Shear Strength Of Stockpiled Coking Coal – Insights From Stability Analysis Of Two Instrumented Stockpiles

John David Eckersley

ACARP Report C4057 (Eckersley, 2000) describes flowslides and other stability issues in stockpiles of coking (metallurgical) coal at Australian coal operations and export terminals, and summarizes 1973 to 2000 research at James Cook University (JCU). Eckersley (2022) partly updated that work with SEEP/W transient seepage modelling of a 12m high coal stockpile constructed at Hay Point in late 1991.

Eckersley (2023) summarized available laboratory strength data for saturated and unsaturated coking coal to assist in selection and critical assessment of parameters for slope stability analyses of coal stockpiles. The current paper explores application of this data to stability analyses of two instrumented experimental stockpiles constructed at Hay Point, one of which collapsed suddenly and completely by flowsliding after extensive wetting. The stability analysis results tentatively confirm that the parameters and approach proposed are reasonable where stockpiles are subject to potential liquefaction-induced collapse.

Significant questions raised by Eckersley (2023) regarding how the coking coal strength data should be applied are considered in the context of the stability analyses. The analyses tentatively confirm that effective strength parameters for saturated coal derived from peak deviator stress in isotropically consolidated, undrained (CIU), strain controlled triaxial tests are reasonable. For loose saturated coal these are at low strains and substantially less than critical state values. However, for unsaturated coal forming the bulk of a stockpile, unsaturated strength and apparent cohesion should be assessed from the effective friction angle at critical state and not the value mobilized at low strains. Use of total stress parameters derived from testing unsaturated coal may over-estimate factor of safety.