Measuring water from Tailings Dams with Willowstick

17 August 2023


Field Technician collecting measurements of the magnetic field generated by the electric current introduced to the water leaking from a dam.

Characterising groundwater flowpaths in and around tailings dams and storage facilities is a necessary function at all mine sites. However groundwater characterization is often a frustrating experience as it isn’t easy to see and understand what is happening with water below the ground surface. When boreholes fail to provide answers to important questions, a typical approach is to drill more holes. In the long term, this approach is cost-prohibitive and may not provide the necessary answers.

Willowstick’s geophysical technology is quick, non-intrusive and can identify, map and model preferential groundwater connection paths. By augmenting data from existing wells with a Willowstick geophysical investigation a more comprehensive model of the location and depth of preferential groundwater flow paths can be identified.

The Willowstick product is great for measuring groundwater in and around tailings dams. The product uses a low voltage, low amperage, alternating electrical current to directly energize the groundwater by way of electrodes placed down wells or in contact with seeps or leaks. Since groundwater is typically a better conductor of electrical current than the surrounding rocks or earthen materials, the electric current follows the water bearing features that help to complete the circuit between the two electrodes.  This electric current, just like all electric currents, generates a magnetic field. This magnetic field is then measured and recorded above ground using Willowstick’s patented instruments.

Using this technology a Willowstick investigation typically identifies specific areas that warrant further investigation while reducing the number of additional wells that need to be installed. The early application of a Willowstick investigation saves time and money by eliminating unproductive remediation efforts.

To find out how HydroTerra can use the Willowstick technology to assist you with your groundwater measurements, click here: Preferential groundwater flow adaptive mapping


A 3D model of a Willowstick survey that identified a seepage pathway through the dam’s rock foundation.

The Willowstick difference

Some of the practical benefits of Willowstick’s patented technology are that it:

  • Was developed specifically to identify, model, and predict subsurface water flow paths in virtually all applications
  • Measures the signature magnetic field that is created by an electric current injected into subsurface groundwater of interest
  • Generate tens of thousands of data elements, and then use proprietary software models to take a “deep data dive” that manifests patterns or trends in the subsurface water flow
  • Relies on immutable laws of physics that have revolutionized other industries.
  • Targets the groundwater of interest at specifc depths; it is accurate down to 1000 feet
  • Is a patented solution that is non-invasive
  • Has a unique combination of patented hardware and software models enable water flow tracking at levels of acuity previously unattainable
  • Produces final reports that include specific coordinates and depths of the flow path(s) to aid in remediation efforts