“It’s not just the data or the physical information that is being shared between stakeholders, it’s also the intelligence.”

Reducing the risk of failure is paramount for Tailings Storage Facilities (TSFs)- now more than ever as the mining industry comes together to show investors, communities and stakeholders that they are taking sustainability and corporate responsibility seriously. The recent publication of the Global Tailings Standard, designed to establish an international set of global best practice on tailings storage facilities, presents the industry with a unique opportunity to transform. We speak to Seequent’s Dr Janina Elliott on what that means in practice for the teams managing tailings storage facilities.

“Dam integrity is at the core of what our customers are looking to achieve and optimise. Constant and consistent monitoring is essential and can make a significant contribution to the long-term stability and safety of TSFs. But the truth is that despite everyone’s best efforts, failure events will occur during the lifetime of a facility. These events demand immediate response and getting that response right the first time, every time, is enormously challenging.

That’s why we’re here; to enable new ways of uncovering valuable insights from data, solving increasingly complex problems and manage them before they turn into a risk for all.

Learn well, learn fast and make better decisions

What’s important for companies is to establish a strong learning cycle; one that builds on experience and takes into account every variable to create an ever-safer environment. Fundamental to that is the smooth flow of information. Without it, teams cannot work together, learn from events as well as each other and thus develop a better, more robust decision-making process.

We are in the business of giving our customers the opportunity to make better decisions about the earth, environment and energy challenges. How we help them do that is through the collection and correlation of data to produce a true ‘digital twin’ that fully represents the physical system of the TSF and combines all models whether they are geological, geomechanical, hydrogeological etc. Based on the analytical results and powerful visualisation, decisions can then be made to define the next steps in the lifecycle of a project.

Having all this information flow directly into the digital twin means the data and analysis exists in a single place rather than scattered over multiple servers, external hard drives, computers, or even people’s minds. Teams can operate from the same single source of truth and collaborate more easily and effectively, truly making decisions together. They can work on the same problem, find the failure in the system, and mitigate the risk.

To build a perfect holistic model, the data also needs to be understood contextually. Each geoscientific group views and uses raw data differently and we need to be able to trace data throughout its transformation, so everyone knows how the data flows, from its very origin all the way through to the geoscientific interpretations and the final result. Everyone needs to be ‘in the know’ all the time and this is exactly what we are trying to do with our solution.

A transparent flow of information empowers teams to do better

Seequent’s modelling products such as Leapfrog, Oasis montaj, and Geostudio address the analytical needs of geologists, geophysicists, and geotechnical engineers. Seequent Central underpins these products by providing the users with a platform for data management and visualisation as well as interactive and real-time information exchange.

Our highly interoperable software also allows for the transparent flow of information from all sorts of different places, thus breaking down barriers between silos and allowing the collective teams to act as a unit. Our software can accept a large number of different data types, which can introduce the data collectively into a coherent & live 3D modelling environment.

New information can constantly flow into the interpretation and update it within minutes, sometimes just seconds, depending on the size of your data file. It keeps everything dynamic, so you don’t have to go back to square one and start again, as some explicit type modelling products require you to do.

Through Central, stakeholders are notified as soon as a model has been actively reviewed or changed. Thus, a team’s efficiency is enhanced through the ability to interact in real time. Each member can actively track, understand, and link peer-reviewed models. Likewise, redundancies are removed through a more standardised process that uses intuitive technologies and practices to allow for greater team productivity.

Structuring workflows means vital insights aren’t lost

Importantly, when workflows are optimised, it is not just the data or the physical information that is being transferred, but also the intelligence, i.e. the experience, commentaries and the interaction between the individuals.

The availability of this information is hugely beneficial and, in classic monitoring settings, this valuable insight is commonly lost. When workflows are unstructured, critical data may appear in emails or in presentations, and there is no guarantee that it will be captured and audited in a way that gives everyone access at any given time. Essential insight, buried in the detail, may be lost and the opportunity to create a safer dam along with it.

Structured, audited, and collaborative sharing of information is vital to facilitate a proper learning process throughout the life cycle of tailings storage facilities. When collective intelligence of the physical system is added into a live, iterative 3D modelling process then an agile, even predictive digital twin can be established.

In this way and with these kinds of tools, the mining industry can transform the safety and sustainability of tailings storage facilities, build trust with local communities, and make major steps in fulfilling its corporate responsibilities.