UK-based RSK Group's pre-construction services company Central Alliance has been commissioned by the UK Coal Authority to undertake an extensive satellite mapping project to assess colliery spoil tips in South Wales.
The Welsh government said that the work, which has been funded by the Welsh government as part of the Coal Tips Safety programme, will uphold its commitment to proactive assessment of climate change by adding value to the assessment and monitoring of disused coal tips
The project will utilise GroundSat, a newly developed soil moisture mapping technique developed by Central Alliance in collaboration with satellite technology partner Asterra. GroundSat is an adaptation of technology that is used to search for water on other planets, and uses space-borne remote observation techniques. It can be used to remotely measure soil moisture levels below ground level, assess sites and identify geotechnical risks or drainage issues before they have an impact on critical infrastructure, construction projects and development sites.
GroundSat will be used to undertake high-resolution soil moisture data and analysis across 10 different local authorities in South Wales, covering coal tips and surrounding areas. The assessment will be used to confirm the effectiveness of existing drainage systems, as well as identifying any hidden moisture which could represent a future risk.
Richard Pidcock, joint managing director at Central Alliance, commented: "It's fantastic that the Welsh Government and the Coal Authority are turning to the latest technology proactively, to help provide reassurance that existing drainage systems are effective and to identify hidden wet areas.
"As we have seen from recent extreme weather events from around the world, it is vitally important to monitor the impact of climate change, and the GroundSat satellite mapping project will form an important dataset for that assessment, confirming the Welsh Government's commitment to proactive assessment of climate change."
Lori Frater Head of the Welsh government's Coal Tip Safety Task Force, added: "Alongside engineering works, technology has an important role to play in ensuring the safety of disused coal tips. It's important that all possible means of monitoring of tips over the long-term are considered and funding different technology trials helps to ensure we have appropriate approaches in place."
The first phase of the project is due to start this month, capturing data in relatively drier months. A second phase will be introduced early next year to capture seasonal change in winter.
Tim Marples, head of tips response at the Coal Authority, said: "We are pleased to engage Central Alliance to undertake this innovative review which we believe has the potential to add value to the project. We look forward to working with Central Alliance to assess this technology and the opportunities it presents."