Authors: Holden, D; Donegan, S; Pon, A

Open access courtesy of:


Cite As:
Holden, D, Donegan, S & Pon, A 2020, 'Brumadinho Dam InSAR study: analysis of TerraSAR-X, COSMO-SkyMed and Sentinel-1 images preceding the collapse', in PM Dight (ed.), Slope Stability 2020: Proceedings of the 2020 International Symposium on Slope Stability in Open Pit Mining and Civil Engineering, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 293-306,

Download citation as:   ris   bibtex   endnote   text   Zotero

The catastrophic failure of Dam I at the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine near Brumadinho, Brazil has brought significant attention to the range of monitoring techniques available for similar sites, including satellite Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR). Satellite InSAR is a remote sensing technique that uses satellite imagery to detect millimetre scale displacements. This paper presents InSAR results covering the Brumadinho site, for the time period leading up to the dam collapse, using both high and low resolution imagery from four sets of satellite synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data. The goal of this study is to provide a set of results that may help to improve the understanding of the mechanisms behind the collapse and to understand if there was a role that InSAR could have played in detecting any anomalous displacement signals before the collapse. Four sets of satellite SAR images are available and have been analysed in this study. These include two from the Sentinel-1 (S1) satellite constellation, which have a lower resolution (20 m), and two from the higher resolution (3 m) TerraSAR-X (TSX) and COSMO-SkyMed (CSK) satellite constellations. The high resolution CSK and TSX measurements also provide a much greater level of detail on the dam that can be used to distinguish local trends. Some subtle signals are observed on the lower portion of the dam wall in the year leading up to the collapse, however, these are not statistically significant based solely on the level of noise present in the InSAR results. At the top of the wall and inside of the enclosure, significant signal is present, as expected for a structure of this type.

Keywords: InSAR, Brumadinho, tailings, dam, failure, collapse, Córrego do Feijão

3v Geomatics Inc. 2013, RADARSAT-2 Structural Health Monitoring (R2SHM) - Bridge Target Analysis – Milestone 7b, Technical report, 3v Geomatics Inc.
European Space Agency Earth Observation Portal, 2002a, European Space Agency Earth Observation Portal, Paris, viewed 20 October 2019,
European Space Agency Earth Observation Portal, 2002b, European Space Agency Earth Observation Portal, Paris, viewed 20 October 2019,
Rabus, B, Werner, C, Wegmueller, U & McCardle, A 2004, ‘Interferometric point target analysis of RADARSAT-1 data for deformation monitoring at the Belridge/Lost Hills oil fields’, Proceedings of the Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium 2004 (IGARSS’04), vol. 4, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, New Jersey, pp. 2611–2613.
Robertson, PK, de Melo, L, Williams, D & Wilson, GW 2019, Report of the Expert Panel on the Technical Causes of the Failure of Feijão Dam I,
Tessari, G, Stegmaier, P & Pasquali, P 2019, ‘Searching for precursors of the Córrego do Feijão dam collapse in Brumadinho using advanced satellite InSAR’, 6th International Seminar on Tailings Management 2019, chapter 5, viewed 20 October 2019,
Vale S.A. 2019a, 107 people receive the R$100,000.00 donation, press release, viewed 20 October 2019,
Vale S.A. 2019b, Clarifications regarding Dam I of the Córrego do Feijão Mine, press release, viewed 20 October 2019,
Williams, C, Ross, B, Zebker, M, Gaida, M, Morkeh, J & Robotham, ME 2019, ‘Assessment of historic InSAR monitoring data prior to the Manefay Slide at the Bingham Canyon Mine using the latest analytical techniques’, Proceedings of the 53rd U.S. Rock Mechanics/Geomechanics Symposium, American Rock Mechanics Association, Alexandria, ARMA-2019-2881.

© Copyright 2024, Australian Centre for Geomechanics (ACG), The University of Western Australia. All rights reserved.
View copyright/legal information
Please direct any queries or error reports to