New project to use satellite imagery to protect communities and ecosystems from toxic pollution caused by failing dams in Peru

Dr Jamie Lorimer

Tailings dam collapsing in 2015 | CC-BY-2.0 Bento Rodrigues, Wikipedia

The new £2.7 million project, funded by the UK Space Agency and led by HR Wallingford will use remote sensing data to monitor the risk of tailing dams collapsing, thus enabling quicker action to avoid the dam failing. The dams are constructed from earth embankments and used to store toxic mine waste and effluent.

Dr Caitlin McElroy from SSEE will participate in the project 'Minimising the risk of tailings dams failures through the use of remote sensing Data'. Her role will be to provide research related to the environmental governance and social impacts relevant to the project based on her mining expertise.

The rate of failure of these dams is particularly high in low-income countries due to poor design, construction and the lack of regulations. The project will use Earth Observation and Global Navigation Satellite System technologies to allow for better monitoring and quicker action to be taken by the communities and ecosystems surrounding the dams and downstream of the mines.

The project is one of group funded by the UK Space Agency's International Partnership Programme and announced on the 8th February by UK Science Minister Sam Gyimah. The projects, totalling £38 million, aim to use UK space expertise to deliver innovative solutions to real world problems across the globe. The programme seeks to 'help some of the world's poorest countries, while building effective partnerships that can lead to growth opportunities for British companies.'