Engineering Geological and Geotechnical Characterisation of Selected Port Hills Lavas

Type of content
Theses / Dissertations
Publisher's DOI/URI
Thesis discipline
Engineering Geology
Degree name
Master of Science
University of Canterbury. Geological Sciences
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Mukhtar, Jonathan-Adam

This thesis aims to create a specific and robust geotechnical data set for the Lyttelton Volcanic Group, and investigate the effect of emplacement and post-emplacement mechanisms on geotechnical characteristics. The thesis provides an engineering geological model of a representative section of the Lyttelton Volcanic Complex, which, in conjunction with field observations, informed the subdivision of the main lithological groups into geotechnical sub-units.

The sub-units account for the geological variations within the rock types of this study. Eighteen geotechnical sub-units were identified, sampled and characterised: 1trachytic dykes, 2trachytic domes, 3trachytic lava, 4brecciated basaltic ignimbrite, 5moderately welded basaltic ignimbrite, 6highly welded basaltic ignimbrite, 7red ash, 8crystal dominated tuff, 9lithic dominated tuff, 10rubbly basaltic breccia, 11unweathered basaltic lava, 12slightly to moderately weathered basaltic lava, 13highly to completely weathered basaltic lava, 14highly vesicular basaltic lava bomb, 15basaltic dyke, 16blocky basaltic lava, 17volcanogenic conglomerate and 18volcanogenic tuffaceous sandstone. Thirteen units were able geotechnically tested. Sample preparation and geotechnical testing followed ASTM and ISRM guidelines respectively. Geotechnical testing included: uniaxial compressive strength (σci), point load strength index (Is(50)), porosity (n), density (ρd), P and S wave velocities (Vp and Vs), slake durability (Id2), Young’s Modulus (E), Poisson’s Ratio (υ), shear modulus (G) and bulk modulus (K). The igneous lithologies included in this study have been characterised using the Detailed Engineering Geological Igneous Descriptive Scheme, developed purposely for the needs of the thesis.

The results of laboratory testing showed many strong trends with geological characteristics and relationships between geotechnical parameters. Parameters such as porosity, density, P-wave velocities, Young’s Modulus and point load strength showed very strong correlations with uniaxial compressive strength. Variability in the physical and mechanical properties is attributed to the geological factors, which dictate the material behaviour. These include texture, grain size, composition, welding, lithification, flow banding, percentage and size of phenocrysts/clasts/lithics. Geological factors affecting geotechnical behaviour are a function of emplacement mechanism. Four distinct emplacement mechanisms were identified in this study: lava flows, pyroclastic density currents, intrusions (dykes) and airfall deposits. Typically, lava flows and intrusions have higher strength, durability, density and lower porosity than pyroclastics and airfall deposits. Importantly, the data illustrates a considerable variability in some geotechnical parameters within the same unit (e.g. 58-193 MPa strength variation in the unweathered basaltic lava). Variability within rocks with similar emplacement mechanisms is attributed to the effects of post-emplacement mechanisms and processes (e.g. weathering, alteration and micro/macro fracturing leading to lower strength).

Evaluation of engineering geological and geotechnical parameters of rock and soil materials are required for engineering purposes, specifically when any form of design is required. This study has highlighted the importance and necessity to identify volcanic lithologies and features correctly as there are consequences for geotechnical behaviour, and that volcanic data from literature data should not be used without the correct degree of ground-truthing and geological context. Location-specific engineering geological data are necessary for the quantitation of variability in engineering geological characterisation for engineering geological models, designs and simulations in the Port Hills Volcanics.

rock mechanics data, Lyttelton volcanic group, port hills, volcanics, geology, engineering geology
Ngā upoko tukutuku/Māori subject headings
ANZSRC fields of research
Copyright Jonathan-Adam Mukhtar