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Conference Paper · January 2013

DOI: 10.3233/978-1-61499-297-4-407


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Leonardo Dorador
Advanced Earth Sciences Inc.


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Fifth International Young Geotechnical Engineering Conference - 5iYGEC’13.


1 2
Leonardo DORADOR , Gaspar BESIO
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
University of Chile, Santiago, Chile

ABSTRACT – In determined civil and mining projects there are no chances to conduct a geotechnical
characterization on soils with oversize based on in situ and laboratory testing. In these cases it is required to
use charts and correlations to predicting some important geotechnical parameters of these soils. Based on
this, this article is focused in three topics. The first topic is the chart to estimate the minimum and maximum
void index in granular materials. Some previous charts are shown and a new chart and data is included. The
second topic discussed is an influence of the D50 in the maximum void index. Laboratory testing results
shows that larger D50 decrease the maximum void index independently of the uniformity coefficient CU. The
last topic discussed is the peak friction angle based on the Leps’ Chart. In this work, new large triaxial data is
included into this chart and some recommendations to use it appropriately are proposed.

1. Introduction relative density parameter (RD%). However, it is

important to add that until date there is no enough
Soils with oversize or coarse granular soils are charts or correlations to obtain these parameters in
used in many civil and mining projects around the soils with oversize. The following correlations
world. Although these materials are very important proposed are intended to be used as a good
in these projects, it is hard to be characterized due estimation in conceptual and feasibility studies but
to the large sizes of their particles. Additionally, in not in higher detailed stages of any project
conceptual and feasibility stages of any project, it involving soils with oversize or coarse granular
is important to have a rough idea of the material’s soils.
characteristics. However, the lack of charts and
correlations keep off a good geotechnical 2.1 Correlations to obtain emin
characterization of these soils. In this work, some
correlations on soils with oversize are discussed. Kezdi (1979) provided a good correlation between
Firstly, the existing charts of minimum and the maximum density with the uniformity coefficient
maximum void index are discussed. These (Cu). In addition, Gesche (2002), De la Hoz (2007)
parameters depend strongly on how well graded is and Dorador (2010) collected more maximum
the particle size distribution or specifically in the density data (using the standard ASTM D 4253 –
uniformity coefficient (CU) 00) and a correlation that fix with Kezdi’ correlation
Secondly, the influence of the D50 in the has been obtained.
maximum void index is studied. Some data This correlation (Figure 1) includes fluvial gravel
collected show that the emax is lesser increasing material (sub-rounded), crushed gravel (sub-
the average diameter of the material. angular) and this is an alternative chart of what is
Finally, the shear strength, which is one of the proposed by Biarez (1994). The Biarez’s chart
key parameters for design is discussed. There is a agrees partially with the proposed chart. However,
chart by Leps (1970) which has been widely used the former remains constant after CU higher than
until these days. However, new data obtained from 10, which is not agreeing with this proposed chart.
the large triaxial equipment of IDIEM (Verdugo Thus, this correlation using the CU is a good
2007), shows that the Leps chart could first approximation of the maximum packing of the
overestimate the shear strength of soils with material analyzed. Of course, in order to get a
oversize in some cases. closer correlation we should consider other
parameters involved in the minimum void index
such as sphericity and angularity of particles,
2. Minimum and maximum void index in soils maximum particle size (D100) and gradation
with oversize coefficient (D30).

It is well known the importance of obtaining the

emax and emin not only for providing the ranges of
material densities but also for estimating the
Fifth International Young Geotechnical Engineering Conference - 5iYGEC’13.
Kezdi, 1979
2.3 Methodology to obtain a precise value of
emin and emax for soils with oversizes (Coarse
Al Hussaini, 1983
Granular soils)
0.6 De la hoz (2007), Dorador
(2010) and Gesche (2002)
In some projects involving soils with oversize, it is
important to have accurate values of emin and emax
and so, to obtain the relative density (for example

