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Miners look to alternative solutions to monitor tailings during pandemic

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Mining & Resources / Tailings Storage Facilities

Miners look to alternative solutions to monitor tailings during pandemic

Highlights

  • The COVID-19 crisis has forced operations to adjust their tailings monitoring techniques with technology and proper planning

  • Remote cameras, unmanned aerial vehicles and remote satellite data uploaded from monitoring instruments allow employees to see the tailings dams without the need to leave quarantine or go outside
  • Decipher’s Tailings solution can be securely and remotely accessed by industry, regulators, designers and operators involved in the management of TSFs
  • See what score you get for your TSF management
  • Decipher solves tech challenge for Rio Tinto
  • Download this FREE guide to find out about the 57 major tailings dam failures (2000 – 2020)
  • Are you ready for the next round of Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative reports? Watch this FREE webinar to learn more

 

With the COVID-19 pandemic upending the way mines conduct operations, as well as the not-so-distant memories of high profile tailings dam disasters such as Mount Polley and Brumadinho still in the public’s mind, miners have had no choice but to adapt and look for new solutions to continue effective dam monitoring during this crisis.

In an e-mail communiqué to its members, Catrin Bryan, president of the Canadian Dam Association (CDA), offered suggestions to dam owners that have had to alter their operations to support measures such as social distancing and quarantining. However, while mining companies face the same challenges as dam owners during this pandemic, the nature of tailings dams and the remote locations of many mine sites pose their own unique challenges.

See what score you get for your TSF management

“Owners continue to perform critical dam safety monitoring (particularly associated with critical controls) while also implementing special procedures that include social distancing, disinfecting and screening of staff as they arrive on site,” Bryan wrote to CIM Magazine.

“These steps can be particularly challenging for mines with remote camps and that require air travel.” As well, the implementation of quarantines for employees arriving on site has also made it more difficult for those responsible for monitoring tailings dams to monitor for lengthy stretches of time.

Tailings facilities are different from normal dams in that they are constructed or raised at the same time that tailings are being deposited, Bryan said, as opposed to water dams that are constructed prior to reservoir filling. As such, constant monitoring of active tailings storage facilities is paramount when it comes to mitigating the risks present when adding additional material to the dam.

The solution

The solution, according to Bryan, is to focus on the fundamentals of dam safety described in the CDA guidelines, even for companies that haven’t put in place an effective strategy for environmental monitoring during the COVID-19 crisis.

“It is never too late to implement or improve dam safety monitoring, and dam safety management is always subject to continuous improvement initiatives,” she wrote.

A big part of those initiatives includes the use of technology that can help circumvent the disadvantages posed by COVID-19 safety measures. Remote cameras, unmanned aerial vehicles and remote satellite data uploaded from monitoring instruments allow employees to see the tailings dams without the need to leave quarantine or go outside. One example Bryan points to is the use of trail cameras connected to cellular networks that send photos of spillways periodically so that they can be inspected for debris accumulation without sending someone to the site.

Once companies take steps to implement these measures, they’ll have to work to integrate them into their regular procedures alongside all the other responsibilities that come with operating a mine. As part of its guidelines, the CDA encourages dam owners to review their plans for emergencies and unusual events and how they will be implemented with the pandemic staffing restrictions.

“Monitoring and emergency planning activities remain essential for safe performance regardless of the mine’s operating status.”

Originally published by CIM Magazine

 

Effectively monitor your tailings storage facility with Decipher

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Following the tragic events in Brumadinho in Brazil last year, it’s more important than ever to address the issue of monitoring tailings dams across the world in real time.

Decipher’s Tailings solution is designed to provide you with key data and insights, enabling you to effectively monitor your TSF and your environmental obligations and compliance. Our solution can be securely and remotely accessed by industry, regulators, designers and operators involved in the management of TSFs.

Decipher offers a comprehensive and functionally rich solution which combines regulatory (Compliance Management Software), mining waste management, stakeholder engagement, environmental monitoring, and environmental management system (EMS) tools to assist with tailings management:

  • View real-time data and receive exceedance alerts
  • Monitor land movement with remote sensing and InSAR datasets
  • Visualise real-time LiDAR data with insights into dam movement
  • Securely store and access all of your tailings data in the one place
  • Upload and reference key documentation
  • Visualise facilities across multiple sites in a single screen on a geospatial map
  • Monitor your facilities with InSAR, LiDAR, DEM and more
  • Capture a wide range of monitoring data and indicators su
    ch as surface and groundwater, decant pond water levels and quality, and embankment conditions
  • Capture and track obligations and conditions around your licence to operate to manage your key risks and actions
  • Action and task delegation for data collection with reminders
  • Maintain and track environmental monitoring compliance limits and exceedances
  • Manage and engage with all of your stakeholders with one central repository
  • Convert your engagements into actionable outcomes
  • Forecast, plan and track your sites activities using IBM’s Weather data
  • Create corporate report templates and meet requests for data provision from industry groups such as ICMM, Global Tailings Portal, PRI and UNEP
  • Integration capability with third party systems or public portals such as the Global Tailings Portal

 

 

 

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