Nottingham Centre for Geomechanics

Sustainable Use of Mining Waste Dumps

Project Focus and Objectives

Sustainable Use of Mining Waste Dumps (SUMAD) is an European Commission’s Research Fund for Coal and Steel (RFCS) funded project (proposal number: 847227). The aim of the SUMAD project is to determine ways to 


optimise the use and long-term management of mining spoil dumps. Spoil dumps are the massive heaps of overburden materials that are excavated during the coal extraction process. The spoils can contain a wide range of rock fragments and fines. Randomness in the dumping process, various methods for the excavation and transportation and local site effects can influence the spoil behaviour in a dump site. Hence, the dump spoil materials are usually considered as heterogeneous and exhibit a time-dependent mechanical behaviour. This project unites European experts to investigate the future use of made-ground consisting of coal-mining spoil with a focus on geotechnical, sustainability, environmental and socio-economic challenges.  

A typical Soil Dump Site

An example of a spoil dump site (credits: INERIS)

SUMAD involves innovative physical and numerical modelling with advanced risk assessment, which will be applied to different sustainable rehabilitation schemes with a particular focus on the technical viability of developing renewable energy infrastructure. Currently, insufficient knowledge exists to cost-effectively and efficiently construct large scale infrastructure on spoil-dumps. SUMAD will change this by breaking through the current state-of-the-art and setting a new benchmark for the sustainable revitalisation of post-mining spoil dumps. The project ought to result in the development of an operational computer-based risk management tool (SUMAD RMT) for the reuse of mining waste dumps. This will not only improve processes but also increase existing knowledge and technology and start the process of putting into practice the new techniques and knowledge developed. 

Project Objectives:

  • Identify and characterise spoil dumps from across Europe and recommend suitable candidate sites for use as case studies within the project
  • Perform a geotechnical and environmental assessment of selected sites
  • Identify potential revitalisation activities, in addition to the deployment of wind turbines and photovoltaic cells and assess their technical and socio-economic viability
  • Assess the socio-economic and political restraints and motivations concerning site revitalisation
  • Develop methodologies for physical (centrifuge) modelling of spoil material, including the capability to replicate long-term degradation and creep effects
  • Design and test foundation systems suitable for candidate sites
  • Select and refine a constitutive model capable of simulating the complicated mechanical behaviour of spoil material
  • Validate a numerical modelling tool against the physical modelling and site data and utilise the model to examine the influence of a wide range of site parameters
  • Examine ground improvement techniques that would allow installation of more sensitive equipment/structures on candidate sites
  • Develop suitable monitoring techniques to track the behaviour of installed infrastructure
  • Develop a global risk management tool utilising information gleaned from throughout the entire project
  • Introduce geotechnical reliability concepts to address issues related to the heterogeneity and variability present in spoil material, thereby permitting a more accurate geotechnical risk assessment of post-operational works.

 EN-Funded by the EU-POS

 Project Partners

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Nottingham Centre for Geomechanics

Faculty of Engineering
The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD