How Environmental Monitoring for Mining Applications Can Protect Nature

Volue Industrial IoT has supplied groundwater measuring systems to Copperstone Viscaria AB that will be used to determine whether Copperstone’s planned mining activities will affect the amount of water available to vegetation in the area.

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Recently, Copperstone Viscaria AB submitted an environmental permit application to resume mining operations in Kiruna, Sweden. To determine how the planned mining activities will affect the amount of water available to vegetation in the area, Copperstone Viscaria AB will use Time Domain Reflectometer (TDR) stations supplied by Volue Industrial IoT.

The TDR stations will measure groundwater content through sensors placed in the ground. In addition, the sensors will monitor the level of groundwater.

For its planned activities, Copperstone Viscaria AB has created an environmental programme with the aim of conducting all activities in an environmentally friendly manner.

An important part of the environmental permit application is an environmental impact statement, which describes, among other things, how the activity will affect the surface and groundwater systems in the area.

Groundwater measurements are crucial for the programme.

The ore in the mine contains mainly copper, but also iron. If the mining operation is resumed, surface and groundwater will be drained from opencast and underground mines.

As mining can affect the amount of water available to vegetation, inspections will show any environmental impact or risk of environmental impact so that measures can be taken if necessary.

How TDR instrumentation can protect vegetation

Plants need access to water. How much plant-available water is in the soil depends on the properties of the soil.

The water available to plants is the amount of water that can be taken up by the plant. It is defined as the difference in water volume between the so-called field capacity and the residual groundwater content.

Field capacity is the volume of water that remains in the soil during free drainage. Residual water content is the amount of water that is too tightly bound in the soil for the roots of the plants to absorb.

Measuring the groundwater content is a way of determining whether mining will affect the amount of water available to plants.

As TDR sensors also log temperature, information about frost depth and the dynamics of freezing and thawing are automatically obtained. In most studies, frost has been shown to have a major impact on the dynamics of spring rivers in areas dominated by wetlands and bogs. As the water content in this type of soil at field capacity is relatively high, there is often a delay in the infiltration of meltwater during spring.

If the infiltration capacity is low due to frost, the proportion of water that drains off quickly on the surface becomes larger. By measuring water content and temperature in drained zones, an effective tool is provided to better calibrate both models for surface and groundwater and to conceptualise the connected surface and groundwater system in areas where frost and permafrost have an impact on hydrology.

In the environmental programme created by Copperstone Viscaria AB, monitoring groundwater content complements groundwater level monitoring and is crucial in determining how much water is available to plants.

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