Open Cut

Autonomous Sensors for Monitoring Spoil Dumps and Tailings Dams

Open Cut » Maintenance & Equipment

Published: March 20Project Number: C26032

Get ReportAuthor: Byron Wicks | Mining3

A critical parameter in determining slope stability for spoil piles and tailing dams are groundwater conditions.  Current technologies such as cabled or standpipe piezometers are used to collect groundwater information from spoil pile. However, this type of information is difficult to obtain due to operational (safety and integrity) and technical (drilling and reliability) issues.  A new method for remotely monitoring in-situ groundwater conditions in spoil piles and tailings dumps is required. The proposed solution is to develop preliminary sensors that can measure ground water in-situ for critical parameters including movement, temperature, pressure, pH, and moisture and communicate and transmit the individual sensor's data to the surface for analysis.

The goal of this project was to deliver a prototype system of wireless, groundwater sensing tools that communicate with each other over a 100-500m distance through overburden material whilst ensuring positioning accuracy to within one metre that has been validated in the field.


The objectives of the project were to:

  • Develop design requirements and criteria for a spoil and tailing dam wireless sensing system;
  • Identify commercially available components and systems and industry best practices that can be implemented or used in the prototype system;
  • Develop a method for data communication between the proposed sensors;
  • Validate individual prototype components with field testing;
  • Perform field tests to quantify battery life and the data transfer signal range through varied material types and conditions; and to
  • Provide recommendations and next steps progressing the path to commercialisation with minimal technical risks.


The outcomes of this project were:

  • A component lab testing prototype of the wireless ground-water monitoring tool is demonstrated, and its field-application capability mapped.
  • Wireless communication technologies and sensors for water pressure, movement, temperature, pressure, and moisture were successfully validated.
  • Of the pressure sensors tested, the Geokon 4500S pressure sensor is recommended due to the robustness, reliability, and accuracy performance.
  • Of the temperature sensors tested, the Geokon 4500S thermocouple sensor is recommended due to the robustness, reliability, and accuracy performance.
  • Based on background research a low-frequency (ELF, SLF, ULF designation) frequency-shift-keying modulation using a magnet or transmission coils are the preferred technologies for wireless communication through earth.
  • Of the two wireless communications technologies above, a rotating magnetic technology was selected for the prototype build out due to the greater transmission range, and reduced power consumption.
  • Communications and robustness of Elexon's Cave Tracker system was validated as a system platform via site field testing at the monitor's site. Validation characterized the performance of in different material environments to a range of 220m in overburden material, field testing of the housing to ensure that it is rugged for the intended use, and power consumption requirements for extended deployment of years. The system successfully passed all tests.
  • Based on the results above, individual components of a prototype system were tested and successfully transmitted groundwater pressure and position data through a 220m communication link.


Health and safety, productivity and environment initiatives.


Open Cut

Safety, productivity and the right to operate are priorities for open cut mine research.

Recently Completed Projects

C19024Establishing Ecologically Sustainable Mine Water Release Criteria In Seasonally Flowing Streams

Extreme rainfall conditions in the Fitzroy Catchment over an approxi...

C25030Coal Mine Open Pit Final Void Closure And Relinquishment - Addressing Uncertainty In Coal Mine Environmental Planning

This report addresses uncertainties faced by coal mine operators whe...

C27046Estimation Of True Deformation Vector From Slope Radar Monitoring

Slope deformation radar monitors are now widely used in open cut coa...

Open Cut

Coal Preparation

Maximising throughput and yield while minimising costs and emissions.

Recently Completed Projects

C27004Improving Coal Flotation With Oscillatory Air Supply

This report provides detailed information on coal flotation with os...

C25018Improving Solids Recovery And Moisture Reduction In Ultrafine Coal Dewatering

This report provides detailed information on fine coal dewatering in...

C27028Lab Froth Flotation Testing Guide With Coal Quality

Correct outcomes from laboratory froth flotation testing in coal bor...

Coal Preparation

Technical Market Support

Market acceptance and emphasising the advantages of Australian coals.

Recently Completed Projects

C26039Nanoporosity In Cokes: Their Origin, Control And Influence On CO2 Reactivity

This project using the outcomes of previous project C24060, examine...

C28063A Comprehensive Technical Review Of High-Efficiency Low-Emission (HELE) Pulverised Coal Combustion Technologies For Power Generation

Research and development has been undertaken worldwide to realise co...

C28064Carbon Structure Transformation During Coking Of Australian Coking Coals: Better Understanding The Coke Formation

Carbon structures of coke that are formed during the plastic layer a...

Technical Market Support

Mine Site Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

Mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from the production of coal.

Recently Completed Projects

C28076Selective Absorption Of Methane By Ionic Liquids (SAMIL) - Phase 2 Demonstration In A Packed Bed Reactor

An alternative approach to high temperature oxidation of ventilation...

C26004CFD Modelling Of Reverse Thermal Oxidisers For VAM Abatement - CFD Modelling Of Fixed-Bed RTO Devices

The project is part of a larger multi‐phase program of study a...

C27058Technological Assessment Of A Recycle Reactor For VAM Abatement

Underground coal mining emits high volumes of methane, diluted in ve...

Mine Site Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

Low Emission Coal Use

Step-change technologies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Recently Completed Projects

C17060BGasification Of Australian Coals

Four Australian coals were trialled in the Siemens 5 MWth pilot scale ga...

C17060AOxyfuel Technology For Carbon Capture And Storage Critical Clean Coal Technology - Interim Support

The status of oxy-fuel technology for first-generation plant is indicate...

C18007Review Of Underground Coal Gasification

This report consists of a broad review of underground coal gasification,...

Low Emission Coal Use

Mining And The Community

The relationship between mines and the local community.

Recently Completed Projects

C16027Assessing Housing And Labour Market Impacts Of Mining Developments In Bowen Basin Communities

The focus of this ACARP-funded project has been to identify a number...

C22029Understanding And Managing Cumulative Impacts Of Coal Mining And Other Land Uses In Regions With Diversified Economies

The coal industry operates in the context of competing land-uses that sh...

C23016Approval And Planning Assessment Of Black Coal Mines In NSW And Qld: A Review Of Economic Assessment Techniques

This reports on issues surrounding economic assessment and analysis ...

Mining And The Community


National Energy Research,Development & Demonstration Council (NERDDC) reports - pre 1992.

Recently Completed Projects

1609-C1609Self Heating of Spoil Piles from Open Cut Coal Mines

Self Heating of Spoil Piles from Open Cut Coal Mines

1301-C1301Stress Control Methods for Optimised Development...

Stress Control Methods for Optimised Development and Extraction Operations

0033-C1356Commissioned Report: Australian Thermal Coals...

Commissioned Report: Australian Thermal Coals - An Industry Handbook