A series of direct simple shear (DSS) tests were carried out on a non-plastic sandy silt lead zinc silver tailings to develop a relationship between undrained shearing behaviour and density for contractive states. The critical state line was also obtained through triaxial compression tests to enable the DSS tests to be viewed in a critical state framework and allow comparison with in situ testing. It was found that the gravimetric water content (GWC) used to tamp the specimens had a significant effect on the resulting undrained strengths when attempting to achieve dense states — with higher GWC giving lower strength at a given density than a lower GWC. Intact and slurry deposited (SD) samples were also tested to access denser states without inducing tamping-related stresses. These showed a more consistent trend with the loose-tamped specimens, and with other data from the literature. Plausible explanations as to the causes of the increased strength of dense-tamped samples were obtained through estimating potential preconsolidation stresses and “locked in” horizontal stresses that may occur from dense tamping. The importance of these observations on the development of density strength profiles in engineering practice was outlined.