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Case Studies

SA Tailings Dam

SA Tailings Dam

During one of our pilot studies involving tailings dam condition surveys using InSAR, unmistakable signs of distress in a South African structure emerged in the months preceding its failure. This unfortunate incident highlights the critical importance of regular, cost-effective, and non-disruptive InSAR monitoring in identifying potential instabilities before catastrophic events unfold.

Had consistent InSAR monitoring been implemented, the precise location of the emerging instability could have been pinpointed well in advance. This timely information could have facilitated proactive remedial measures to avert the dam failure and prevent the subsequent pollution of a local watercourse. The ability of InSAR to capture subtle ground deformations and changes in structure conditions offers a powerful tool for early detection and preventive action in the realm of dam safety. The insights gained from this pilot study underscore the potential of InSAR as a valuable technology for mitigating risks associated with tailing dams, ensuing the preservation of environmental integrity and safeguarding against the potential consequences of structural failures.


  • Retrospective InSAR analysis using the same data that would have been obtained had regular monitoring been established. 

  • Interpretation of results & determination of displacement trends. 

  • Identification of susceptibility to failure in the area of the subsequent breach. 

  • Loss of the tailings facility and pollution of a local watercourse. 

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