Mine stability monitoring with satellite InSAR

One of the main challenges in the mining sector is the monitoring of ground behaviour over large assets, which often experience displacement due to operational activities. Slope instability in particular can be a significant threat to the integrity of mine sites and staff safety. Regular and accurate site stability monitoring is therefore of primary importance for detecting displacements prior to potential slope failures.

Thanks to SAR satellites’ sensitivity to subtle displacement, frequent satellite-based InSAR monitoring is an industry-standard tool for the early identification of ground displacement and acceleration patterns.

Through the analysis of opposing geometry image stacks, it is possible to derive the true vertical and east-west horizontal components of ground movement. This allows a more accurate identification of ground instabilities and displacement patterns along pit walls and impoundments. When combined with Trend Variation Analysis, it also allows improved detection of new displacement trends.

InSAR analysis x-band vs c-band
InSAR analysis: Comparison of InSAR results using C-band (left) and X-band (right) satellite data over the same area. X-band results better define the unstable area and provide an increased density of Measurement Points (MPs) compared to the C-band data. Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2021.
©DLR e.V. 2021 and ©Airbus Defense and Space GmbH

The use of high-resolution satellite imagery, such as TerraSAR-X (X-band), can also be a significant advantage for monitoring areas that are topographically complex. Higher resolution images provide increased density of derived InSAR Measurement Points (MPs), which in turn allows better definition of instability phenomena in small areas.