The world has witnessed a series of high-profile tailings dam disasters in recent years that have come at great cost, both in terms of lives lost and environmental damage. These instances have reverberated beyond the confines of the mining sector, and with eyes trained on the industry, governments and regulators are beginning to tighten regulation and hold organisations to account.
The recent attention on tailings management has put a spotlight on standard tailings monitoring processes, with infrequent, manual readings evidently commonplace. As companies redouble their efforts to prioritise safety, a plethora of disparate approaches to tailings monitoring can be seen.
Not only are many organisations taking a differing approach to monitoring in terms of the methods they use, but also in terms of how they apply them across the span of their operations. For instance, a mining operation with multiple active tailings dams may well be monitoring one differently to another. One mine could approach monitoring with a daily reading with the data uploaded to a spreadsheet, another could be using a more sophisticated system with smart sensors and instruments with data stored on site, while another could be reliant on visual inspections and a notebook.
The problem with a company approaching tailings monitoring in different ways is that there is no way to sensibly compare data sets in order to inform centralised decision making. It is all too unreliable. Even the mines using more sophisticated systems are creating data siloes, so while it might help decision making on-site, it won’t help anywhere else. It won’t help uphold the company’s reputation, or share price, in the event of one breach of regulation or accident at another site where the monitoring approach has led to mismanagement.
If companies are going to get on top of tailings management they need to employ centralised governance at a company level. To enable governance in a multi-national company, you need technology that will support it.
Specifically, you need a solution that allows you to see what is going on at your tailings facilities across your whole estate, in one application, in real-time. If you can gain situational awareness and plot trends across multiple sites you can decrease your risk of mismanagement or accidents occurring. There are other benefits too: you can share more reliable data more easily with regulators, auditors and contractors, increasing transparency, efficiency and compliance as regulatory standards toughen. The key to accessing this bright future is consistency.
An essential part of a technical solution needed to create a consistent, global monitoring system is the connectivity. Connecting instruments and sensors to a dashboard to produce consistent real-time readings means you need to employ a highly reliable connectivity type. Many mines are also in remote areas, where the cost of installing terrestrial connectivity infrastructure is untenable. This is where satellite comes in, or rather L-band satellite communications, which is highly reliable and used for maritime and aviation safety services.
Inmarsat’s global L-band connectivity underpins our Tailings Dam Monitoring Solution, a managed service built on a 40-year heritage in critical safety communications. Utilising L-band connectivity, we can provide you with total visibility, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so you can enforce consistency with a centralised tailings dam management practice. Talk to us to learn how you can protect your company reputation, build trust and transparency with government and regulators and free up your engineers to focus on management rather than process.
If you would like to understand more about the benefits of a centralised tailings system, please access our whitepaper here.
About the author
Joe Carr leads Inmarsat Enterprise’s mining team with the goal of developing unique capabilities to better improve the mining industry. As sector lead, he works with mining companies, integrators and technology partners to develop new systems and solutions to meet the needs of the latest generation of mines.
Joe holds a Master’s degree in Mining Engineering from the Camborne School of Mines. He has spent the last decade in the mining industry, first working on mine development and production and then onto technical consulting, due diligence and management consulting.