DAm Monitoring from SATellites (DAMSAT): Reducing the Probability of Failure of Tailings Dams in Peru using Remote Sensing Data (IPP Case Study)

Tailings dams are earth embankments used to store toxic mine waste and effluent which can be more than 100m high. They are often constructed
with steep slopes using the tailings to save on costs. Keeping these structures intact over decades is challenging. Their rate of failure is high and increasing, with 50% of serious tailings dam failures in the last 70
years occurring between 1990 and 2010. Tailings dams often contain hazardous substances that can contaminate food chains and drinking water. There is a need for a cost effective service to both monitor operational and abandoned tailings dams, especially those in remote locations, and to help forecast potentially catastrophic failures.

DAm Monitoring from SATellites (DAMSAT) is an UKSA International Partnership Programme (IPP) supported project led by HR Wallingford with UK and Peruvian partners. DAMSAT provides a one-stop portal to access information on the performance of the monitored dams by combining the use of:

  • Satellite derived data (SAR and optical);
  • in-situ data from SUMMIT SHM (GNSS) equipment;
  • weather forecast data;
  • and modelling studies of dam releases and loss of life in communities downstream

This case study, published at the midline of the project, gives an overview of the project, the solution, implementation progress and a reflection on results and lessons learned so far.