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.

Employee Spotlight – Kerri Bascom

Kerri Bascom was born and raised in the Bahamas. Growing up surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean Kerri has always been fascinated by the dynamic nature of coastal and riverine environments and its ability to transform the surrounding landscape. In high school she participated in the Technical Cadets Corps Program which provided a pathway to encourage students to move into the technical sector. With support from a number of people along the way, this program help set her on the path to a scholarship at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario where she completed her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Civil Engineering. The move from the sunny Bahamas to Eastern Canada was a huge change for her as she got to experience a true Canadian winter for the first time. Despite the cold weather, after completing her undergraduate and graduate studies, she decided to make Canada her permanent home and started her career with BGC directly out of school and is currently working towards her permanent residency.

How long have you been with BGC and what do you do here?
I’ve been with BGC for 1 year and 2 months and am currently part of the Surface Water & Pipeline teams as a Junior Civil Engineer.

How would you describe your job to a class of Kindergartners?
I work in a team which focuses on making sure that the structures we put in place years ago are ok to use now and potentially in the future.

What is your favourite thing about working at BGC?
The company culture. BGC really feels like a community. Besides connecting at work, I’ve had the opportunity to hang out outside of the office with my coworkers through activities like book club and that helps build the sense of community we have here.

What is the one piece of advice you’d give to new hires at BGC?
Don’t hesitate to reach out. Nobody knows everything so when you don’t know the answer to something, reach out and ask. When I first started here at BGC I was hesitant to reach out for help but I’ve quickly realized that seeking others’ perspective and hearing about their approach to solve a problem has really helped me do my job better.

If you could switch jobs with someone in BGC, who would it be and why?
Someone from our Data Sciences team. In university I had the chance to learn a bit about coding and really enjoyed it. The opportunity to use scripting programs like Python has always interested me.

If you could have an unlimited supply of one thing, what would it be?
Time, sometimes I feel like there’s not enough time in the day to do all the things I want to do. And this is not a matter of being overworked; I really would love more time to explore other activities and interests that I haven’t had the chance to yet like obstacle course racing.

What is the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?
When I first moved to Canada my friends took me to try deep fried ice cream. I was confused at first, how is it possible to deep fry ice cream? It’s now become one of my favourite deserts.

What fictional place would you like to visit?
I’m a proud to say I’m a nerd and I love anime. I’d love to visit the Avatar universe specifically from The Legend of Korra.

If you had to listen to one song for the rest of your life what would it be?
Tightrope by Janelle Monae. I also really love soca music.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t doubt yourself. You might not be right but don’t second guess every decision you make. Trust your gut and make an effort to be more decisive

BGC project takes home Award of Merit at the 2021 ACEC-BC Awards for Engineering Excellence

Nominated in the Soft Engineering category for our Integrated Provincial Flood and Steep Creek Assessments project, BGC was proudly awarded the 2021 Award of Merit at the April 29th ACEC-BC virtual gala. The Association of Consulting Engineering Companies British Columbia annually recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of consulting engineering companies across BC at their Awards of Engineering Excellence. We are proud to be among the 6 nominees in the Soft Engineering category this year and thrilled to have won the Award of Merit.

A winning project

Many communities in British Columbia and beyond have long histories of living with geohazards, which have led to economic loss, interruption of transportation corridors and sometimes loss of life. Despite the high cost of responding to such disasters, siloed local funding structures, knowledge gaps, and divisions of government responsibility have created challenges for pro-active risk management that, if resolved, could transform how we reduce risk in places where people live and work.

Over the past three years, BGC has been working with local governments and partners to assess geohazards across 300,000 km2 of BC. By integrating knowledge, tools, multiple funding sources, and approaches across jurisdictions, our goal is to create a stronger path to risk reduction than any single authority could accomplish in isolation. Our integrated flood and steep creek assessments, delivered via Cambio™ and through the efforts of over 60 team members, helped support proactive geohazard risk management in southern BC communities.

We prioritize hazards areas using the principles of risk assessment, considering how often a damaging event can occur and what the likely damage would be. To support a long-term vision for natural hazard risk reduction planning, implementation and monitoring, BGC also completes detailed follow-up assessments. This work is backed by our unique web-based solution, Cambio™, that provides data organization, prioritization analysis, results communication and on-going geohazard management.

