Australian company launches satellite tech for tailings monitoring

Tech start-up Otus has developed a system that can monitor potential safety issues at mine site tailings dams.

By using satellite imaging and advanced processing, the system monitors subtle surface movements that could lead to potential issues far ahead of time. This is a detail that can be missed by existing monitoring technologies such as drones, according to the Sydney-based company.

Otus has used its system to investigate tailings dam failures with consultants and mining workers. It is capable of providing its mining analysis without sending anyone onsite.

The technology also extends beyond tailings dams to other infrastructure projects, such as road and rail.

Otus managing director Marc Beaudry said the creation of such technologies could help ensure the prevention of tailings disasters such as the Vale’s Córrego de Feijão mine disaster in Brazil in January.

The failure is considered the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history, causing an estimated 300 deaths and resulting in the arrest of several Vale employees and a ban on upstream tailings dams by the Brazilian Government.

“We want to take this technology global, providing intelligence that can transform mining for operators and the communities in which they operate,” Beaudry said.

“We expect it to become an essential due diligence tool for directors who are liable when things go wrong onsite. They will now be able to access independent analysis and quickly identify any problems.”