A Walk Through a Historical Mine: How ASTERRA’s EarthWorks Protects the Environment

April 28, 2022
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ASTERRA recently participated in the Worldwide Walk for Water and some of its team members chose to walk in non-traditional locations. Jonathan Lynch, ground engineering lead with ASTERRA, walked on a historic mine site in the Lake District.

“The walk I took was in one of the historical industrial mining areas in the Lake District, northern England. This former copper mining area was originally developed by the Elizabethans in about 1585,” said Lynch. “As the mine got deeper, the use of water became more relevant.”

“A lot of water was diverted around the hills in what they called ‘leats,’ which I suppose are small aqueducts (artificial water trenches often leading to or from a mill). These leats diverted water to places needed, such as to a water wheel. This in turn drove pumping rods to dewater the mines. The water discharged from one water wheel was then again diverted elsewhere for use in other water wheels.”

Lynch summarized it as “pretty remarkable engineering.”

Lynch is a chartered geologist with expertise in ground engineering investigation, earthworks, and large-scale construction projects. In addition to his license from The Geological Society, he holds various site safety construction and supervision certificates.

Bringing this expertise to ASTERRA was natural for Lynch because ASTERRA is a remote sensing data company using geospatial data and providing soil moisture mapping expertise to infrastructure, geo-hazard, mining, and water industries. Lynch is building the ground engineering side of ASTERRA’s business following studies observing linear infrastructure asset behavior and climate change events, making the use of ASTERRA technology compelling.

Lynch mentioned that underground in this mine there is now secondary mineralization, as the copper sulphate-rich groundwater seeps out of the old workings and precipitates on the walls and floor of the mine. “Needless to say, there must be a lot of solutes entering the surface water system as it exits the old mine entrances,” said Lynch.

ASTERRA EarthWorks maps soil moisture for a variety of ground infrastructure applications. EarthWorks points out areas of concern and potential failure locations under hillsides, near roadways and rail beds, and around earthen dams and levees, including tailings dams holding toxic material. Immediate and long-term repairs can be made to prevent failures that threaten lives, infrastructure, businesses, and the environment.

The mining industry has not focused its efforts on detecting water penetration that causes surface damage which is catastrophic for both infrastructure and the environment. Mining and its associated industries are under increased scrutiny after a 2019 tailings dam breach in Brumadinho, Brazil. Tailings dams are earthworks holding back toxic sludge produced as a by-product of mining operations. The breach of the Brumadinho dam led to the deaths of 270 people, caused untold ecological damage, and required $7 billion in damages and compensation to be paid.

Statistics of earth dam breaches show that more than half of the breaches investigated were due to internal erosion, piping, or seepage. All these processes are caused by water penetrating the dam which could be detected by technology before any surface damage becomes evident. This may be accomplished using ASTERRA’s EarthWorks technology.

Sustainable solutions to critical infrastructure, as needed in mining, would specifically address the needs of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 9 and 11 by making infrastructure more resilient. The use of SAR technology like ASTERRA’s, can assist in the prediction of catastrophic failures and launch an investigation long before breaches occur, safeguarding infrastructure and saving lives.

Please contact us to learn more about ASTERRA’s solutions.

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