A view of one of the pilot sites of the project
Team visiting one of the tailing dams in Cajamarca (Peru)
There is an evident need for a cost-effective means of monitoring both operational and abandoned tailings dams, especially those in remote locations, to help forecast potentially catastrophic failures. This project, funded by the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme, aims to provide a proof of concept of more cost-effective systems for remotely measuring the displacements of tailings dams and other tailings deposit areas utilising Earth Observation (EO) and Global Navigation Satellite System technologies, combined with real-time in-situ devices.
Tailings dams are earth embankments used to store toxic mine waste and effluent which can be more than 100m high. They are often constructed with steep slopes using the tailings to save on costs. Keeping these structures intact over many decades is challenging. Their rate of failure is higher than for traditional water-retaining dams, owing to several factors including continual raising, and in some cases less rigorous construction methods or supervision than for normal water-retaining dams, especially in low-income countries.
The project aims to:
This will contribute towards two of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
The project involves working with multi-national mining companies, and local stakeholders in Peru, to test the approach on a number of sites, either operational, closed or abandoned.
The project consortium is made up of UK partners: Telespazio VEGA, Siemens Corporate Technology, Satellite Applications Cataplut, Oxford Policy Management, and the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford; and Peruvian partners: Ciemam SAC, the National Foundation for Hydraulic Engineering (Peru), and the National University of Cajamarca (School of Hydraulic Engineering and Faculty of Engineering).
This project is funded by
Exploiting remote sensing data to monitor tailings dams more effectively should allow for quicker action to be taken to avoid dam failures