Water Surveys

Read about the importance of understanding water balance in our Whitepaper – Bathymetry: a tool for responsible and strategic mine tailings management.

Water is critical to the mining operations of the world. From environmental permitting and mine design, to extraction and operations closure, water touches every part of the mine lifecycle. This essential element is of the utmost importance and requires regular monitoring to ensure minimal waste and reduce water stress. Bathymetry is the measurement of water depth, creating a hydrographic map and permitting precise volume calculations to monitor water balance.  

In mining applications, bathymetric surveying is necessary to calculate the volume contained in water-capped tailings deposits and to profile subsurface structures. These are essential processes in monitoring, maintenance, and compliance.  Historically, these measurements are taken manually using human-crewed boats and sonar gear, weighted ropes or density plates.  This mode of operation represents significant risk to the people involved and can lack precision and accuracy of robotic methods.  

Sonar equipment

HELIX is typically outfitted with sonar equipment that is able to map out the depth and shape of underwater terrain. Bathymetry is the underwater equivalent to topography and the use of sonar equipment can provide detailed images and high resolution maps of the underwater terrain. Water temperature, salinity and turbidity are all factors that are considered when creating an underwater map. 

HELIX works with most types of sonar gear, but standard issue includes a CEE-ECHO compact dual frequency hydrographic survey echo sounder, an Airmar 33/200 kHz transducer AML and Base•X₂ sound velocity profiler.

shallow water surveys

Sonar equipment is very effective to map out the underwater terrain at a depth of at least 50 cm. The areas that define the edges of a body of water are often more shallow than 50 cm and mapping out (characterizing) this terrain is challenging. Copperstone has developed a mechanical shallow water device that directly measures water depths between 1 cm and 50 cm. Accurate measurements of the edges and shallow beach areas are integral to characterization of a body of water and the connecting land mass. 

Water Profiling

Water quality and the examination of water and wastewater, is a concern that affects us all. Water profiling is a necessary step and one part of managing and treating water storage facilities. Information, such as the salinity, temperature at different depths and turbidity are all essential to assess the status of a body of water and determine next steps. HELIX can be equipped with CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) sensors, as well as other probes, to collect the data you need to efficiently and effectively maintain your water storage facilities. 

water & Sediment sampling

In addition to water profiling, water sampling is another element that assesses water quality. There are several methods for water sampling. At Copperstone, HELIX is equipped with a vertical Van Dorn sampler to collect water samples at various depths and an Ekman grab sampler to collect sediment and below water ground samples. 

winter ICE & water surveys

HELIX can be deployed in all weather conditions and in any season. Working on the frozen surface of ponds is a planned activity that recognizes and reasonably addresses the hazards associated with the ability of the ice to safely support the load. Planning for operations over floating ice covers requires a clear understanding of how the ice sheet must function to ensure a successful and safe project. This includes an assessment of ice thickness across the body of water.

For the winter months, HELIX is equipped with an auger to drill through the ice layer for sampler and sonar deployment and ice thickness measurement for risk assessment.  HELIX can travel across the frozen surface while operators are stationed at a safe location. Remote deployment of the auger provides information on ice thickness. Water profiling and sampling in winter is also possible with HELIX. 

Geotechnical Surveys

Geotechnical surveys include soil sampling, soil mechanics, and subsurface investigations. These surveys are necessary to evaluate the foundation of structures, such as tailings storage facilities, and are required for their proper management. Information such as soil or material type is crucial to inform the design and decide on execution of work necessary to manage changes in the terrain or foundation.  

HELIX can venture to locations that are difficult to evaluate and can be equipped with the tools needed to gather critical data while ensuring human safety.

digital cone penetrometer

An in-situ test that is often performed during geotechnical surveys is the cone penetration test. This test is used to identify the soil type and works by pushing the cone penetrometer into the ground at a specified rate. The data is then recorded at regular intervals.  HELIX is equipped with a digital cone penetrometer which affords real-time data that is not impaired by manual operations. The cone penetrometer at Copperstone is instrumented to measure penetration resistance at the tip, friction at the shaft (friction sleeve) and a pore-water pressure sensor.

digital vane shear Tool

Shear strength of a material is its ability to withstand forces that would compromise the internal structure of the material itself. To measure the shear strength of the ground a Vane Shear device is used. At Copperstone, we have upgraded this tool to a digital version which provides critical data that is not impeded by manual operations.

earth sampling tools

The piston sampler is used to collect samples of undisturbed sections of very soft to stiff earth/clay/dirt.  Using HELIX, a piston sampler can be remotely deployed to collect vital samples at varying depths. Copperstone’s multi-sample magazine permits piston sampling at various locations or depths in one trip to maximize efficiency. 

Inspection & Surveillance

Characterization of subsurface structures is often done by ground penetrating radar (GPR). GPR permits non-intrusive investigation and has applications in archaeology, lunar characterization and underground infrastructure monitoring. Combining a GPR unit with HELIX provides subsurface information in human restricted locations.

 The unique ability of HELIX to go where humans can’t makes it an ideal platform for inspection of infrastructures that are difficult to access. Equipped with cameras, HELIX is capable of inspecting miles of pipelines and under brideways. 

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