On-prem and cloud-based monitoring of tailings dams and open-pit mines

Around a third of mining experts have yet to deploy wireless monitoring on tailings dams and open-pit mines, according to a Worldsensing webinar poll. The results of the poll indicate that many mine operators could be missing out on the efficiencies and cost reductions of wireless technology, particularly combined with the cloud.

In IoT remote monitoring of tailings dams, slopes and other mining assets, sensor data is typically collected at previously set sampling rates through wireless data loggers. Those edge devices process and store the monitoring data within the device itself, at the edge of the network, before the information is transmitted to a gateway which relays the data either to a local server, the cloud or a private cloud.

“In Australia, we have definitely seen an increase in the uptake of cloud-based solutions,” said webinar panelist Ben Scott, a Technical Manager with Geomotion, Australia’s leading provider of geotechnical monitoring systems. “Clients are starting to see the benefits, ease of access probably being the main one. With improvements to security, there’s more trust in these cloud platforms—especially when systems deployed on-site can be isolated from site networks, so we can have a segmented network.”

Cloud hosting, where data is sent to virtual servers, is one of two modes of deployment seen in wireless monitoring networks. The advantage is that experts and engineers tasked with monitoring can remotely check the status of all projects, especially those with a multi-gateway setup and a higher number of sensors and data loggers. All data, deployed devices and networks can be analyzed 24/7 from wherever needed. This drastically reduces the need for in-field visits which are required in order to stay on top of monitoring projects. The other is on-premise installation, where data and systems use on-site servers. On-premise deployment has historically been the norm in the mining industry.

Cloud-based monitoring is taking off

But “there is a rising trend of bigger corporations to adopt cloud solutions in their business,” said Patrick Pang, a Technical Sales Specialist at Worldsensing’s Singapore office. “These are the market leaders, and they are constantly driving forward to explore the latest technology. A cloud monitoring solution like this will be able to further cut operational costs, save time, increase productivity, enhance asset protection and mitigate the risk of a disaster.”

Wireless technology already allows mine operators to collect and process real-time data simply and cost-effectively. And “we believe that cloud monitoring is going to be common market practice within the next five to 10 years,” Pang said.

Geomotion, which works with several mining companies in Western Australia, has installed wireless monitoring systems across a range of mines and tailings dams. “There’s always been a need for instrumentation on the mines,” said Scott. “We’ve seen an increase in the requirement for instrumentation for tailings dams specifically over the last few years. That’s because they play such a key role in early warning and prevention of failures. Some tailings dams rank among the largest engineering structures in the world.”

Cloud-based monitoring saves time

On one mining project, Scott said, the customer had previously sent out engineers to take manual readings from 100 piezometers on a tailings dam. The data was then entered into a spreadsheet, taking two days to process. The challenges in data collection meant the customer only carried out the exercise once every two months. Geomotion installed a Worldsensing wireless network to collect the data so it could be processed on Geomotion’s cloud systems.

This made the data available whenever needed, from anywhere in the world—a process that would have been “difficult to achieve without the cloud,” said Scott.

A new way of managing the connectivity of bigger deployments

Especially for bigger deployments, it is getting increasingly harder for the monitoring engineer in charge to find out why data is not transmitted correctly or is interrupted. Picture a mine with 10 or more tailings dams that need to be monitored while using a significant number of sensors, data loggers, gateways and overall monitoring networks. CMT Cloud by Worldsensing enables engineering customers and partners to manage the connectivity of their deployments remotely from wherever they want. Among other advantages, engineers can identify which sensor, data logger or gateway is possibly disconnected or causing data transmission issues. Being able to manage, monitor, analyze and administrate all deployments around the clock relieves the team of time-intensive in-field and maintenance tasks. Additionally, the connectivity management software integrates with widely used data visualization software, such as Geomotion Cloud, making it easier to gather project insights and create integrated reports.

· To find out more, watch the webinar now.