Sponsored by: CGG

Eyes Wide Open with MineScope

Recent tailings dam failures have raised serious concerns about the safety of mine operations and have demonstrated a need for improved situational awareness across mine sites. CGG’s Satellite Mapping team are world leaders in the provision of satellite intelligence - when mine operations need greater insight, they trust CGG to provide it.

Do you know the history of your tailings storage facilities (TSF), their impoundment volumes, and stability? Have you formally analysed downstream impacts in the event of failure, and do you have a long-term monitoring plan in place? These were just some of the questions posed by mining investors as part of a formal request for disclosure in the aftermath of the Brumadinho tailings dam disaster.

High resolution (55 cm) optical satellite image of an operational mine.

Includes material © KARI 2018. Distribution (SI Imaging Services, Republic of Korea), all rights reserved

More than half of the country’s coal mines are managed by pro-Russian separatist militia.

Credit: DmyTo/Shutterstock.

Disaster response

The Brumadinho tailings incident occurred on 25th January 2019 in Minas Gerais state, Brazil, home to vast iron ore reserves and some of the world’s biggest mining companies. The event resulted in at least 248 deaths and widespread environmental damage. A little over three years earlier, on 5th November 2015, the Bento Rodrigues (Samarco) TSF failure also occurred in Brazil. At the time of failure the Samarco TSF was in active operation and was in a very different phase of its life compared to Brumadinho, which was being decommissioned when it failed. Both of these TSFs were built using upstream construction, a method considered most likely to fail, especially whilst the TSF is in operation (Rico et al., 2008).

On average there are two reported and two unreported tailings incidents each year (Commonwealth of Australia 2016), and as mentioned, it has been concluded that the TSFs that are most vulnerable are those currently in operation. The Brumadinho disaster bucked this trend and has raised serious concerns about how a TSF undergoing decommissioning, can catastrophically fail, seemingly without warning.

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Remote insight throughout the mining lifecycle

With a magnifying glass on the industry and its TSFs under scrutiny, it was obvious to CGG the vast amounts of satellite imagery available for mine sites across the world would be a vital record of intelligence for mining companies working on their disclosure audits. To make their established mining solutions as accessible as possible during this challenging time, CGG launched their MineScope service.

MineScope is a comprehensive suite of remotely-captured, geospatial data that improve situational awareness by reducing risk during the planning, construction, monitoring, closure and auditing of mine operations. Intelligence available from MineScope, includes:

  • High resolution satellite imagery – for tracking on-site activities
  • Topography – for mine-wide surveying and dam break analyses
  • Volumes – for calculating excavation, stockpiling and impoundment
  • Tailings parameters – for determining beach development, freeboard and bathymetry
  • Ground deformation (InSAR) – for detecting settlement rates and hazard hot-spots

Underpinning MineScope is CGG’s team of remote sensing experts, who ensure clients receive affordable and timely access to consistent and complementary geospatial intelligence via a single access-point, which streamlines procurement and eliminates the need for multiple data vendors and contracts.

Given the ever-increasing volume of satellite imagery accessible by CGG, MineScope is not only uniquely capable of assessing the past status of a TSF, an important aspect of disclosure auditing, it can also be used to optimise monitoring programmes. Ongoing collection of satellite imagery provides continuity between historical audits and future monitoring by establishing a baseline against which future measurements can be compared. The upshot of this is the ability to optimise the siting of in-situ monitoring sensors and, due to the remote provision of data, helps to reduce ‘boots on the ground’ HSE exposure by minimising the need for site-based surveys.

AusProof is celebrating 25 years of business in Australia in 2019.

MineScope in action

An example of the valuable insight MineScope can provide is shown by the following images. The layers of information, which can be purchased separately, or combined to provide much greater insight, showcase the intelligence that can be derived purely from satellite imagery. These capabilities have already benefited mine audits conducted across the world, resulting in increased uptake for monitoring.

High resolution topographic model derived from satellite imagery. Blue colours represent topographic lows, red colours represent topographic highs.

Includes material © KARI 2018. Distribution (SI Imaging Services, Republic of Korea), all rights reserved

High resolution volumetric change model calculated from multiple satellite-derived topographic models. Blue colours represent removal of material, red colours represent addition of material.

Includes material © KARI 2018. Distribution (SI Imaging Services, Republic of Korea), all rights reserved

Tailings profiling contours and measurements calculated from a satellite-derived topographic model. Example shows topographic contours across a tailings storage facility. Blue colours represent topographic lows, red colours represent topographic highs.


Satellite InSAR ground deformation measurements spanning January 2017 to August 2019. Green measurements represent relative stability, red measurements represent settlement of 60 mm or more per year.

© CGG. Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2019.

Now more than ever before, satellite imagery is being relied upon to address the unique challenges faced in the mining sector, and there is no doubt that CGG’s MineScope service and the unrivalled knowledge of its experts, will continue to be ‘mined’ to help ensure the safe construction, operation, closure and monitoring of TSFs, into the future.

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