A multidisciplinary integrated approach for the study of heterogeneous rock masses is presented herein with the aim of providing a characterization of one of the widest flysch formations of northeastern Sicily. The Capo d'Orlando Flysch is indeed affected by a geotechnical heterogeneity arising from the alternation of sandstone banks and siltstone layers occurring in different proportions and showing peculiar features. This is the main responsible of the uneven mechanical strength offered by these different lithological compartments and deserves an in-depth study. To this purpose, an integrated sedimentological-geomechanical study is the focus of this research, which was initially carried out through rock mass surveys aimed at recognizing the different facies associations and their distribution along selected outcrops. Sedimentological logs were followed by rock mass geomechanical surveys for the assessment of the quality of the rock and its discontinuities. All these elements concurred in the definition of the Geological Strength Index, which is preparatory for the estimation of the main mechanical properties of the rock mass through the Hoek and Brown failure criterion. Results show that the lithological compartments occurring within flysch rock masses strongly condition their mechanical attitude. In fact, sandstone portions behave as massive/fractured rock mass characterized by specific geomechanical properties, which are lowered by the presence of siltstone layers. For this reason, the definition of the facies associations (F.A.) affecting the rock mass, along with their geomechanical characterization, is a useful integrated activity to avoid overestimating or underestimating the mechanical attitude of flysch rock masses, especially when engineering geological works have to be designed.
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