New paper: Satellite data for dam safety monitoring

A journal paper on satellite data for dam safety monitoring, written by a team from HR Wallingford, has been published in the ICE’s Dams & Reservoirs journal. 

The paper – written by Craig Goff, Eleanor Aindsco, Ye Liu and Marta Roca – gives an overview of the different types of satellite datasets and infrastructure relevant to dam safety that are currently available, explains the complex processes of converting raw satellite data into useable information and summarises the advantages and disadvantages of each data type.

The information presented by the authors is based on experience gained undertaking a three-year, £4 m research project to investigate and combine many types of space data to improve the monitoring of dams.

Further information:

Satellite imagery data comparison tool showing a dam site in Peru monitored by a regulator.

New independent review of reservoir safety in the UK published

A new report published by the UK Government last week has the potential to change the way we think about dam and reservoir safety in the UK.

Prof David Balmforth’s independent review of reservoir safety was commissioned by Defra after the serious ‘near miss’ at Toddbrook reservoir in 2019 (pictured). The report makes a series of recommendations that aim to strengthen and modernise the industry. The report gives us an opportunity to explore developing a new risk-based approach to dam safety, and emphasises the need for owners, engineers, the regulator and Government to work together. It calls for owners to take their responsibilities seriously, and ensure their reservoirs are proactively managed and maintained to minimise the risk of failure. We were delighted to see DAMSAT cited as a remote monitoring solution that can help dam owners to comply with the report’s recommendations.

The full Independent Reservoir Safety Review Report by Professor David Balmforth is available from the website.


Although the failure of a tailings dam can have disastrous consequences, up to this date it had not been possible to accurately simulate them. EMBREA-MUD is a model developed by HR Wallingford with the aim of filling the gap that arose during the development of DAMSAT when the team was analysing the potential impacts associated to the failure of tailings dams.

The model is a two component breach modelling tool that simultaneously takes into account outflows of both water and mud (i.e. tailings). The model can also represent erosion of dam material by both water and tailings, erosion of tailings by water as well as the dynamic forces between water and tailings layer.

Dr. Mohamed Hassan of HR Wallingford presented a paper about EMBREA-MUD in INCOLD 2021. The paper aims to describe the details of the EMBREA-MUD model and its application to a number of test cases including the well-known case of Mount Polley.

The paper can be downloaded from our Resources page.

Latest publications

We are pleased to announce that our most recent article: “A Two-Fluid Simulation of Tailings Dam Breaching” has been published in the Water Mining and the Environment Journal. This work presents the development and application of a dam breach model, EMBREA-MUD, which is able to simulate the failure of tailings dams and the behavior of liquefied fluids. It is worth mentioning that this one of models used in DAMSAT to estimate the potential risks and consequences associated to the failure of the tailings dams.

Also, last month a group of HR Wallingford published an article in the Special Edition of Tailings Dams of the Water Mining and the Environment Journal called: “DAMSAT: an eye in the sky for monitoring tailings dams“. This publication explains how the methods developed in DAMSAT can help government authorities, owners and mine operators to reduce the risks and increase the sustainability of the mining industry.

Furthermore, a group of HR Wallingford in collaboration with the University of Oxford wrote an article titled: “The potential to reduce the risks posed by tailings dams using satellite-based information“, published in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction in August 2019.

This paper describes how an EO-based service allows the cost effective monitoring of tailings dams, and also helps to forecast any potentially risk associated to these structures several weeks in advance. The article also examines, how these systems could help low income countries to adequately monitor mining operations, whilst allowing timely preventative interventions to be made where the probability of failure is found to be high.

The three publications can be downloaded from our Resources page

Consulta pública de la Norma Global de Relaves

Global Tailings Review es un proyecto liderado por el Consejo Internacional de Minería y Metales (ICMM), en asociación con el Programa Ambiental de las Naciones Unidas (UPEP) y Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).

El proyecto está trabajando en una Norma Internacional buscando establecer un estándar internacional que mejore la seguridad y el manejo de los depósitos de relaves. El borrador de la Normativa puede ser descargado en español en nuestra página de Recursos.

Global Tailings Review ha lanzado una consulta pública abierta a profesionales, instituciones públicas, comunidades locales e inversionistas para obtener comentarios y sugerencias acerca de esta Norma. A través de este proceso de consulta pública, el proyecto aspira producir un documento robusto y creíble, que logre ser ampliamente implementado por la industria minera en la mayor brevedad posible.

Para participar en la consulta, visite y complete el cuestionario que puede encontrar en español. La consulta se encuentra disponible en varios idiomas y estará abierta al público hasta el 31 de diciembre de 2019. El documento final será publicado a principios del 2020.