Space observable data for tailings dam probability of failure

Space observable data for tailings dam probability of failure

Sep 6th, 2018

Tailings 2.0 first step is focusing on Space observable data for tailings dam probability of failure.  The probability of failure for each dam in the clients’ portfolio is in essence the result of a multitude of actions/inactions, features and behaviors.

Portfolios can go from one to a few dams and finally, for example, hundreds of dams. In this second TMW2018 course summary blogpost we discuss how probabilities are evaluated. However all the fundamental steps which constitute the theoretical developments are freely downloadable from our knowledge center.

Space observable data for tailings dam probability of failure

Image of the Area of Interest (AoI) courtesy of MDA

As mentioned in the prior blogpost ORE2-Tailings encompasses thirty diagnostic points which in essence have been custom tailored to the needs of tailings dams. In summary, these cover all aspects of the dam’s life from inception to the date of the analysis.

Tailings 2.0 first step is defining Space observable data for tailings dam probability of failure

As a matter of facts, the thirty diagnostic points indeed describe the history of the dams from inception to the date of the assessment. Our tests to date, performed on real dams, while performing quantitative risk assessments, have shown that the methodology is:

  • sensitive enough to discern, for example, among portfolios of similarly built dams,

  • accommodates incomplete sets of data by explicitly including uncertainties. Uncertainties are ubiquitous: indeed they start at project inception with, for example, the density and depth of geotechnical investigations. They are present in the formulation of the classic Factor of Safety, oftentimes used to qualify the “safety” of a dam cross section. In summary, all the thirty diagnostic points have an uncertainty linked to them.

  • Satisfactorily describes the evolution of the probability of failure if the dams is raised or if, for example, is neglected, poorly monitored, etc. and finally

  • capable of benchmarking against world-wide portfolio performance and/or finally against past failures ultimately opening the way to “lesson learned” exercises.

Aspects like construction mode, for example downstream, centerline, upstream, presence of pipes and traffic at crest, water ponding, etc. are considered.

Space observable data for tailings dam probability of failure

The table below shows a list the key Space Observable elements considered in Tailings 2.0. In summary, these contribute among others to the probability of failure and allow swift updates of the risks generated by a single dams or a portfolio of dams as Space Observation continues.

Space Observable Elements considered in Tailings 2.0


General diagnostic nodes

Dam System Description

Tailings (beaches slopes, surface irregularities); Water, for example size and position of pond with respect to dam crest, bathimetry and finally volume; Reclaim pumps barge; Equipment on crown (Transport Lines, Spigotting, Traffic); and finally Weir;

Intake tower/pennstock; Diversion ditch.


Material; Berms & erosion; Cross Section; Supervision; Divergence from plans; and finally Known errors and omissions.





This data will come from client (if they have any records…), but possible instabilities (deformations, cracks, slumps) may be visible from Space Observation

Instability symptoms

Wet spots on the D/S face; such as Streaming, Ponding at toe (Temperature differential); Tailings deposited at toe.



All this data will come from client (if they have any records…)

but settlement may be visible from Space Observation



What you will learn

During the course we will review state of the art methodologies and technologies that together deliver world-class Quantitative Risk Assessments (QRA) allowing Risk Informed Decision Making (RIDM).

Then we will build and train some specific skills which will enable delegates to build and discuss robust QRAs while demonstrating some ORE2-Tailings results.

This is a brand new course from the authors of Improving Sustainability through Reasonable Risk and Crisis Management (2007) and The Long Shadow of Human‐Generated Geohazards: Risks and Crises (2016), and numerous prior TMW courses.

This course is designed and delivered in cooperation with MAXAR MDA corporation, the largest provider of space observation data and solutions (radar interferometry -InSAR- and optical solutions). This course will walk you through the technologies, explain how they are used and what you can expect to gain from them. We will provide attendees with an overview of their application before demonstrating their real-world deployment.

Closing remarks

Because of the nature of the integration between Space Observation & Quantitative Convergent Risk Assessment and the skills we will train, this course is a unique WORLD FIRST.

In conclusion, it benefits those who

  • design,
  • permit,
  • construct,
  • operate,
  • insure and perhaps finally
  • close a geo-environmental facility in the mining and oil&gas arena.

We look forward to presenting it and to the interactions it will hopefully generate.

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Category: Consequences, Optimum Risk Estimates, Probabilities, Risk analysis, Risk management

One response to “Space observable data for tailings dam probability of failure”

  1. I represent a company, ProSeal Products, ECCO Tailings Stabilization/Containment Systems. A very unique process for stabilizing tailings and mining berms. For Good! The University of Arizona Mining/Engineering Dept. has fully tested this system and the State of AZ. has committed over $100mm in incentives for the implementation of this system.

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