Authors: Koleshwar, A; Tortini, R; Falorni, G

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Koleshwar, A, Tortini, R & Falorni, G 2023, 'Assessing tailings consolidation and changes in supernatant pond area using InSAR and the normalised difference moisture index', in GW Wilson, NA Beier, DC Sego, AB Fourie & D Reid (eds), Paste 2023: Proceedings of the 25th International Conference on Paste, Thickened and Filtered Tailings, University of Alberta, Edmonton, and Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 765-775,

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Monitoring of tailings storage facilities (TSF) is a critical component of sustainable mining practices. The primary goal of monitoring programmes is to ascertain the correct performance of the tailings facility, thus preventing impoundment failures that may lead to fatalities, severe environmental consequences, and substantial financial losses. Field geotechnical investigations and displacement analysis at tailings impoundments are usually spatially limited as their implementation over a large spatial extent would be cost-prohibitive. Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) is a widely used remote sensing monitoring tool that provides a synoptic view of displacement by utilising a high density, high frequency and high-precision network of measurement points. Tailings undergo consolidation settlement as they desaturate over time. Although the movement is mainly vertical, the detection of lateral movement towards the east or west may indicate preferential desaturation pathways. The following study describes the use of an advanced multi-temporal InSAR algorithm to process both commercial high-resolution TerraSAR-X and publicly available lower-resolution Sentinel-1 satellite radar imagery to monitor tailings consolidation. To characterise saturation changes over the same period, optical images from the Sentinel-2 satellite are employed. The specific goals of the study are to: (i) monitor motion within TSFs, focusing on changes in rates of consolidation and any lateral movement over time, (ii) identify areas of higher magnitudes of settlement along with any lateral (east–west) movement, suggesting preferential desaturation pathways, and (iii) correlate changes in consolidation behaviour with the changes of the supernatant pond area. The conclusion of the study suggests that the combined use of both technologies over tailings facilities provides valuable insight into governing dynamics of tailings. The results indicate a probable correlation between the consolidation rates with the supernatant pond area changes. This information can be implemented with the operational plans for a better characterisation of the dynamics within TSF’s.

Keywords: InSAR, remote sensing, monitoring technology, tailings consolidation

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