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Stability and characterisation of spoil heaps in European surface lignite mines: a state-of-the-art review in light of new data

Masoudian, Mohsen S.; Zevgolis, Ioannis E.; Deliveris, Alexandros V.; Marshall, Alec M.; Heron, Charles M.; Koukouzas, Nikolaos C.


Mohsen S. Masoudian

Ioannis E. Zevgolis

Alexandros V. Deliveris

Professor of Geotechnical Engineering

Nikolaos C. Koukouzas


The large amount of spoil material produced during the mining process imposes a significant economic and environmental liability on lignite producers. In this context, the present paper provides an overview of the geotechnical characteristics of European lignite mine spoil heaps and discusses their significance to the stability of the heaps. In order to achieve this, samples collected from spoil heaps of Polish, Czech and Greek mines are analysed and the results are compiled with data from the literature. A major conclusion drawn is that both physical and engineering properties of spoil heaps indicate a noteworthy variability, which is larger than typical in-situ ground material. This is because of the additional factors affecting spoil heap deposition, such as the transportation and dumping method. Furthermore, failure mechanisms and case histories of large instabilities in lignite spoil heaps are critically discussed in order to better understand triggering failure mechanisms. It is concluded that classical assumptions made for natural soil slopes and relevant limit equilibrium models should be cautiously applied to spoil heaps. The challenges associated with numerical and probabilistic modelling of spoil heap stability, such as the inherent spatial variability of spoils and the time-dependent changes in their geotechnical properties, are also critically discussed. Finally, important research gaps in design and analysis of spoil heap stability, such as the absence of appropriate constitutive models developed specifically for spoil materials, are summarised.


Masoudian, M. S., Zevgolis, I. E., Deliveris, A. V., Marshall, A. M., Heron, C. M., & Koukouzas, N. C. (2019). Stability and characterisation of spoil heaps in European surface lignite mines: a state-of-the-art review in light of new data. Environmental Earth Sciences, 78(16),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 25, 2019
Online Publication Date Aug 7, 2019
Publication Date 2019-08
Deposit Date Jul 29, 2019
Publicly Available Date Aug 8, 2020
Journal Environmental Earth Sciences
Print ISSN 1866-6280
Electronic ISSN 1866-6299
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 78
Issue 16
Article Number 505
Keywords Earth-Surface Processes; Soil Science; Global and Planetary Change; Geology; Pollution; Water Science and Technology; Environmental Chemistry
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Received: 8 October 2018; Accepted: 26 July 2019; First Online: 7 August 2019


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