Earthmoving equipment working on a progressively placed cover layer over mine tailings often experiences catastrophic 'rotational' (or 'punch-through') failure, with potential for loss of the equipment and harm to the operator. Although the performance of foundations on a homogeneous sand or clay slope is routinely calculated and investigated, comprehensive investigation of a thin, stronger slope overlying a softer layer is scarce. This paper reports the results of centrifuge model tests undertaken to provide insight into strip foundation behaviour during penetration, with freedom in horizontal displacement and rotation, adjacent to a sand embankment (cover layer), into a weaker clay layer (representing mine tailings). Variables were the set-back of the edge of the foundation from the crest of the slope, the height of the slope relative to the foundation size, and the normalised strength of the lower clay layer. Soil movement was captured continuously by a digital camera, and subsequently quantified through particle image velocimetry (PIV) analysis. The load-penetration responses were separately recorded. The effect of normalised set-back ratio (λ = b/B), slope height (η/ = H/B) and clay strength (sus/γcB) on the evolving soil flow mechanisms and the penetration resistance profile is discussed in the context of the likelihood and severity of failure. Rotational failure, with a peak in penetration resistance followed by some reduction, occurred for all cases investigated except for a higher set-back of λ = 1.5. The severity of failure was greater the closer the proximity of the footing to the slope crest, and the greater the height of the slope, whereas it reduced as the normalised strength of the lower layer increased. Typical critical failure occurred in clear shear planes pushing a (nominally) rigid block of soil, with the shape of a hemisphere followed by a wedge, towards the slope.