Decipher challenges status quo of rehabilitation monitoring

A large portion of mining, oil and gas companies typically follow the status quo when it comes to rehabilitation and closure monitoring. Cloud-based platform company Decipher, is encouraging miners to look beyond the conventional methods and consider new innovative approaches.

According to Greencap practice manager for mine rehabilitation, Celine Mangan environmental monitoring typically involves a range of on-site and off-site activities which enable miners to better understand the environmental health, efficiencies and constraints, and ensure that they are upholding compliance.

“To answer the question of how much mine rehabilitation costs, I feel like it’s asking a question of how long is a piece of string but to put a dollar figure on it, typically in Australia it’s in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” she said.

“But by continuously improving your closure methods, not leaving things to the last minute, by effectively monitoring the site and brining the stakeholders along throughout the entire journey, you can reduce subjectivity as well as significantly reduce costs.”

Decipher chief executive, Anthony Walker agrees with Mangan and believes that while the industry has come a long way recently in relation to rehabilitation and closure, there is still room for improvement and innovation.

“In order for companies to maximise return on their rehabilitation/closure budgets, it’s really important that they consider innovations and efficiencies where possible, particularly in the monitoring space as this can make up about 8–12 per cent of their entire per hectare rehab budget,” Walker said.

An increasingly common monitoring tool within the mining and oil and gas sector is Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), which is a remote sensing technique used to detect, monitor and measure the magnitude of deformation in landform features such as stockpiles, rehab landform, landfill, urban, infrastructure and tailings facilities overtime utilising Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery.

“We have seen several companies employ InSAR to focus in on specific rehab areas, and while these technologies are able to provide them with high resolution (1m) and frequent data (3–6 days) on key target landform features, for rehabilitation purposes, often Sentinel based InSAR can provide sufficient information (10m resolution, every 12 days) at a third of the cost due to key partnerships and methods we have with InSAR providers.”

Born within the industrials division of Wesfarmers, Decipher originally began as a small agtech company helping farmers and agronomists manage crop and soil nutrition.

Drawing upon 100 plus years of agricultural knowledge and expertise in products, soils, research and agronomy, Decipher is now sharing this technology with the resource and energy industries to help drive progressive rehabilitation and closure, and tailings monitoring.

One of the key sector adjacencies that Walker recognised was Decipher’s ability to provide a macro and micro view for mining and oil and gas rehabilitation land to get better rates of relinquishment.

“Our agronomy customers use NDVI imagery to look at their paddocks and identify variability before using soil and plant sampling tools to understand what’s happening on the ground, and from there, they create management zones and use variable rate applications to precisely treat those areas with the right fertiliser at the right rate and at the right time,” said Walker.

Walker suggests that a similar efficient and cost-effective targeted approach can also be applied to rehabilitation and closure as well tailings monitoring, especially for the latter in light of the new global tailings standard (www.GlobalTailingsReview.org ).

The global industry standard on tailings management has been endorsed by the co-convenors of the global tailings review (GTR), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), principles for responsible investment (PRI) and International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM).

The product of a rigorous, independent, multi-stakeholder process, the standard will establish much needed robust requirements for the safer management of both existing and new tailings facilities globally.

The next steps for the global tailings standard are to finalise the accompanying reports which will provide additional detail, context, background and recommendations on the standard. The standard will be published once it has been translated and all accompanying documents are ready, and this is expected in mere weeks.

“Decipher provides its customers with a macro and micro monitoring view of mining and O&G sites. At the macro level our satellite InSAR solution focused on rehabilitation enables our clients to track deformation performance and identify areas of concern at scale across the site. From here, users have access to a range of approaches which enable them to hone in on those identified areas of concern such as on ground sampling and deployment of more real time IoT LiDAR devices,” said Walker.

Decipher has started working on waste rock dumps and final landforms, specifically looking at detecting gully erosions using drone LiDAR capture and automatically calculating associated erosion gully volumes.

Customers can then start working out what levels of precipitation start causing significant impact on those landforms – within Decipher, customers can assign and track corrective actions for responsible personnel who are tasked to go and repair them thereby improving rehab quality more.

Together, with 70 other leading mining companies, government and research partners, Decipher will be helping drive transformational change to enable regions to transition to a prosperous and sustainable post mine future through the CRC-TiME.

For more information about Decipher, visit www.decipher.com.au