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"We foresee a future where everyone moves to real-time TSF monitoring"

Inmarsat's Joe Carr demands a new standard in TSF technology to aid best practice

Mining Journal

Inmarsat director Joe Carr has spent over a decade in the mining industry with a focus on mining innovation. His career has taken him from graduation at the Camborne School of Mines to Finland, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Peru, Mongolia and beyond. 

Joe has worked in consulting and due diligence for notable projects including at Rio Tinto's Oyu Tolgoi copper operation and for Barrick Gold at Pueblo Viejo.

At Inmarsat Joe's focus has been working on developing innovative new mining technology, utilising Inmarsat's world leading satellite connectivity services. This includes the launch of a best available technology tailings monitoring and management system in March, 2019.

The mining sector needs to adopt vastly improved tailings monitoring best practice systems if it is serious about achieving its goal of being a ‘zero-harm' industry, according to Joe Carr, mining innovation director at mobile satellite technology leader, Inmarsat.

Inmarsat has recently pushed out its remote tailings dam monitoring with real-time analysis solution, which it believes could transform the way the industry monitors tailings storage facilities (TSF) and then, over time, would build a database capable of delivering predictive analytics on TSF behaviour.

Currently, monitoring instruments such as piezometers at many operations are read manually year-round, at varying intervals. Data is taken, filed and shared using disparate platforms and networks, creating datasets over varied date ranges and consistencies, which are made available on a delayed basis to limited individuals.

The Inmarsat process leverages its global satellite network - used to underpin maritime and aviation safety systems - by connecting any TSF instrumentation delivering an output to a low-range wide area network (LoRaWAN), which is essentially big wi-fi. That data is fed to an aggregation base station at the mine, which has its own power and communication infrastructure.

Data is aggregated in real time using edge computing then is pushed through Inmarsat's L-band satellite system to a secure cloud. The cloud feeds into a dashboard designed by the user and is made available to whichever parties need access. Dashboards would be customised with appropriate settings and alarms to flag up anomalous changes that need attention - as they happen.

"I think everyone in the industry knows the way we've managed our tailings dams in the past isn't how we want to manage them in the future," Carr said.

"We foresee a future where everyone moves to real-time monitoring and that's something Inmarsat actively wants to support."

He said regulators and investors, led by the Church of England, were making a stand against current practices, demanding something better. He said the core elements at the centre of these demands - safety and environmental responsibility - were also key to basic social licence tenets.

"As an industry we have to move that way," Carr said. "Our view is real-time monitoring is essential and regulators are going to move that way anyway so, there is room for the industry to move that way itself to come up with a global standard.

"But, if we don't come up with a global standard, it will be imposed on us."