2 April 2020
High resolution Planet Labs imagery of the Luming Mine accident
My friends at Planet Labs have successfully captured, and have kindly provided, a high-resolution satellite image of the Luming Mine accident, in which polluted water has escaped from a tailings dam in China. This image was acquired yesterday, 1st April 2020, using the Sky Sat tool. Robert Simmon at Planet Labs very kindly undertook the processing.
This is the image of the Luming Mine accident:-
The image, which is rather beautiful, captures the two tailings dams (but see below), which are intact and the extensive pollution in the valley below the dam. The Planet Labs SkySat instrument is rather magnificent.
Below is an enlarged version of the image, highlighting the tailings pond and the two dams:-
So what does this tell us? Well, first, the dams are indeed intact. Second, as pointed out by loyal reader Caner in the comments yesterday, there has been a recent raising of the height of the tailings dams, which has extended across the intact terrain between the two original structures. It appears that this raising has been undertaken by the upstream method, which is now widely considered to be problematic.
The news reports of the problems suggest that the mine operators are building a road to the location of the problem. I am struggling to see any such construction around the dams themselves. However, there does seem to be a substantive change towards the back of the tailings pond:-
In this area there is clear evidence of work being undertaken and extensive deformation of the tailings including evidence of the formation of a trough and the development of what I would interpret to be tension cracks.
I am no expert on tailings facilities, but has the problem developed at a dewatering well located upstream of the tailings dams? Can those who know more about these facilities comment?
Reference and acknowledgement
Planet Team (2020). Planet Application Program Interface: In Space for Life on Earth. San Francisco, CA. https://www.planet.com/
Many thanks to Robert Simmon of Planet Labs, and to his colleagues there, for tasking the SkySat instrument and for providing the imagery. Their help and support is hugely appreciated.