Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering


Robb E.S. Moss


Assessment of post-liquefaction residual strength is needed for the development of empirically-based, predictive correlations for earthquake engineering design. Previous practice commonly assigned negligible strengths to liquefied materials for engineering analysis, producing overly-conservative designs. Increasingly available case history data, and improved analytical tools have allowed for more accurate and less overly-conservative estimation of soil residual strength, improving empirical predictive models. This study provides a new case history to the limited suite of (approximately 30) liquefaction failure case histories available for post-liquefaction in-situ strength predictive correlations.

This case history documents the Las Palmas gold mine tailings dam failure, resulting from seismic-induced liquefaction during the moment magnitude 8.8 February 27, 2010 Maule, Chile earthquake; the sixth largest since 1900. Forensic analysis provides reasonably well-constrained values of 1) back-calculated representative post-liquefaction residual strength, 2) representative penetration resistance, and 3) representative vertical effective stress along the suspected liquefied failure surface.

This study employs the incremental momentum method to incorporate momentum effects of a moving soil mass. The incremental momentum method requires a series of cross sections animating the geometry of failure progression from initiation to termination, converging on the observed final geometry. Using interpreted soil strength characteristics, an iterative procedure approximates the back-calculated value of post-liquefaction residual strength.

Findings of this case history plot well with existing empirical deterministic regression charts and are in general agreement with previous, related efforts. Results yield representative, well-constrained values of: 1) post-liquefaction residual strength ≈ 173 psf, 2) penetration resistance of N1,60,CS ≈ 5 and N1,60 ≈ 2.5, and 3) vertical effective stress ≈ 4,300 lb/ft2, or ≈ 2.0 atm.