0.4 Biarez-Subangular
Rockfill dams and Waste rock Dumps in mining).
0.3 Additionally, there is no standard methodology
Upper limit
Average emin
to obtain the minimum and maximum void index for
Biarez-Subrounded Lower limit soils with oversizes. Thus, it is proposed the
0.1 following methodology to obtain the emin and emax
1 10 100 1000 (Figures 3 and 4).
Uniformity coefficient [Cu= D60/D10]
First, to obtain the Macro gradation of the soil
with oversize. Second, to scale the Macro
gradation in three smaller gradations with
Figure 1. Correlation between emin and CU maximum particle size (for example 37.5 mm
(1.5”), 9.5 mm (3/4”) and 4.75 mm). Third, to
2.2 Correlations to obtain emax conduct minimum and maximum densities for each
scaled gradation. Fourth, to obtain potentials
Certainly, this parameter tends to be more difficult regressions for each emax and emin regression as
to be obtained by charts, etc. This is because the -m -n
emax = a D100 and emax = b D100 . Fifth, to
minimum density by the standard ASTM-4254 is extrapolate the emax and emin to the desire D100.
more sensible to the particle’s shape (sphericity
and angularity), average size of the sample (D50)
and the expertise of the technician who conducts
the test.
In order to have a rough idea of the emax, one
alternative is to use the following chart (Figure 2)
which has been updated with data by Veiga Pinto
(1979) Cubrinovski, et al. (2002) and De la Hoz
(2007). This chart considers the lineal relationship
between the emin and emax.

Figure 3. Scaled gradations from Macro

Gradation. To obtain these scaled curves is
necessary to fix the minimum diameter of the
Macro gradation and translate the maximum
diameter of this gradation.

Figure 2. Relationship between emin and emax,

De la Hoz (2007).

Thus, knowing the value of emin (for example,

using Figure 1) it is possible to use this chart to
obtain the emax (for example using Line 2 on Figure
2). Again, these charts are intended to be used as
a rough idea of the minimum and maximum
packing of granular materials.

Figure 4. Potential regressions of emin and emax

from scaled gradations
Fifth International Young Geotechnical Engineering Conference - 5iYGEC’13.

3. Influence of D50 in the maximum void index has been updated by some authors such as
(emax) on soils with oversize Indraratna et al. (1993) and Contreras (2011).
It is important to note that most of these tests
In general terms, the emax of granular materials were carried out in samples with high confection
with gravels are obtained by the standard ASTM density, high particle strength and low to moderate
D4254 (Methods A and B). It is clear that the emax confining pressures, which facilitated the dilatancy
decrease for higher CU, but seems to be that the of most of the samples and therefore peak
average size of the tested material tends to strengths were obtained during the tests.
produce lesser emax too. The following data is
considered in Figure 5. Gesche (2002),
considering two materials, one fluvial gravel (A1)
and one sub-angular gravel (M1). De la Hoz (2007)
considering two fluvial gravels (M2 and M3) and
one sub-angular gravel (P1). Dorador (2010)
considering one fluvial gravel (A2)

D50 - 0.5 a 2 mm
0.6 D50 - 2 a 7 mm

D50 - higher than 7 mm




Figure 6. Leps’ charts (1970)
0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8
Nevertheless, typical requirements from mining
projects involve the use of large amount of soils
with oversize and waste rock materials, which
Figure 5. Influence of D50 in emax – Materials sometimes are found with low relative density and
with CU ranging from 1.8 to 29 low particle strength. Several large triaxial tests
have been carried out since 2007 to date (Bard et
In this graph it is possible to classify three
al., 2007, Palma 2009 and Dorador 2010) using
ranges of D50 (0.5 to 2 mm, 2 to 7 mm and higher
the large triaxial device at Idiem Institute in Chile
of 7 mm). Thus, for a constant value of emin, the
(Verdugo 2007).
emax is less for higher values of D50.
According to Figure 7, these large triaxial series
The probably explanation of this result can be
didn’t undergo the steep fall in strength such as the
the following. When the minimum density test is
materials analyzed by Leps. The reason why is
conducted, the larger particles that are being
because these entire tests had a contractive
poured into the mold seem to compress the
behavior due to low relative density or low particle
smaller particles, which are on top of the particle’s
strength (E.R material) and the peak strength was
pile. This produces a local compaction and
never obtained.
therefore a higher minimum density.

E.R - RD=80% Dorador (2010)
Average rockfill
4. Leps chart Update Leps (1970) R.L RD=60% Dorador (2010)

Bard (2007) leached Waste
One alternative way for obtaining the shear
Leps (1970) Cachuma 3" Quartz
strength on coarse soils or rockfill is using the Leps
Secant friction angle (°)

Chart (1970) which allows obtaining the secant Palma M-1 (2009)

friction angle based on the confining pressure and

strength of the material. Leps made a collection 40
from the literature of 100 large triaxial tests in
rockfill materials, and he defined three bands that
fix the soil strength (Low, average and high
strength, Figure 6).
Most of these tests were conducted by Marsal 30
(1965 and 1967) using the first large triaxial device 0.1 1 10 100 1000
Normal pressure sn [kg/cm2]
in the world, which was used in studying the rockfill
materials of Infiernillo Dam. After Leps, this chart
Figure 7. Contractive behavior of Rockfills
Fifth International Young Geotechnical Engineering Conference - 5iYGEC’13.

