In the process of mineral development, large-scale flash floods (or debris flows) can be induced by the failure of landslide dams formed by the disorganized stacking of mine waste. In this study, the modes and processes of mine waste dam failures were explored using 13 experimental tests based on the field investigation of landslide dams in the Xiaoqinling gold mining area in China. Our 13 mine waste dam experiments exhibited three failure modes: (i) Piping, overtopping, and erosion; (ii) overtopping and soil collapse; and (iii) overtopping and erosion. In addition, the failure processes of the landslide dams included impoundment, seepage, overtopping, and soil erosion. Different experimental conditions would inevitably lead to different failure processes and modes, with the failure modes being primarily determined by the seepage characteristics. Overtopping was the triggering condition for dam failure. The landslide dam failure process was determined based on the particle size of the mine waste and the shape of the dam. These findings will provide a scientific reference for the prevention and mitigation of natural hazards in mining areas.
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