Automated Geotechnical Monitoring Across Brazilian Mines

8 Key points your monitoring solution should check off

As the global leader in IoT remote monitoring solutions – with many years’ experience in supporting Brazilian mines in automating the geotechnical monitoring of slopes and tailings dams, among others, – we have compiled a list of criteria to help you choose the right IoT remote monitoring solution for your next project.

1. Official validation by industry bodies

About 662 tailing dams are registered in Brazil, although coordinates are available for only 317 tailing dams from the national mining-dam public records in Brazil. Very few of them are sufficiently monitored. The need for monitoring is highly recommended by industry bodies such as the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) in the wake of mining disasters such as those at Brumadinho and Mariana. New regulations forcing mining companies to monitor tailings dams more closely because of the high risk of failure of the structures involved. Performance monitoring, using reliable and environmentally friendly technology, is critical to the management of tailings facilities. Worldsensing has been identified in 2022 by ICMM as a major player in the tailing dams monitoring market.

2. Certification

As one of the first providers to support the digitization of monitoring in mines, Worldsensing has been delivering IoT remote monitoring technology to mines across Brazil since 2018 and has been officially certified by ANATEL since 2019. Several tailings dams in Brazil have selected ANATEL-certified LoRA long-range data nodes and gateways from Worldsensing to minimize the risk of tailings dam failures without incurring significant cabling and maintenance costs. LoRa-based monitoring networks provide one of the most efficient solutions to overcome tailings dam monitoring challenges, where traditional approaches such as manual or cable-based readings can be subject to errors from ageing equipment, poor installation, mis-calibration and vandalism.

3. Collaboration with leading mining companies

Leading mining corporation VALE is using IoT remote solutions for vibration monitoring, rollers and conveyor belts, environmental station, geotechnical instrumentation and location and proximity demands, among others. Worldsensing is supporting the mining giant to automate the geotechnical monitoring of some of their mining assets through low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) data transmission.

While data transmission technologies such as LTE (Long Term Evolution), 5G, Wi-Fi mesh or dedicated link radios are used depending on the specific use case, Luiz Barreto, operational technology architect at VALE points out that the benefits of LoRAWAN are that it works in a free band, ISM, and allows mines to establish their own private LoRa networks in a simple architecture and at a low cost.

4. Field-proven, reliable connectivity

“Mining companies usually have operational sites far from public connectivity, so establishing private means of connectivity is a must. There’s no silver bullet in this area, and different connectivity options shall be implemented for the demands of each site”, explains Luiz Barreto, operational technology architect at Vale.

For connectivity alone, mining firms can choose from standards such as LTE and Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) or LPWAN protocols. VALE is using Worldsensing wireless LoRa technology to monitor potential risk points across their installations.

“The benefits of LPWANs like LoRaWAN include low cost, better protection against vandalism at some sites, having a private network independent of public coverage, and centralized control and monitoring of all devices”, Barreto points out.

LoRa as LPWA technology is still leading in range compared to other technologies such as Mesh. LoRa also features radio sensitivity of up to -137 dBm, which makes the signal up to 32 times stronger than other wireless monitoring solutions.

Apart from reliable connectivity, network flexibility and adaptability is key. As tailings dams are raised in succession throughout the life of a particular mine, new sensors can be added at any time to improve the monitoring plan. Worldsensing’s nodes and sensors can be dynamically installed and reinstalled.

5. Event detection capabilities

Slope stability and the ability to track ground deformation and displacement is important to ensure safer mining operations, especially around tailings dams. When choosing a wireless, IoT remote monitoring solution, it’s essential to obtain monitoring data more frequently when thresholds have been breached to determine if a structure is stable or if its integrity is compromised. With Worldsensing’s Event Detection Solution, ground movements are monitored through wireless Tilt90 inclinometers which send an alert to a software platform once a threshold has been breached. This way, mining operators can take data-based decisions on how to manage potential threats which are typically triggered by heavy rain or other environmental factors.

6. Established partnerships and integrations

When choosing a monitoring solution, making sure the provider has established partnerships in your region is non-negotiable. Thanks to the expertise and capacity of globally leading partners in mining such as Tetra Tech, Trimble Geospatial, Sixense Group, and GKM Consultants, the Worldsensing team has a proven track record of supporting safe mining operations one project at a time.

Besides established partnerships, the solution of your choice must integrate with leading instrumentation and monitoring equipment. Worldsensing technology is compatible with the widest range of geotechnical, geospatial and structural sensors, and enables data integration with 3rd party software through various protocols such as MODBUS, FTP and MQTT.

7. Real-world deployments

Together with Brazilian Worldsensing partner Tetra Tech, Worldsensing technology has been deployed in a mine with a complex tailings dam monitoring system that covers 22 dams to gather real-time data from various sensors, including piezometers, water level sensors and inclinometers.

The challenge was to find a cost-effective way to send the data to a database server and workstation given that one site included seven dams with a 7 km radio range. Tetra Tech opted to use Worldsensing’s wireless monitoring solution and installed a network of 467 vibrating wire, analog and digital loggers to send real-time data to 10 gateways connected to the mine’s private network.

8. Measurable ROI

As witnessed in the 22 tailings dams project, Worldsensing’s solution led to savings of up to 30% on the acquisition of materials and infrastructure and up to 40% on installation. Reliable LoRa-based, wireless data on the behavior of the dam helps minimize risks and improve the safety not only of mine employees but also of local communities.

The mine reports:

  • Savings of up to 30% on the acquisition of materials and infrastructure.
  • Cost reductions of up to 40% on installation.
  • Minimized risk as a result of improved data.
  • Full compliance with safety regulations.

“The adoption of Worldsensing IoT technology eliminates the need for cabling, reduces manual monitoring and allows significant savings up to 30% on the acquisition of materials and infrastructure and up to 40% on installation”, illustrates Leonardo Santana, Geotechnology Technical Leader, Tetra Tech.

Summary

When choosing a solution to automate your geotechnical monitoring through IoT in Brazil lookout for official ICMM validation, ANATEL certification, collaboration(s) and/or projects with leading mining companies, field-proven adaptable and flexible LoRa connectivity of the technology as well as event detection capabilities, a company with established partnerships in your region and a vast portfolio of 3 party integrations and real-world deployments in your vertical and a team that can show measurable ROI of deploying their technology in the field.

Mining