The EIT RawMaterials Booster funded project to prevent toxic dam collapse, known as the “Medusa DMT Project” proposes an innovative solution for the high failure rates of tailings dams that may lead to the loss of many lives and significant environmental damage.

Tailings dams are large structures created by the storage of by-products after mineral extraction. One of the main causes of dam collapses is slope instability, commonly triggered by the liquefaction phenomenon. That’s why leading an accurate evaluation of geotechnical parameters is crucial for effective risk assessment and for the stability analysis of these large structures.

The “Medusa DMT Project” offers a geotechnical testing device that directly measures the key soil properties with impressively higher accuracy and repeatability compared to current tools. In particular, the new instrument provides high accuracy soil parameters which are the basis for a detailed and reliable analysis of tailings dam structures in terms of stability and resistance to liquefaction. Such reliability is crucial for a cost-effective engineering solution in place of an over-conservative design often related to uncertainty in site investigation surveys with lower reliability.

The obtained soil parameters provide a clear site picture, which is of crucial importance for liquefaction risk assessment and stability analysis. The DMT instrumentation has already been used in several tailings dams worldwide, including in Poland, Brazil, Canada, Australia, and Italy. This testing technology may become the new standard for routine safety tests in tailings dams.

Additionally, The Medusa technology leads to an overall reduction in costs. Typically, most soil testing instruments provide medium to low-quality soil parameters, whereby engineers often overestimate funds on a precautionary basis, increasing the project costs.

Studio Prof Marchetti S.r.l. designs and supplies worldwide advanced equipment for onshore and offshore soil investigations, and is the patent owner of the “Medusa DMT Project”. The company optimised the product design, bringing it to Technology Readiness Level 7 (demo in operational environment). So far, the equipment has been validated in several onshore and offshore projects and is now ready to go to market.

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