Removing miners from dangerous or monotonous tasks by using automation and remote operating technology helps companies to work safer and more productively. Dares Technology has another method that helps monitor conditions from afar.
The ability to operate and monitor mines remotely has become even more important during the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused countries including Peru, Chile, Argentina and South Africa to impose nationwide lockdowns.
The coronavirus halted mining activities in some countries, meaning the sector could not provide its usual economic contribution.
Fortunately, companies such as Dares Technology are making it easier to monitor sites without having to be on-site, or even in the office.
The Barcelona-based company provides operators with high-quality ground deformation maps, using radar satellites to monitor the stability of slopes in open pits, waste dumps and leach pads; rock stability in underground mines; and prevent tailings dam failures.
Chief executive officer and founder Javier Duro says the technology helps monitor slopes, leach pads and stability from home, making Dares’ role critical under current circumstances.
“When we have companies in the mining industry removing people from sites and automating the process, our technology can assist mine managers in making decisions for the remote management of operations,” Duro says.
“In a scenario like the coronavirus pandemic, our remote sensing technology is more important than ever because you don’t need to send anyone out to the field to calibrate, maintain or validate the technology.
“It is all automatic, so all the miner needs to do is set up the project then we take and process the satellite images and send the results back to the miner through the server.”
The satellite images show where a mine’s hotspots are, allowing companies to geographically review the operation and receive updates – weekly, fortnightly or monthly – based on their preference.
This technology is ideal for mines aiming to reduce their workforce during the pandemic and is especially suited to Australian operations.
“In Australia, most of the mines are in quite remote locations and it is a very big country,” he says.
“So this kind of technology is well-suited to Australian operations, this tool can be used by mine managers to monitor all of their mines from their own home in a unique web browser.”
Satellite monitoring also significantly improves safety, preventing dangers such as slope collapses and tailings dam failures.
Monitoring the stability of ground settlement, substance and heat allows companies to monitor the rate of movement of slopes, allowing them to prevent the potential of disasters before they occur.
“In open pit mines, slopes are activated after removing material from the bottom and they start creeping towards the centre,” Duro explains.
“We can see from the satellite image what the velocity rate of the creeping is, which gives the mine operator hints about potential accelerations and how much the risk of a collapse is increasing.”
Satellite monitoring prevents disasters from interrupting mining and potentially hazardous situations for workers, while also helping to avoid damage to surrounding environments.
“If liquids and chemical water or mud from a mine collapse goes into a river and is merged with fresh water, this can be a serious problem for the local environment,” Duro says.
“We can monitor all of these environmental adaptations and the ground settlement’s relation to the potential risk for collapses in different areas of the mine.”
Dares Technology’s satellite monitoring is also useful in the construction and oil and gas industries, the latter being the first sector it broke into in Australia.
“We monitor some construction projects, such as the extension of the Brisbane Airport in 2012,” Duro says.
“This technology can be applied to the ground, like in mining projects and settlement monitoring in urban areas.
“It’s a good application as well for the oil and gas sector, which is where we started in Australia many years ago, monitoring around 9000 square kilometres of the Surat and Bowen basins in North Queensland.”
Regardless of the industry, Dares Technology’s systems can be modified to suit any operation or budget, without compromising on quality.
Dares Technology prides itself on offering a system that is accurate and of high standard, but also affordable in comparison with other options.
“We have different levels of products that all have the same quality and precision,” Duro explains.
“The quality and precision are the most important things, because without quality measurements, you cannot ensure that you will see the risks. The cheaper versions do not change the level of quality but rather the frequency of the update.”
This means Tier 1 companies looking for a complete satellite monitoring experience can opt for weekly updates, whereas more budget conscious companies can opt for updates every two weeks or month.
Satellite monitoring technology can also be used to complement other monitoring technologies, such as GPS and underground sensors to optimise monitoring and knowledge of mines.
“If a mine has GPS, it does see a lot of what is going on in the ground, but you do not see the surroundings, which is where Dares Technology comes in,” Duro concludes.
“With this data, you can manage decisions about the mine’s whole picture responsibly. It’s not all about removing people from the picture, it is a technology to complement human judgement to make better decisions.”
This article also appears in the June issue of Australian Mining.