The demand for early-warning systems for tailings facilities and/or dams has increased exponentially, subsequent to the Vale incident, suggests geotechnical civil and mining instrumentation company Terra Monitoring operations director Robin Schmidt.
Therefore, the company – a member of geotechnical service provider GeoGroup – introduced its Data Logger System, which can monitor all installed tailings instruments remotely.
Terra Monitoring has worked closely with its partners, geotechnical instrumentation manufacturer Geosense UK, and dataloggers and data acquisition company Campbell Scientific South Africa, to create the system.
“This remote system is fully compatible with satellite, third-generation and telemetry communication,” highlights Schmidt.
“Although it is too early to report back on the system’s efficacy, it has been implemented at a few tailings facilities in and around South Africa,” he enthuses.
He adds that the Data Logger System offers numerous benefits such as improving knowledge of the most critical potential failure mechanisms. It can also detect situations that are likely to trigger a failure and can double as a tool to model a dam’s growth.
The system provides a “sound basis” for the establishment and implementation of a “proper” response in the event of a failure involving human hazards, and also offers long-term monitoring that requires limited maintenance.
Schmidt adds that the system is installed out of general view of the public, which reduces the likelihood of vandalism – a problem that, unfortunately, affects most tailings facilities in South Africa.
“Importantly, the amount of data and the regularity with which it is collected through wireless monitoring solutions provides a foundation for accurate risk analysis, and for building risk-potential models. This is key to long-term risk planning and understanding critical failure mechanisms.”
He explains that wireless monitoring systems enable companies to take corrective action as soon as possible, preferably before any incident occurs.
Such systems enable operators to not only use solid data to implement models that show the probable status of a dam and its environs but also plan for possible changes and incidents within the context of the dam’s growth.
Equipped with the ability to model future incidents and respond predictively, operators can establish set responses to particular incidents that regularly occur by setting up contingency plans to mitigate the effects of an emergency.
New technology is always evolving – using satellites for remote communication has become more advanced and is user-friendly, with this being more accessible also making them an attractive option for clients, reports Schmidt.