how local geotechnical engineering expertise has already influenced offshore wind projects half a world away, as well as providing a snapshot of substantial ongoing research activity and collaboration.


Britta Bienen is a professor of offshore geotechnical engineering at the University of Western Australia. Her research focuses on foundation and anchoring solutions for offshore wind turbines, underpinned by centrifuge and numerical modelling to develop practical prediction methods. The 2020 Australian Academy of Science John Booker medal recipient is also actively involved in the development of international guidelines (ISO, InSafeJIP, J-REG JIP) and currently serves on the Australian Research Council College of Experts.

Mr. David Reid

Dr. David Reid Research Fellow, University of Western Australia

Outcomes of a tailings slope stability benchmarking exercise

Recent tailings storage facility (TSF) failures due to slope instability have spurred greater scrutiny of TSF stability assessment. The TAILLIQ project conducted a Slope Stability Benchmarking Exercise, focusing on analyzing the stability of an idealized TSF slope with a rising phreatic surface in a dormant TSF. Participants had to predict the level at which slope failure would occur in two scenarios: sandy (Scenario A) and silty (Scenario B) tailings. The data for these scenarios was based on the Fundão and Cadia TSF failure reports. Results varied widely, with some predicting no failure and others suggesting instant failure without significant phreatic rise. Scenario A results highlighted a gap in understanding phreatic-triggered instability in TSF slope analysis.

Determining in situ degree of saturation in tailings: Current methods, uncertainties, and emerging technologies

Determining the in situ degree of saturation in tailings can be important for various analyses, with two particular cases being arguably of greatest importance: (a) tailings deposited in arid environments where air drying is promoted, resulting in unsaturated tailings and (b) filtered tailings deposits. In both cases, establishing what extent of the tailings deposit is unsaturated and the degree of saturation within the unsaturated portion of the tailings can have a significant impact on engineering analyses such as stability and liquefaction assessments. Despite the importance of inferring in situ degree of saturation, the currently available techniques suffer several limitations, uncertainties, and practical difficulties. This presentation summarises the current state of practice with respect to inferring in situ degree of saturation, then outlines work underway to verify the use of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) for this application in tailings.


David is a Research Fellow at The University of Western Australia.  He was 20 years’ experience in the design, in situ and laboratory characterisation, and analysis of tailings and tailings storage facilities.  His area of focus is on improving laboratory and in situ methods to characterise tailings behaviour.  


Morning Sessions

08.00 – 08.30

08.30 – 08.40
Opening Address

08.40 – 10.40
Session 1
Keynote Speaker: Hugo Acosta-Martinez (BG&E Resources)
Title: Geotechnical Considerations for Solar Farm Foundation Design

Rasoul Hejazi (DigitAiS)
“Illuminating a Sustainable Path: Empowering Geotechnical Engineering through AI and Data-Driven Innovation”

Terry Waters (Local Geotechnics)
“Optimisation of Pavement Materials for a Sustainable Future”

Donovan Lium (CMW Geosciences)
“Exploring the use of microbially induced calcite precipitation technology for ground improvement”

10.40 – 11.00
Morning Tea

11.00 – 11.10
Platinum sponsor presentation: BG&E Resources

11.10 – 1.10
Session 2
Keynote Speaker: Professor Britta Bienen (UWA)
Title: Strong foundations for offshore wind

Cathal Colreavy (NGI)
“Sustainability in Offshore Wind: A Whole Life Approach”

Terrence Bushell (RMIT)
“Optimising Dredging in the Port of Rotterdam”

Eduardo Bittar (Opifex Geotechnics)
“Investigating Shaft Friction Ageing of Steel Piles Installed in Sand”

Afternoon Sessions

1.10 – 1.50

1.50 – 15.50
Session 3
Keynote Speaker: Dr. David Reid (UWA)
Title: Outcomes of a tailings slope stability benchmarking exercise & Determining in situ degree of saturation in tailings: Current methods, uncertainties, and emerging technologies

Louise McNab (Gold Fields)
“Tailings Reimagined – Strategies for tailings governance, management and reduction”

Jit Kheng Lim (BG&E Resources)
“Compaction on Perth Sands – A Critical Review”

Dale Screech (WSP)
“Sustainable Pavement Engineering in Western Australia”

15.50 – 16.10
Afternoon Tea

16.10 – 17.00
Session 4
Panel Discussion Capsule
Title: “Past, Present and Future Challenges in Geotechnical engineering”

Panellists include:
Prof. Mark Randolph
Geoff Cocks
Amy Tsagopoulos

17.00 – 18.00
Canape and Drinks

Sponsorship opportunities

Elevate your brand presence and connect with geotechnical engineering professionals, researchers, and industry leaders at our annual symposium. Information on sponsorship packages can be found in the Symposium Sponsorship Opportunities flyer or via the Symposium Sponsorship page.

Any interested parties or those seeking further information should contact Harun Meer via [email protected].

Organising committee

Further information

For further information, please contact Andrew Lim
Phone: +614 308 553 95
Email: [email protected]


Registration has now closed.

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