Previous and recent tailings dam failures have created an urgent need for improved waste disposal, storage processes and monitoring capabilities.
Currently, the integrity of the tailings dam infrastructure is often monitored by mining staff walking along the perimeter and visually inspecting the exterior. Piezometer-like devices are also placed throughout dams to measure changes in liquid pressure.
Combined, Mining3 said, these methods provide subjective data that cannot deliver an ongoing and accurate assessment of the integrity of these waste storage facilities.
The research group explained that with a web of small, interconnected sensors spread across a tailings dam or spoil dump, accurate measurements in the change of water pressure or movement in the soil can be delivered to the surface in real time. This can provide up to date readings of environmental factors that can affect overall wall stability.
The research will also delve into identifying indicators and precursors to failures, in relation to data collected from these sensors.
The current project addresses key industry outcomes surrounding safety and the removal of personnel from hazardous situations, such as those involved in ground stability, the investigation of material properties and their implications in the design and functionality of a dump site, and the investigation into aspects of effective mine closure and the long-term impacts associated with tailings dams and spoil dumps.
Mining3 said it intends to increase its research into the autonomous sensors of tailings dams and spoil dumps and invites interested parties to collaborate through the process.