Authors: Preugschat, B; Kunze, C; Wiens, B; Altfelder, S

Open access courtesy of:


Cite As:
Preugschat, B, Kunze, C, Wiens, B & Altfelder, S 2022, 'Drone-based investigations of uranium mining legacies: an airborne gamma spectrometry method to support, inspect, and monitor mine closure processes', in AB Fourie, M Tibbett & G Boggs (eds), Mine Closure 2022: 15th International Conference on Mine Closure, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 623-632,

Download citation as:   ris   bibtex   endnote   text   Zotero

The rapid technical development of drones (UAV; unmanned aerial vehicle) in combination with improved and miniaturised measurement technology enables a cost-effective and fast deployment in post-mining areas. Drone-based geophysical methods can be used to assess post-mining areas to facilitate remediation planning, and to monitor them as part of long-term institutional control in the post-closure phase. A case study of drone-based gamma spectrometric investigations is presented, using the example of legacies of former uranium mining. This type of legacy poses a direct threat to humans and the environment and is still present in the Central Asian countries of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. In the DUBGEM project (Development of a UAV-Based Gamma Spectrometry for the Exploration and Monitoring of Uranium Mining Legacies), a drone-based detector system was developed to investigate and monitor these legacies. Two scintillation detectors (CeBr3, NaI) with different crystal volumes can be used alternately. The drone is a custom-built heavy lift system with a maximum take-off mass of 25 kg. The measurement data can be displayed in real time at a ground station. This allows locating hotspots during the survey and planning subsequent detailed measurements. The use of drone-based systems is particularly advantageous in mining regions that are difficult to access and potentially harmful for human health. This paper shows the results of drone-based gamma spectrometry investigations obtained during a measurement campaign in Central Asia in 2021. The drone prototype developed in the project is also capable of carrying other sensors with a payload of up to 7 kg. In subsequent projects, a new department of the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) – Research and Development Centre for Post-Mining Areas (FEZB) – will investigate the postmining areas of former lignite mining in Germany using further geophysical sensor technology.

Keywords: UAV, drone, gamma spectrometry, uranium mining legacies, post-mining areas, FEZB

Coetzee, H & Larkin, J 2011, ‘Airborne Radiometric surveying for the management of health, safety and the environment in the uranium mining industry: potential applications and limitations’, in B Merkel & M Schipek (eds), The New Uranium Mining Boom, pp. 483–492, Springer, Heidelberg.
Furutani, T & Minami, M 2021, ‘Drones for disaster risk reduction and crisis response’, Emerging Technologies for Disaster Resilience, pp. 51–62, Springer, Singapore.
Hendriks, PHGM, Limburg, J & De Meijer, RJ 2001, ‘Full-spectrum analysis of natural γ-ray spectra’, Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, vol. 53, no. 3, pp. 365–380.
International Atomic Energy Agency 2003, ‘Guidelines for radioelement mapping using gamma ray spectrometry data’, TECDOC 1363, International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna.
International Atomic Energy Agency 2021, ‘Strategic master plan for environmental remediation of uranium legacy sites in Central Asia’, Proceedings of the 65th IAEA General Conference, 2nd edn, International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna.
Kim, DP, Kim, SB & Back, KS 2022, ‘Analysis of mine change using 3D spatial information based on drone image’, Sustainability, vol. 14, no. 6, 3433.
Kunze, C 2013, ‘Insurability of unknown post-closure liabilities’, Journal of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, vol. 4, pp. 254–264.
Kunze, C, Preugschat, B, Arndt, R, Kandzia, F, Wiens, B & Altfelder, S 2022, ‘Development of a UAV-based gamma spectrometry system for natural radionuclides and field tests at Central Asian uranium legacy sites’, Remote Sensing, vol. 14, no. 9, 2147.
Li, F, Torgoev, I, Zaredinov, D, Li, M, Talipov, B, Belousova, A, Kunze, C & Schneider, P 2021a, ‘Influence of earthquakes on landslide susceptibility in a seismic prone catchment in Central Asia’, Applied Sciences, vol. 11, no. 9, p. 3768,
Li, F, Torgoev, I, Zaredinov, D, Li, M, Talipov, B, Belousova, A, Kunze, C & Schneider, P 2021b, ‘Landslide-induced mass transport of radionuclides along transboundary Mailuu-Suu River networks in Central Asia’, Remote Sensing, vol. 13, no. 698,
Preugschat, B, Kunze, C, Arndt, R, Kandzia, F, Wiens, B & Altfelder, S 2022, ‘Drone-based gamma spectrometry Of NORM-affected areas and uranium legacy sites: results and outlook of the DUB-GEM research & development project’, Proceedings of the Tenth International Symposium on Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material, International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, in press.
Ren, H, Zhao, Y, Xiao, W & Hu, Z 2019, ‘A review of UAV monitoring in mining areas: current status and future perspectives’, International Journal of Coal Science & Technology, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 320–333.
Simek, P 2010, ‘Evolution of contamination in the Plouènice River Basin (Bohemia) due to uranium mining in the period 1992-2009’, Proceedings of the Technical Meeting on In-situ Methods for Characterization of Contaminated Sites, International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna,

© Copyright 2022, Australian Centre for Geomechanics (ACG), The University of Western Australia. All rights reserved.
Please direct any queries or error reports to