With over 10,000 prioritized geohazard areas and hazard susceptibility modelling completed across tens of thousands of watersheds, this work is BC’s most extensive flood and steep creek geohazards assessment to date. Our study results and supporting software will help government partners tasked with long-term geohazard risk-informed development planning, bylaw enforcement, flood resiliency and emergency response planning.

Geophysics equipment: supporting team BGC in the field

Early this year, BGC opened a new 4,000 square foot warehouse in Calgary with geophysical equipment to support the work of our team on various BGC projects. Many clients are familiar with our use of electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) and seismic refraction techniques to inform the design of trenchless crossings on pipeline projects; but our expertise and equipment extends to a wide variety of other applications.

Our downhole logging experts, offer a wealth of knowledge regarding our standard logging techniques and some of the lesser-known downhole applications, including nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), distributed temperature sensing (DTS) and discrete fluid sampling.   

Example of downhole log displaying televiewer, natural gamma, induction conductivity, fluid temperature and fluid conductivity products.

Equipment in our new warehouse also includes a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), equipped not only for standard photogrammetric work but also for carrying a range of different sensors, including multispectral and thermal cameras and a high sensitivity magnetometer. BGC has certified UAV pilots in house and although we don’t operate crewed aircraft; we are experienced in the processing of airborne EM data for larger scale mapping applications.

BGC not only works on land and in the air, but we also have extensive waterborne capabilities. Our team has a wealth of experience conducting waterborne EM and ERT surveys over freshwater bodies, including for mapping saline seeps discharging into rivers and ponds. We also have side-scan sonar equipment and a marine seismic system which we’ve used for geohazard work along coastal pipeline projects and for some trenchless crossing designs also for pipeline projects.

Example of waterborne seismic refraction and ERT results from a dredging analysis study.

Achieving a five-fold reduction in pipeline failures caused by geohazards.

About 74 times every year, geohazards such as landslides, debris flows, rockfalls, earthquakes and flooding rupture pipelines around the world. About 16 of these failures occur every year in North America, which is equivalent to an average historical failure rate of about 0.02 failures per 1,000 km of pipeline per year or about two failures per year for every 100,000 km of operating pipe (IPC2016-64085).

Over the past few decades, pipeline failure rates by more frequent causes (third party impacts, corrosion, and material defects) have declined by a factor of two or more, while the frequency of geohazard-related failures has not changed significantly. BGC Engineering and our clients are working to remedy this. In 2015, we set a goal of reducing the global rate of pipeline failures caused by geohazards by more than 10% by 2025. To achieve this, we need to prevent about seven high consequence failures every year through the implementation of rigorous and systematic geohazard management programs.

Geohazard inventories for approximately 335,000 km of pipelines are currently hosted in Cambio. When over 90% of identified geohazard sites on a pipeline have been inspected in the field by a geohazard specialist, and have been assigned a probability of failure, a recommended management action, and an action timing, we refer to that pipeline as having been “baselined”. Baselined pipes have advanced through the risk management process to the point that a reduction in uncertainty and risk can be realized. About 140,000 km of pipelines within the Cambio geohazard management system have been baselined.

Geohazard inventories for approximately 335,000 km of pipelines are currently hosted in Cambio.

BGC’s geohazard management program begins with the development of a detailed inventory of credible geohazards, followed by baseline characterization of the sites in the field. Our Cambio software is used for data collection and storage, site-specific annual probability of failure estimation, and tracking of recommendations for additional assessment, monitoring or mitigation.

Over the past three years, we have measured a five-fold reduction in failure rates on the baselined pipelines. Running 3-year average failure rates for baselined pipelines are currently 0.004 failures per 1,000 km per year compared to the industry average of 0.02.

This reduction has been achieved by helping pipeline operators focus their monitoring, maintenance and mitigation efforts at high probability of failure geohazard sites so that geohazard threats can be proactively addressed before failure occurs. We are incredibly encouraged by these results but recognize that ongoing diligence is required to sustain these trends.

Please contact us if you would like to learn more about our geohazard services and our Cambio geohazard management software, we look forward to hearing from you.

Sarah Newton, P.Eng.
Geological Engineer