Unmanned boat resolves tailings dam survey issues

16 March 2023


OceanAlpha’s unmanned surface vehicle, the ME40 survey boat, solves issues mining companies have traditionally experienced with obtaining bathymetry data manually from tailings dams. The new ME40 survey technology has proved a great alternative to manned surveys, especially when the surveys are repeated periodically or in hazardous water. The boats provide quality data while saving lives and reducing running costs, making the new technology a sure-fire winner.

Water and tailings management are key control processes in mine management. Bathymetric surveys of tailing dams are important because the pond floor under the water is constantly changing. Tailing pond water is usually hazardous and toxic, with big coverage, which makes the survey job dangerous and needs a high standard of work. Typically, there will be two people on the boat (one surveyor and another boat operator) with a pole-mounted echo sounder and a GPS. With large boats unable to access shallow water, some surveys have to be done manually in order to acquire the bathymetry data, involving wading into the water which will inevitably bring up safety issues for the surveyors. But the new ME40 survey boat means these issues are a thing of the past.

About the device

The OceanAlpha ME40 has a compact hull design (163x71x37cm) and is lightweight (33kg) which makes it easily transported and deployed. The boat comes with a 200KHz single-beam echo sounder and a high-performance RTK GPS. It is also compatible with third-party sonar and GNSS devices. The survey mission path can be planned in software or imported from various file formats including CAD, DXF etc. The sounding data acquisition and basic post process is also integrated in the same software.

Peruvian proof

The second largest mining company in Peru performs regular assessments on the pond sedimentation and water capacity of its tailings dam and uses the OceanAlpha ME40 boat to model the bathymetric map and digital sediment thickness. The survey operator monitors everything about the mission and boat running status on a computer onshore, instead of working in dangerous water in a time-consuming way. The results from the OceanAlpha ME40 have shown a significant difference between the volume capacity value expected by the mining company Water and Tailings Management (WTM) and survey results indicating significant water loss. The study results have enabled improvements to the water resources management for the mining company.

Find out what the ME40 can do for you by lodging an enquiry or give us a call on 8683 0091.

See the boat in action.