A multilayered approach to mining pipeline leak detection

Atmos International

The range of benefits presented by a mining operation cannot be denied, but neither can the disadvantages, especially if a leak occurs. A multilayered approach to pipeline leak detection that considers the environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors of mining is crucial to maximise value.

Environmental – Protecting against external damage

Some risks to a mining pipeline are unavoidable, such as geohazards. In Australia particularly, many pipelines run through high consequence areas and there are a range of environmental threats that operators must contend with as part of a multilayered approach to mining leak detection, such as bushfires, severe floods and winds and tropical cyclones.

During periods of downtime caused by a potential environmental threat, Atmos Eclipse can continue to function and collect valuable leak data for pipeline operators.

Environmental – Reducing environmental impact

Australia is known as one of the driest and sparsely populated regions in the world but also one of the most biodiverse.

Australia is home to over 600,000 plant, animal and microorganism species, many of which are either endangered or can’t be found anywhere else in the world.1 Not only that, but 20 Australian natural landmarks are listed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites, 12 of which are natural environments such as its coral reefs, mountainous areas and rainforests.2

A mining leak in Australia has the potential to impact air quality, biodiversity, ground and surface water quality, landscape stability and contribute towards climate change3, with recent research suggesting there’s a link between surface coal mining and rising morbidity risk in human populations in the vicinity.4

Approaches to mining pipeline leak detection should place an emphasis on speed and accuracy to mitigate the amount of damage to the environment if a leak occurs.

Atmos Eclipse works alongside Atmos Wave Flow to improve leak detection performance, including sensitivity, response time and leak location accuracy so damage to the surrounding areas is kept to a minimum.

Atmos International
A map of Australia containing active mining operations and areas of high environmental risk.

Environmental – Optimising natural resource

The fulfilment of mining itself in Australia requires the use of natural resources that are already scarce in the region, such as water.

Seawater and brackish water are often sourced for desalination, the process of removing mineral salts from water, typically via reverse osmosis. This involves exposing water to high pressure, filtering out minerals and other contaminants.5

While desalination has been a common approach in Australia for over 100 years6, it requires a substantial amount of water, which occurs alongside widespread shortages of water in residential areas.

Unpredictable rainfall, climate change, drought and uneven distribution are a handful of the factors behind water scarcity in Australia, so mining companies should consider a leak detection system that optimises how they use water and other lucrative natural resources.

Non-intrusive hardware such as Atmos Eclipse can be retrofitted to a mining pipeline to acquire flow, pressure and temperature data. Measuring bi-directional flow, the speed of sound for product change and transmission amplitude for pig detection, Atmos Eclipse provides sensitive, real-time leak detection so mining companies can act quickly and reduce the amount of wasted natural resources in the event of a leak.

Hardware can be further supported by software that optimises Australian mining operations.

Atmos International.
An example of a mining operation using desalinated water extracted from the sea via reverse osmosis.

Social – Understanding the people impacted and why

A prerequisite for the majority of mining and exploration activities in Australia is that the land or the rights to use the land are purchased.7 In a region as culturally rich with history as Australia, it’s not uncommon for land to be owned already.

Local indigenous communities and other communities are well established in Australia, so a mining leak detection system should make effort to understand the people affected by a leak from mining and exploration activities and why.

A mining operation may require the shared use of indigenous people’s natural resources as well as their land. Mining companies taking this approach should consider the impacts a leak would have on the surrounding population and the resources they need to survive.8

Social – Adding social value

Atmos Pipe provides statistical volume balance calculations as part of a wider leak detection system that can detect onset as well as existing leaks. For Australian mining operations which are at risk of leaking pollutants into the environment, a precision leak detection solution can ensure a mining company takes appropriate action when a leak alarm is raised and preserving their social value in the process.

Governance – Considering future mining compliance 

For mining companies looking to sustain their operations long into the future, a multilayered approach to leak detection needs to work with future compliance in mind as well as current legislation.

Hardware like Atmos Eclipse is electrically isolated from the pipeline. To support with future standards around net zero emissions, Atmos Eclipse can be powered by both solar and wind energy while it reduces the impacts of a leak in a mining operation, supporting Australian mining companies long into the future as new legislation is released.

Governance – Understanding mining compliance

While the Australian Commonwealth government regulates mining and exploration for offshore areas in Australia, onshore legislation is handled state by state.9

Western Australian law still currently allows for mining to damage or destroy indigenous sacred sites,10 but legislation and compliance is continually being looked at as western Australian mining continues to boom.

Leaks that escalate into spills can be costly for a mining company, whether that be saline water or product extracted from the mine.11 A multimethod leak detection solution made up of hardware and software can prevent the damage caused by a leak from escalating and protect Australian mines from extra financial risk.

A multilayered approach to Australian mining that considers ESG is crucial to sustain mining operations. To learn more about Atmos’ range of hardware and software solutions available to Australian mining companies, visit here.

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  1.  https://www.dcceew.gov.au/environment/biodiversity/threatened ↩︎
  2. https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/au ↩︎
  3.  https://www.atse.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/AS-2019-01-30-APPLIED_Minerials-Addressing-the-environmental-impacts-01-D5-web.pdf ↩︎
  4.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8834562/ ↩︎
  5. https://www.atmosi.com/en/news-events/blogs/what-s-mine-is-ores-how-pipeline-solutions-can-support-the-latin-american-mining-industry-s-social-responsibility-for-water-management/ ↩︎
  6. https://www.water.vic.gov.au/water-sources/desalination/desalination-history ↩︎
  7. https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/employers/australian-mining-and-resource-sector-and-human-rights ↩︎
  8. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/partner-content-how-australia-is-securing-its-water-future ↩︎
  9. https://www.australiaminerals.gov.au/legislation-regulations-and-guidelines ↩︎
  10. https://www.mining-technology.com/features/western-australia-mining-indigenous/ ↩︎
  11. https://www.wa.gov.au/government/announcements/gold-miner-fined-hypersaline-spill-0 ↩︎
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