Thus, it is very important to knowing the state of Cubrinovski, M. and Ishihara, K. (2002). Maximum
the coarse soil in the field. For example, the Leps and minimum void ratio characteristics of
chart could be used for estimating the shear sands. Soils and Foundations, 42 (6): 65-78.
strength of rockfills dams, where the construction De la Hoz, K. (2007). Estimación de los
material is typically well compacted. parámetros de resistencia al corte en suelos
However, the Leps chart is not recommended granulares gruesos, Tesis de Ingeniero Civil y
to be used in waste rock dumps, Dump leached Magister. FCFM. Universidad de Chile.
material or coarse soils from mining which are Santiago, Chile.
placed in the field by dumping. This is because Dorador, L. (2010). Análisis experimental de las
these materials are going to behave contractively, metodologías de curvas homotéticas y corte en
not reaching peak strength (due to low in situ la evaluación de propiedades geotécnicas de
density of the material) and so, not having the suelos gruesos. Tesis de Ingeniero Civil y
steep fall in strength proposed by the chart. Magister. FCFM Universidad de Chile,
Santiago, Chile.
Gesche, R. (2002). Metodología de evaluación de
4. Conclusions parámetros de resistencia al corte de suelos
granulares gruesos. Tesis de Ingeniero Civil,
This article intends to show some considerations FCFM. Universidad de Chile. Santiago, Chile.
that should be included when conducting a Kezdi, A. (1979). Soil physics. Amsterdam:
geotechnical characterization on soils with oversize Elsevier.
(coarse granular soils). Leps, T. (1970). Review of Shearing strength of
The minimum and maximum void index on rockfill. Journal of the Soil Mechanics and
coarse soils was studied and the correlation Foundations Division, 96(4): 1159-1170.
between emin and CU was discussed. Here, it is Marsal R.J, et al. (1965). Research on the
proposed to improving this correlation on soils with Behavior of the Granular Material and Rockfill
CU higher than 100 and so, to corroborate if the Samples. Comision Federal de Electricidad,
soil density increases after high values of CU. Mexico.
The influence of D50 in the emax was studied. It Marsal R.J (1967). Large Scale Testing of Rockfill
was found that higher D50 implies lesser emax (or Materials, ASCE Journal of the Soil Mechanics
higher minimum density), maybe associated to that and Foundation Division, Vol, 93, No SM2.
larger particles tend to produce a better USA.
arrangement with smaller particles when the Palma C. (2009). Caracterización geotécnica de
material is poured into the mold. materiales de lastre en botaderos de gran
Finally, the Leps chart for rockfill strength was altura mediante ensayos triaxiales y
discussed. Based on new large triaxial device from odométricos de gran tamaño. III Conferencia
IDIEM Institute, several soils with oversize were Sudamericana de Ingenieros Geotécnicos,
tested and they didn’t reach the peak secant Córdoba, Argentina.
friction angle and therefore, they didn’t follow the Verdugo, R., Peters G. and Bejarano I. (2007).
steep fall in strength proposed by Leps. These new Evaluación de parámetros geomecánicos de
tests were conducted with low confection density suelos gruesos. VI Congreso Chileno de
or low particle strength, which resulted in a Geotecnia, Valparaíso, Chile.
contractive behavior on the tests and therefore its
didn’t reach the peak strength. Thus, Leps chart
should overestimate the strength for low density
materials or coarse soils with low particle strength.

5. References

Al-Hussaini, m. (1983). Effect of particle size and

strain conditions on the strength of crushed
basalt. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 20(4):
Bard, E., Campaña, J.,Aanabalón, M., Apablaza,
R. (2007). Comportamiento de lastre rom
sometido a altas presiones. Libro de
resúmenes, VI Congreso Chileno de Geotecnia,
Valparaíso Chile.
Biarez, J. and Hicher, P-Y (1994), Elementary
Mechnics of Soil Behaviour. Saturated
Remoulded Soils. A. A. Balkema, Rotterdam.

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