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Tailings monitoring tech making headway in African mining

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TECH STARTING UP More attention is being paid to tailings storage facility safety monitoring technology amid the introduction of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management and in response to several recent tailings storage facility failures

24th November 2023

By: Sabrina Jardim

Creamer Media Online Writer

     

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Geotechnical instrumentation supplier, installer and monitoring company Terra Monitoring – a subsidiary of geotechnical services group GeoGroup – is installing a ShapeArray electronic monitoring system for a mining company in South Africa.

ShapeArrays monitor the deformation of soils and structures on a tailings storage facility (TSF) and can be installed inside inclinometer casings to automate existing systems.

This project comes amid the introduction of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM) and in response to several recent TSF failures.

These include the collapse of the Jagersfontein tailings dam, in the Free State, the collapse of a TSF at the Williamson mine, in Tanzania, both in 2022; and the Brumadinho TSF failure of 2019, in Brazil – all of which have heightened awareness on the importance of effective TSF monitoring solutions.

Terra Monitoring geotechnician Schalk Prinsloo says more attention is being paid to TSF safety monitoring technology.

“As a smart monitoring solution, ShapeArrays function around 75% quicker than traditional monitoring systems such as inclinometers. “This technology provides a more proactive and intelligent monitoring system that allows for effective insights and anomaly detection,” he explains.

The ShapeArray project started earlier this year and is expected to be completed in 2024.

As a group of companies, the GeoGroup offers turnkey solutions, such as geotechnical investigations, sonic drilling, seismic cone penetration tests – or S-CPTu – and other various in situ tests to manage TSFs better.

Geotechnical investigations include sonic drilling services to reduce the amount of water coming into a TSF during the drilling process, which, in turn, increases the chances of retrieving samples found in softer materials such as tailings.

“We have three sonic rigs in South Africa that offer wash boring and piezometer installations. “Our technicians can conduct cone penetration tests using pore water pressure measurement, as well as dissipation, and seismic testing and electronic vane shear,” says Terra Monitoring operations manager Barry Kruger.

Once samples are taken, the company manages the process of sending them to laboratories and ensuring that the data received is clear and accurate.

Solutions

Terra Monitoring offers various TSF monitoring solutions for mining companies such as diversified natural resource company Glencore, diversified miner Anglo American and minerals company Tronox.

These solutions include the installation of data loggers with remote communication capabilities that allow for data to be reported back in near real-time.

Solutions also include the installation of instrumentation technologies that can be integrated with monitoring systems and be configured remotely to increase or decrease data-collection intervals.

The company also offers logging systems that can be accompanied by live monitoring screens installed in control rooms that display warnings when facilities are at risk.

However, despite the benefits of smart monitoring solutions, small and medium-sized mines are often unable to install fully automated systems, owing to financial constraints and issues related to theft.

Hence, it is possible to install smart data systems without having full data logger access and capabilities installed in a network, adds Prinsloo.

“Terra Monitoring aims to become the leader in installation and monitoring of instrumentation in sub-Saharan Africa. “With over 40 years’ experience, we are looking forward to what the future for TSF monitoring holds for the industry. We pride ourselves on growing as new systems evolve,” Kruger concludes.

Edited by Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer

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