Mining typically involves extensive areas where environmental monitoring is spatially sporadic. New remote sensing techniques and platforms such as Structure from Motion (SfM) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) may offer one solution for more comprehensive and spatially continuous measurements. We conducted UAV campaigns in three consecutive summers (2015–2017) at a sub-Arctic mining site where production was temporarily suspended. The aim was to monitor a 0.5 km2
tailings impoundment and measure potential subsidence of tailings. SfM photogrammetry was used to produce yearly topographical models of the tailings surface, which allowed the amount of surface displacement between years to be tracked. Ground checkpoints surveyed in stable areas of the impoundment were utilized in assessing the vertical accuracy of the models. Observed surface displacements were linked to a combination of erosion, tailings settlement, and possible compaction of the peat layer underlying the tailings. The accuracy obtained indicated that UAV-assisted monitoring of tailings impoundments is sufficiently accurate for supporting impoundment management operations and for tracking surface displacements in the decimeter range.
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