Could technology prevent another Samarco?
EnviroSuite says using best practice technology is a critical step in mitigating environmental and associated corporate risks, and in reducing the demands of crisis management that follow incidents with major environmental and community impacts. The comments follow BHP Billiton’s announcement of an approximate AUD$244 million increase in funding for remediation and compensation programs following the Samarco mine dam collapse.
Following BHP Billiton director Carolyn Hewson’s comments on the collapsed dam in Mariana, Brazil, at the Creative Innovation summit in Melbourne, EnviroSuite has said that much of the cost of recovering from such a catastrophe could be avoided or reduced by more effective resource allocation, which includes implementing best practice monitoring and warning technologies.
Co-founder and Managing Director of EnviroSuite, Robin Ormerod, said: “The reality is that there can be a lot of vulnerable capital after the completion of major engineering projects, as a result of risk management oversights and inadequate attention to best practice technology. Furthermore, people and receiving environments could also be at significant risk. In the worst case – which can happen, as seen tragically in Brazil – a major catastrophe can occur."
“Ready access to good reliable data, analyses and warnings can assist greatly in both reducing the risk of major incidents and mitigating their impacts. Monitoring of key engineering and environmental factors is becoming cheaper and easier. Combined with sophisticated decision support systems available in real time, events can now be better foreseen and responded to. The result is that not only can environmental damage be avoided or reduced, but large sums of money and even lives could be saved."
Total costs relating to the Samarco catastrophe over the past year exceeded AUD$2.8 billion after tax. This cost could continue to rise as the potential damage from contaminated flood water is realised over the next few years.
Many crises in the mining and resources sector could be managed more effectively with the implementation of modern monitoring and decision support technology. The ability to monitor, analyse, predict and report changes in environmental and structural parameters allows resource organisations to respond to potential hazards before they occur.
Ormerod said: “More is becoming possible to reduce risk and prevent or mitigate environmental disasters. Intelligent systems can help mines and water storage facilities manage things like release events for dams and mines pro-actively.
"For example, mines often have concentration limits for nearby waterways that are managed by controlling the release of mine-site water into the river. This needs to be balanced with information on on-site storage levels so that uncontrolled releases can be avoided.
"If high quality information on rainfall and flows is received in advance and in real-time, these outflows can be optimised to avoid adverse events.
“Regardless of the event that has occurred, we applaud BHP Billiton’s continued recovery and compensatory efforts and its exploration of technological solutions for its existing and future sites."