Tailing Dam Safety: The Multisensor Approach in Mining

Tailing dams stand silently and protect the mining industry, tasked with the critical role of storing waste materials generated during mineral extraction. Yet, their stability and integrity are susceptible to various factors, including seepage, settlement, and slope instability. This article underscores the implications of Regulation No. 1110-1-1807, titled "Engineering and Design: DRILLING IN EARTH EMBANKMENT DAMS AND LEVEES," and the "Guidelines for Drilling and Sampling in Embankment Dams." By integrating these regulatory guidelines with best practices, engineers and geologists can address tailing dams' unique challenges, ensuring the safety and integrity of these essential structures and maintaining environmental safety. 


Our experienced engineers provide comprehensive technical support throughout the entire project, from pre-project guidance to installation and ongoing assistance. They offer on-ground expertise, assisting with planning, sensor selection, system design, and installation. Our engineers analyze data, provide timely insights, and take prompt action to prevent issues. With their field experience and Metasensing by their side, they ensure project success and the safety of your structures. 



Understanding The Multi-sensor Approach:


The Encardio multi-sensor system, implemented through a single 120mm diameter borehole, revolutionizes geotechnical monitoring in tailing dams. This innovative approach consolidates the monitoring of pore pressure, lateral displacement, and settlement at various depths within the dam, reducing the number of boreholes needed and providing real-time data from distinct levels. Incorporating the In-place inclinometer with the Settlement sensor and Piezometer sensor system, not only enhances monitoring efficiency but also substantially cuts project costs, minimizing risk to the earth structure. The streamlined operations not only lead to cost savings and risk mitigation but also contribute to a more efficient and cost-effective solution, ultimately improving the safety and structural integrity of tailing dams.


Key Instruments And Sensors:


  • Piezometers: Measure pore water pressure to detect excessive seepage, a precursor to dam instability.
  • Inclinometers: Assess slope stability by monitoring lateral movement and deformation, offering insights into potential slope failures.
  • IPI with Settlement: Measure vertical settlement, lateral movement, and deformation to identify potential risks to dam integrity, enabling timely intervention.


Additional Products that can be used in the Multi-sensor Approach:


  • Seismographs: Monitor seismic activity near the dam, which is crucial for assessing risks related to earthquakes or ground vibrations.
  • Geodetic Monitoring Systems: Utilize GPS and total stations to measure displacement and deformation, providing precise data on dam movement.
  • Automatic Total Station: Automatic Total Stations (ATS) are another important tool used in tailing dam monitoring. These advanced surveying instruments combine electronic distance measurement and angle measurement capabilities, allowing for precise monitoring of dam movements. ATS can be set up at strategic locations around the dam to continuously measure and record any changes in its geometry, providing valuable insights into its stability.
  • GNSS: It plays a crucial role in monitoring and assessing the stability of these structures. GNSS receivers are used to accurately measure the position and movement of the dam, providing real-time data on deformation and settlement.
  • Fibre Optics: Fibre optic sensors can be embedded within the dam structure to measure strain, temperature, and other parameters. These sensors provide continuous monitoring of the dam's structural integrity, detecting any signs of deformation or stress. 
  • Nexawave DigiLog: DigiLog is a node cum gateway data logger that can connect up to 186 sensors and transmit information.


Read more:  Underground Mine Monitoring: Instrumentation & Monitoring


Benefits Of The Multi-sensor Approach:


The multi-sensor approach for tailing dam monitoring offers a myriad of benefits:


(a) Reduced Boreholes, Lower Costs:

  • Integration of various sensors into a single borehole.
  • Elimination of separate boreholes for extensometers, settlement gauges, and piezometers.
  • Up to one-third reduction in drilling, equipment, and labor costs.


(b) Cost Savings Breakdown:

  • Reallocation of saved costs to enhance project efficiency.
  • Financial optimization without compromising data quality.


(c) Adaptive Problem Solving:

  • Modular system design for swift and targeted sensor replacement.
  • Minimized downtime and project disruptions.


(d) Enhanced Data Integration:

  • Simultaneous collection of data from multiple sensors in a single borehole.
  • Cross-referencing and validation for a comprehensive understanding of subsurface conditions.
  • Improved decision-making and risk mitigation.


Case Studies:


Leading geotechnical instrumentation company Encardio-rite has successfully implemented the multi-sensor approach in various projects, such as the Koldam Hydroelectric Project and the Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project. By utilizing a combination of instruments like piezometers, inclinometers, settlement gauges, and seismographs, these projects exemplify the effectiveness of the multi-sensor approach in ensuring the stability of tailing dams.


