Supporting tailings monitoring with Cambio

Over the past few years, the ICMM has engaged with vendors and research institutions to understand systems and technology capable of supporting responsible tailings management. Click here to read the summary report produced by ICMM. One of the platforms leading in this field is BGC’s enterprise software platform, CambioTM.

The Cambio platform allows mine developers and operators to see potential problem areas before they result in serious, costly consequences. Cambio combines a cloud-based centralized knowledge base, industry leading field data collection tools and state of the art visualization to support safe tailings management and inform decisions throughout tailings facility lifecycle. Cambio directly supports TSF monitoring through integration of remote sensing (lidar, InSAR, satellite) monitoring data with in-situ (live and manual) instrumentation, lab testing data, field observations, and action tracking. Cambio is currently in use supporting day to day operations at numerous active mine sites.

  • Cambio improves understanding of the facility by bringing all data into a centralized, geospatial view.
  • Cambio reduces risk and improves accountability by making the reporting more effective and transparent.
  • 2D map based and 3D interactive collaborative environments.

Using lidar data to inform risk management decisions

In August 2020, the Grizzly Creek Fire ignited in the rugged Glenwood Canyon of central Colorado. Glenwood Canyon is considered one of the most scenic corridors on the U.S. Interstate Highway System and is a critical route for road and rail traffic across the state as well as providing recreation opportunities for hiking, biking, hunting, and river rafting. Over an approximate four-month period the fire altered forest lands along the steep canyon walls and forested connecting drainages above Interstate 70 (I-70) and the Colorado River.

The following winter provided a quiet recovery period for the canyon, but this was only temporary as the summer months in this region of Colorado generate intense thunderstorms with runoff that can overwhelm heathy drainages. Unfortunately following a forest fire, the storm runoff on burned and bare soils can be orders of magnitude more destructive. The summer monsoon season of 2021 was no exception, with several storms generating sediment laden post-wildfire debris flows that covered and damaged I-70 and the nearby Amtrak railway, deposited sediment in the Colorado River, and also stranded travelers in the canyon at times. The events resulted in weeks of highway closure for this critical corridor during the summer travel season, causing adverse economic impacts to nearby communities and measurable disruptions to interstate commerce.

Post-fire debris flow blocking the Colorado River.

To reduce the potential for future disruptions, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) engaged with BGC to understand how ground conditions are changing following the wildfire and 2021 post-fire debris flows. Through this additional understanding, CDOT can prioritize mitigation projects on the basis of greatest need and cost-benefit, while also advancing predictive models that consider the relationship between burned conditions, slope, changes in terrain, and precipitation thresholds that can lead to disruptive debris flows.

Debris flow deposition on I-70 bridge approach.

To measure continuous ground change over the entire burn area, BGC contracted with an aerial survey firm to collect and process airborne lidar for over 100 square miles (260 square kilometers) of the Glenwood Canyon and Grizzly Creek Fire area. This newly collected lidar data was processed against existing public lidar data collected in 2016. These two sets of lidar data were entered into Cambio, BGC’s software platform, to deliver an interactive lidar change detection layer across the entire burn area. This processing of change between two different lidar data sets uses a patent-pending change detection algorithm to calculate positive and negative change over this entire area. Using Cambio, this type of change detection processing can be turned around within 24 hours.

Cambio screenshot showing the ground movements following storms in the Grizzly Burn Area.

BGC continues to work with CDOT and other partner agencies, such as the United States Geological Survey, to understand how the Canyon slopes have changed after the fire and 2021 debris flow season, and to plan mitigation efforts that can be implemented in the summer of 2022 and beyond. A better understanding of the post-fire debris flow events in Glenwood Canyon may also help CDOT and other stakeholders understand their risk exposure to debris flow impacts from future burn scars.

The Geohazards paradigm is so different to what a lot of the other members of CDOT are used to being exposed to. It is often difficult to convey the severity of an event to people outside of the response, but Cambio is such a great tool to do this alongside the other utility it provides.

BEAU Taylor
Colorado Department of Transportation
Close-up Cambio screenshot showing measurement of sediment loss and deposition in the Blue Gulch Basin of Glenwood Canyon.

Mark Vessely, M.Sc., PE.

Principal Geotechnical Engineer

Mark Vessely has over 25 years of experience in geologic hazard and risk assessment, emergency response to slope and other ground movements, and design for bridge foundations, retaining walls, pavements, and slope stabilization projects.

The Lithium Triangle and why permafrost matters: A new level of understanding

Lithium is a key component in lithium-ion batteries installed globally in most rechargeable batteries. It is one of the main natural resources required for the transformation to green energy and the reduction of the consequences of the evolving climate crisis. The Lithium Triangle is thought to hold more than half of the world’s lithium reserves. More than 100 salars can be found in this area that covers northern Chile, Western Bolivia and northwestern Argentina. Considering that the demand for lithium is expected to increase exponentially in the coming years, the interest in lithium production from this area is enormous and various new projects are in development. However, not only is the Lithium Triangle located in one of the world’s driest areas, but the elevation range of several mountains and plateaus provides conditions that favour the presence of permafrost. The complex spatial and altitudinal distribution of permafrost in these high elevation ranges is intertwined with their hydrological regimes. The slow change in local permafrost conditions must be addressed in designing water management systems, which are critical for lithium mining to minimize environmental and social impacts. In addition, permafrost degradation can result in changes to geohazards that may impact infrastructure as well as operations and viable project closure concepts in this region.

Leveraging our two decades of experience working on mining projects in the Andes, BGC has developed a permafrost distribution model for South America at an unprecedented spatial resolution geographic extent. The result of the model highlights that vast areas within the lithium triangle are located in zones with likely permafrost.

As part of this work, we are using our cloud-based, award winning geohazard management platform, Cambio, for visualizing the results of the permafrost distribution model and related decision making. The addition of the South American permafrost distribution model into our Cambio platform marks the initiation of our new Cryo-Cambio platform. This latest addition to Cambio focuses on geohazard and geotechnical asset management related to the cryosphere with the goal of elevating infrastructure management decisions, making them cost effective, defensible, better documented, transparent and easily communicated to regulators, project developers, management, designers and investors in challenging environments and a changing climate.

The model was recently presented at the Regional Conference of Permafrost and a recording of the presentation can be viewed here. BGC continues to work with various partners to improve the model and advance the understanding of the permafrost distribution in South America and its hydrological role.

This another example of a complex earth science challenge in need of an innovative solution, to contribute to ‘mining done right’. If you want to learn more about this novel permafrost distribution model, our Cambio platform or are just interested in this topic, let’s chat.

Lukas Arenson, Dr.Sc.Techn.ETH, P.Eng.

Principal Geotechnical Engineer

Dr. Arenson’s main area of expertise is geotechnical, mountain permafrost engineering with specialization on frozen soil mechanics and geothermal modelling. He is a renowned expert in the dynamics of ice-rich frozen slopes in particular rock glaciers.