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Advanced analysis of satellite data reveals ground deformation precursors to the Brumadinho Tailings Dam collapse

Grebby, S. and Sowter, A. and Gluyas, J. and Toll, D. and Gee, D. and Athab, A. and Girindran, R. (2021) 'Advanced analysis of satellite data reveals ground deformation precursors to the Brumadinho Tailings Dam collapse.', Communications Earth & Environment, 2 . p. 2.

Abstract

Catastrophic failure of a tailings dam at an iron ore mine complex in Brumadinho, Brazil, on 25th January 2019 released 11.7 million m3 of tailings downstream. Although reportedly monitored using an array of geotechnical techniques, the collapse occurred without any apparent warning. It claimed more than 200 lives and caused considerable environmental damage. Here we present the Intermittent Small Baseline Subset (ISBAS) technique on satellite-based interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) data to assess the course of events. We find that parts of the dam wall and tailings were experiencing deformation not consistent with consolidation settlement preceding the collapse. Furthermore, we show that the timing of the dam collapse would have been foreseeable based on this observed precursory deformation. We conclude that satellite-based monitoring techniques may help mitigate similar catastrophes in the future.

Item Type:Article
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Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-020-00079-2
Publisher statement:This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Date accepted:23 October 2020
Date deposited:07 January 2021
Date of first online publication:04 January 2021
Date first made open access:07 January 2021

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