Remote Sensing & Infrastructure Data Intelligence:


Proqio, the Infrastructure Data Intelligence platform by Encardio Rite, integrates remote sensing technologies, survey data, and a digital twin of the mine to provide real-time insights for mining and tailing dam operations. By incorporating sensor data and infrastructure data intelligence, Proqio enables efficient monitoring, analysis, and decision-making. The platform visualizes the current state of the mine, identifies patterns and anomalies in the data, and compares it with historical information. This integration enhances safety, efficiency, and productivity for mining projects.


Remote sensing plays a significant role in monitoring tailing dams by providing valuable information about their condition, stability, and potential environmental impacts. Here's how remote sensing is utilized in the monitoring of tailing dams:


  1. Change Detection: Remote sensing techniques, such as satellite imagery and aerial photography, can be used to detect changes in the physical characteristics of tailing dams over time. By comparing images acquired at different time intervals, it is possible to identify any alterations in the dam's shape, size, or surface features. This helps in assessing the stability of the dam and detecting any potential issues or areas of concern.
  2. Settlement Monitoring:  It is essential to ensure the integrity and stability of the structure. It helps in identifying any excessive or uneven settlement that could lead to potential failure or compromise the safety of the dam. By monitoring settlement, engineers can assess the performance of the dam and take appropriate measures to mitigate any risks.
  3. Slope Stability Analysis: Remote sensing data, such as digital elevation models (DEMs) derived from satellite or airborne sensors, can be used to assess the stability of the slopes surrounding tailing dams. By analyzing slope characteristics, such as slope angles and terrain roughness, it is possible to identify areas prone to erosion, landslides, or slope failures. This information helps in implementing appropriate mitigation measures and ensuring the safety of the dam.
  4. Environmental Impact Assessment: Remote sensing data can be used to assess the environmental impact of tailing dams on surrounding ecosystems. By analyzing spectral signatures and vegetation indices, it is possible to detect changes in land cover, vegetation health, and water quality in the vicinity of the dam. This information helps in understanding the potential ecological risks associated with the dam and implementing measures to minimize environmental impacts.

Read more: The Significance of Remote Sensing and Satellite Sensors in Civil Engineering


Being able to leverage satellite imagery, aerial photography, and other remote sensing techniques, Encardio Rite provides you with the complete remote sensing package which can help you make informed decisions & implement appropriate mitigation measures.

Here's why Infrastructure Data Intelligence via the hub of your infrastructure project, Proqio, is important in this context:

  1. Data Integration: Proqio integrates data from various sources, including sensors, project management software, UAVs, and InSAR. This allows for a comprehensive and holistic view of the tailings dam, enabling better decision-making and risk assessment.
  2. Real-time Monitoring: Proqio offers near real-time updates, automating the monitoring process. This ensures that stakeholders can promptly respond to any changes or risks, mitigating potential hazards and maintaining the integrity of the dam.
  3. Actionable Insights: By processing and analyzing the collected data, Proqio delivers accurate and actionable intelligence to each stakeholder based on their roles and requirements. This empowers decision-makers to make informed choices and take proactive measures to address any issues or potential threats.
  4. Visualization and Reporting: Proqio provides a transformative geospatial environment that visualizes streaming data, allowing for a better understanding of the dam's behavior and performance. Additionally, it offers outstanding report-generation tools with scheduling capabilities, automatic reporting, and a customizable dashboard for your project.
  5. Access and Support: Proqio ensures up-to-date information with access to the data, enabling stakeholders to stay connected and informed even while on the move. Furthermore, Proqio also offers features and services like 3D maps to better understand the project, GIS integration, and a digital twin along with worldwide support 24/7, ensuring that assistance is readily available whenever needed.


The multi-sensor approach is a pivotal tool in guaranteeing the safety and stability of critical structures like tailing dams. By providing continuous monitoring of various parameters, this approach enables engineers and operators to detect potential issues early, enabling proactive measures to prevent dam failures. Beyond dam safety, the multi-sensor approach significantly contributes to environmental sustainability in the mining industry. As sensor technology advances, the future promises an even more sophisticated and effective multi-sensor approach in tailing dam monitoring.


Read more: Guardians of Bridges: Battling Scour and Corrosion with Advanced Monitoring



Newsletter version:


Tailing dams, crucial for mining waste storage, encounter stability challenges. This article underscores the significance of Regulation No. 1110-1-1807 and "Guidelines for Drilling and Sampling in Embankment Dams" in ensuring their safety. Our engineers support projects with the Encardio multi-sensor system, streamlining monitoring and reducing costs. The approach, demonstrated in projects like Koldam and Mangdechhu Hydroelectric, improves safety and structural integrity. Proqio, the Infrastructure Data Intelligence Platform, integrates remote sensing and a digital twin for real-time insights. This multi-sensor approach, coupled with data intelligence, ensures dam safety, industry, and project success, along with environmental sustainability.

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