Monitoring mining sinkholes? Think drone.

While there are many health and safety regulations in place in the mining industry, any mining project carries with it a certain level of risk, especially when it comes to site management and surveying natural hazards or potential pitfalls. A sinkhole is a good example of a hazard that can have a dramatic effect on the success and safety of a mining project.

What is a sinkhole? Sinkholes can be natural or the result of human activity. They occur as a result of soil erosion or underground water and may appear suddenly while having developed underground over a long period of time. Underground, water seeps through the various layers of the earth, slowly eroding the rocks and mineral structures. An increased flow of water might result in the underground land structure being weakened to the point where it collapses and opens up a hole. Activities like mining which depend on large water supplies or place heavy weight on the earth, can also change the land surface, resulting in the formation of a sinkhole. These holes can be a few feet wide or gaping chasms, posing a serious threat to the current project and surrounding community.

Early detection of the warning signs of a sinkhole is important to ensuring the smooth operation of any mining project. With the effective monitoring of early warning signs, through thorough and regular inspections of the site and surrounds, it is easier to forecast sinkhole collapses and reduce the risk of potential large-scale damage.

Some of the top benefits of using a drone for monitoring existing (and identifying potential) mining sinkholes

1. Getting a good idea of what’s out there

Using the latest in aerial technology, drones are able to render real-time images from a bird’s eye view, no matter what the terrain. With safety as a top priority in any good mining operation, it’s important for management and crew to understand the surrounding environment and get prepared for any potential hazards. Monitoring surface stability and detecting deformational anomalies can help to determine where potential sinkholes might appear.

2. Surface inspections on air

Safety inspections are essential to any site management plan. However, when completed by staff members, these inspections can be lengthy and hazardous. A drone requires little preparation time and makes site inspections quick and encompassing, at low production costs and with a view to increased safety all round. If a sinkhole has already appeared, monitoring it over time can be easily achieved with a drone, rather than risking human life while a plan of rehabilitation is formulated.

3. Monitoring during the fix-up

Once a sinkhole has been detected, the repair process can be easily monitored by a drone using LiDAR technology – LiDAR uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to provide three-dimensional mapping. Drones can be safely flown into mining areas and hazards and its mapping function can be used to position drilling equipment to begin the process of filling the hole with a sealant.

When it comes to managing a mining site, using a drone has many benefits, not least being a safe and cost-effective surveying option. Lightweight, easy to operate, and ensuring safe and speed aerial surveys, drones bring many benefits to UAV-friendly industries that often face hazard management concerns, high costs, and lengthy timelines.

Need help surveying your mining project? Licensed and experienced drone operators, we offer total aerial mapping services (including aerial LiDAR and hyperspectral technology surveying services) to professional organisations and government bodies. We are dedicated to helping our clients achieve the best possible results while reducing risks and saving on costs. Chat to us about your project needs today.

Time to tackle potential hazards with drone services? Download our brochure.