28 July 2019
The Cobriza Mine tailings failure: a high resolution image from Planet Labs
The kind folks at Planet Labs have generously collected a high resolution satellite image of the Cobriza Mine tailings failure in Peru, which happened on 10th July 2019. The image, collected with the high resolution SkySat sensor on 20th July 2019:
In the image below, I have highlighted the key features:-
The rupture in the tailings structure can be seen clearly. There appears to be tailings in a channel leading down from the mine terrace, which may well be the pathway followed by the tailings. In the river channel a small fan has formed, presumably consisting of tailings and slope materials. This deposit will mobilise and travel downstream in due course.
News reports suggest that the volume of tailings that was released by the breach was 67,000 cubic metres. Of this, 37,000 cubic metres entered the river channel. The impact of the heavy metal pollution downstream is still not clear, but in comparison with some other events, this is a comparatively small release of tailings. This does not make the failure of the structure any more acceptable, of course. The reports also suggest that the tailings damaged the electrical substation at the mine, interrupting power supplies to local communities.
I have yet to see an explanation for the failure of the tailings structure at Cobriza Mine; I’m sure that this will emerge in due course.
Reference and acknowledgement
Thanks to Robert Simmon for his help in acquiring and processing the image.
Planet Team (2019). Planet Application Program Interface: In Space for Life on Earth. San Francisco, CA. https://www.planet.com/