Tailings Monitoring Embraces Innovation

Jun 10, 2016 4:30 AM ET

Above Ground

In recognition of the recent World Environment Day, our post takes a closer look at how innovation and real-time data is changing the way we inspect, monitor and manage tailings at Goldcorp.i

Now new technology that could ultimately improve tailings storage facility safety has the potential to set a new standard for dam monitoring that exceeds industry and government regulations.

Goldcorp operates several tailings storage facilities at both its active operations, and reclaimed or closed sites and some of these remote sites have limited personnel on the ground.

Chris Cormier, General Manager, Reclamation Operations, believed that an automated monitoring approach would provide much broader coverage and more eyes and ears on the ground. So Goldcorp’s Reclamation Operations and IT departments worked together to evaluate various solutions and identified the Trimble T4D System – which provides up-to-the-minute data on the condition and behaviour of land or structures - as the technology that would best suit the Company’s needs.

With this in mind, a plan was developed to use the reclaimed Equity Silver mine, located near Houston in Northern British Columbia, Canada, as a pilot site to prove out the technology. Equity Silver was acquired by Goldcorp when it purchased the Canadian Placer Dome mining assets from Barrick Gold in 1996. The closed site has a 120 hectare water-covered tailings storage facility with dams constructed on three sides and its remote location made it perfect to pilot the technology.

Goldcorp’s corporate and site personnel, working closely with the vendor, customized and installed the automated monitoring system at Dam No. 1 at the Equity Silver site earlier this year. The system included a solar power source, data loggers, radio monitoring stations, automated survey station, weather station, digital cameras and strategically-placed sensors and prisms to monitor and capture up-to date information on water levels, pore water pressure, structural integrity of the dam, and other important parameters that ensure dam safety and reliability.

An incident that merits attention will immediately generate an email or text to on- and off-site personnel if any sensors are triggered. Trained personnel can access readings in real-time and can also view a live video camera feed at specific locations.

Robin Lee Fell, Manager, IT Program Management, Business Performance Management & Enterprise Architecture says: “The Trimble system enables us to measure water levels every minute and pore water pressure every five minutes. This automation is a significant improvement over traditional measuring techniques, which were often performed manually, and will only serve to strengthen our ability to monitor tailings effectively and efficiently.”

“The capacity to automatically monitor the tailings dam at Equity Silver enhances Goldcorp’s ability to manage the reclamation site, reduces risks around safety and the environment, and provides an added level of assurance to members of surrounding communities and other stakeholders. This demonstrates our commitment to continue working in a responsible manner,” concludes Cormier. “This initiative has changed the way Goldcorp is able to monitor remote facilities and we will continue to evaluate opportunities to deploy this technology at other active and inactive sites.”

As the industry grapples with ways to eliminate conventional tailings systems, this is one technology showing promise in the management of historical sites.


i Our Tailings Stewardship Strategy was implemented in 2015 as part of our Sustainability Excellence Management System to improve our sustainability practices at every mine site and contribute to our vision ofTogether, Creating Sustainable Value. Every active mine site wholly owned by Goldcorp had each of its tailings facilities and water retention structures inspected and reviewed by qualified third-party tailings stewards.

The primary objectives of our Tailings Stewardship Strategy are to minimize risk and manage liabilities, improve sustainability, improve comprehensive technical and operating standards, ensure best practices for cost reduction and operational efficiency, perform inspections and reviews by qualified third parties, and ensure design, operation, training, risk management and closure planning are performed.