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The Practice of Engineering Geology in the Planning and Construction of the City of Canberra, A.C.T., Australia


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Author Best EJ, Carter EK, Henderson GAM, Wilson EG, de Vries D


Canberra is a planned city in which the natural environment, rather than existing development and land tenure, has until recent times at least, imposed the major constraints to development. Even redevelopment poses fewer problems than for most cities. Geological conditions have, therefore, played a significant role in determining its shape and layout. The Canberra experience has relevance for major new mining and engineering projects. The role of engineering geologists and geophysicists in Canberra’s development is described, and the problems arising from the geological environment are illustrated by several case histories. Four aspects are addressed: pre-development urban geology; major engineering projects; resources evaluation, including groundwater; and post-development problem-solving. The Australian Capital Territory lies within the Palaeozoic Lachlan Fold Belt. Within the ACT the belt is composed of folded and faulted metasiltstones, metasandstones and acid volcanics, intruded by a major granitic pluton. Some limestone lenses occur. The region has been part of a land mass since Late Devonian times and landscape evolution has been very complex. Geological features of special geotechnical significance include deep but variable weathering, with slight to moderate weathering along faults to at least 70 metres depth in places, and consequential foundation problems; close jointing; weathered limestone lenses with solution cavities containing clay and water; confined aquifers containing artesian water in scree deposits flanking hills; the presence of pyrite; and poor quality and low volumes of groundwater.