Name: Clay mineralogy in landslide hazard assessment 
Project status: From: 2016-01-01 To: 2017-12-31 (Completed)
Type (Programme): BILAT 
Project funding: -
International partner
Organisation Name: University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences 
Organisation adress: Gregor-Mendel-Straße 33, 1180 Vienna 
Organisation country: Austria 
Contact person name: Dr. Wolfgang Straka 
Contact person email: Email 
Croatian partner
Organisation name: Rudarsko-geološko-naftni fakultet 
Organisation address: Pierottijeva 6 
Contact person name: Marta Mileusnić
Contact person tel:
+385 1 5535 797  Contact person fax:  
Contact person e-mail: Email 
Short description of project
Landslides, the gravitational movement of hill slope materials, constitute a serious natural hazard in many parts of Croatia and Austria, especially for built-up areas and traffic lines. They are sometimes linked to other hazards such as extreme weather, and weigh heavily on the workload as well as the budget of local, regional and national government that have to deal with the problems in years when those events occur frequently, such as catastrophic landslides occurred in 2013 and 2014 in SW Croatia caused by extreme hydro-meteorological events, i.e., precipitation. Landslides and other types of ground failure are natural phenomena that would occur with or without human activity. However, human land use and more specifically the expansion of suburban and industrial development and mineral extraction, has led to an significant increase in these events. The materials composing a slope affect both type and frequency of downslope movements. The main goals of the project are: (1) detailed mineralogical determination of materials (with emphasis on clay minerals) involved in sliding, especially the materials attached to sliding surfaces and deformation zones; (2) to assess the depth of the deformation zone by geophysical technique, such is electric polarization. There are several factors which are not well understood. Weathering, as well as deformation caused by movement change material and rock mass properties by new mineral formation and other reactions on mineral surfaces, rearrangement of mineral grains, breakage of rock bridges resisting the movement etc. Incomprehension of the interplay of these factors diminishes our ability to gain advanced information about the behaviour of a slope necessary for land use planning and civil engineering options. The purposes of the project therefore are: (1) to improve our understanding of, the role of earthen, especially clay, materials in slope stability and in slope behaviour; and (2) to assess if the material deformation affects its physical properties. The investigation in the frame of the proposed project will be carried on the famous landslides from both countries. The behaviour of the slope at those case studies is well known because of long term monitoring due to high risk of serious damage to structures and even fatalities. Collected data will be a good base for proposed investigation. In order to achieve the objectives set, interdisciplinary approach and the cooperation of scientists from four different areas, mineralogy, engineering geology, geophysics and geotechnics are necessary. The proposed project will advance our mutual understanding of the role the clay mineralogy and the clay geophysics (polarisable material) in the assessment of hillslope processes and stability. Engineering geologists know outlines about both methods, but tend to apply them in a summary fashion, treating clay as a rock mass with certain geomechanical properties, and geophysics as a supplement to “direct” methods like drilling.  
Short description of the task performed by Croatian partner
Investigation in the frame of project will include cabinet, field and laboratory work. Cabinet work at the beginning of the project will be consisted of analysis and interpretations of available data to define the context in which sampling, geophysical and analytical investigation have to be put. Fieldwork will include sampling and induced polarization measurements in the field. The main laboratory analytical methods which will be performed on samples are: x-ray diffraction (XRD) with detailed analysis of clay minerals; cation exchange capacity (CEC) and grain size analysis. At the end of project cabinet work with interpretation of collected data will be performed, as well as analysis of the possibility to assess lab-derived properties by geophysical means, in the case that direct access is not possible. Two students from Croatia will conduct their master theses in the frame of the project. At the end of the project we will organize workshops for students of University of Zagreb, where previous knowledge will be evaluated in the light of the new results. Results of the project will be presented at the 4th World Landslide Forum in 2017 (Ljubljana, Slovenia) and the Mid-European Clay Conference in 2018 (Zagreb, Croatia). The excursions during these conferences will have a stop at the Kostanjek landslide and the Grohovo landslide, two of our case study sites.  


Design by: M. Mačinković

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