Arizona Mine Ore Conveyor Bridge Collapse
On 23 Dec 1997, a portion of the main ore conveyor at a large mine collapsed onto a highway and shut down mine operations. The conveyor structure that collapsed was supported by a steel truss spanning 185 ft. Truss failure occurred just as the conveyor transport rate was increased to 8,260 tph. Under this total loading, which was only slightly above the regular operating condition, a poorly designed and fabricated transition joint in the west lower chord failed, thereby overloading other key structural members and causing the entire truss to collapse. Another contributing cause of the collapse was the transition joint welds, where the fracture originated. They were made with undersized fillet welds, 20% smaller than specified on the original fabrication drawing. Because of the poorly designed joint detail and the deficient welds, both of which concentrated stress and strain in the low ductility direction of the transition joint plate, lamellar tearing of plate material occurred at the boxed I-beam fillet weld attachment. Brittle fracture of this joint precipitated global collapse of the truss structure.