Jul 26, 2018

Mine owners automate monitoring with ShapeArray after Fundão Dam failure

Jeffrey Barrett
6 years ago

Mine owners automate monitoring with ShapeArray after Fundão Dam failure

After a rupture in the containment structure at the Fundão dam at the Germano plant in Mariana, Brazil, nearly 32.6 million m3 of mining tailings were released on November 5, 2015. Downstream, the Santarém dam retained a large portion of the tailings, however, the remaining portion flowed on to Bento Rodrigues located 8 kilometres away [1].

Samarco and co-owners, Vale and BHP Billiton retained the law firm Clearly Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, to coordinate an independent investigation with the support of a board of geotechnical specialists to identify causes of the dam’s failure [1]. The panel did not assign liability or fault in its findings. The following are excerpts from the report:

The Fundão Tailings Dam failed on November 5, 2015 in a liquefaction flowslide that initiated at the dam’s left abutment.
Hence the failure of the Fundão Tailings Dam by liquefaction flowsliding was the consequence of a chain of events and conditions. A change in design brought about an increase in saturation which introduced the potential for liquefaction. As a result of various developments, soft slimes encroached into unintended areas on the left abutment of the dam and the embankment alignment was set back from its originally-planned location. As a result of this setback, slimes existed beneath the embankment and were subjected to the loading its raising imposed. This initiated a mechanism of extrusion of the slimes and pulling apart of the sands as the embankment height increased. With only a small additional increment of loading produced by the earthquakes, the triggering of liquefaction was accelerated and the flowslide initiated [2].

The panel’s review of on-site instrumentation revealed the following: Inclinometer data at Fundão is limited [2].

After the failure of Fundão, Samarco contacted Measurand to determine if ShapeArray would be a suitable monitoring instrument for the site. As part of the automation of geotechnical instrumentation at the Samarco Mine, Samarco Mineração S.A. selected SAAF model ShapeArrays for installing in key geotechnical structures on site. Measurand and our Brazilian distributor TecWise, assisted Samarco with the installation of vertical ShapeArrays in boreholes located in the Sela and Tulipa Dams to monitor for lateral deformation, and the installation of horizontal ShapeArrays in the Santarem Decant Gallery to monitor settlement.

[1] “Understand the collapse – Samarco.” [Online]. Available: https://www.samarco.com/en/rompimento-de-fundao/. [Accessed: 12-Jul-2018].

[2] N. R. Morgenstern, S. G. Vick, C. B. Viotti, and B. D. Watts, “Fundão Tailings Dam Review Panel Report on the Immediate Causes of the Failure of the Fundão Dam,” Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, New York. Aug. 2016.

  • 1993

    The Beginning

    Measurand is established in Fredericton, New Brunswick
  • 1994

    Bend sensor development

    Measurand develops and patents fiber optic bend and position sensors for the medical and automotive sectors

    U.S. Patent 5,321,257

  • 1995

    Canadian Space Agency

    Receives funding from the CSA to develop sensor technology that ultimately leads to invention of ShapeTape

    U.S. Patent 5,633,494

  • 1999

    Patent on fiber optic sensor

    Measurand receives patent for "Fiber Optic Bending and Positioning Sensor" issued June 29, 1999

    Canadian Patent 2,073,162

  • 2001

    ShapeTape & ShapeHand debut

    Measurand designs and develops innovative motion capture technology

    U.S. Patent 6,127,672, 6,563,107

  • 2002

    Measurand Attends the ICPMG

    First contact with the geotechnical sector at the International Conference on Physical Modelling in Geotechnics (ICPMG)
  • 2004


    Design patent application sent about a new product designed to meet the specific needs of the geotechnical industry

    U.S. Patent 6,127,672, 6,563,107

  • 2005-08


    Measurand debuts ShapeWrap motion capture technology for the film and animation industry

    U.S. Patent 7,296,363

  • 2006

    Malibu installation

    ShapeAccelArray installed for ground monitoring for the first time​ in Malibu, CA

    Canadian Patent 2,472,421

  • 2007


    Suite of instrumentation developed for motion capture within Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines

    U.S. Patent 7,296,363

  • 2011

    SAAScan launched

    Built for rapid deployment and repeated use

    Canadian Patent 2,472,421

  • 2014

    SAAX launched

    Purpose-built for heavy-duty horizontal installation

    Canadian application 2,815,199 & 2,815,195

  • 2017

    SAAV launched

    The only geotechnical instrument with a patented cyclical installation method

    Cyclical Sensor Array, Canadian application 2,815,199 & 2,911,175