Robotic system for mapping potash tailing

Robotic system for mapping potash tailing


Tailings ponds are unique environments with specific safety requirements. In addition to the safety concerns, the complex chemical composition of tailings makes taking accurate bathymetric readings quite difficult. PotashCorp, the world’s largest fertiliser producer, approached engineering consulting firm AMEC to map a PotashCorp tailing pond in Atlantic Canada. Initial estimates for the collection of sufficient data to complete a high-resolution bathymetric model required at least three geo-technicians onsite for a combined 300 hours and a sizable budget.

Given the survey accuracy and resolution required by PotashCorp, paired with strict focus on technician safety, AMEC decided that completing the job using the traditional manual method of physical probing to map surface depth was insufficient. Clearpath Robotics stepped in to offer safer robotic solution.

The Clearpath advantage

“The robotic Kingfisher surveyor was much more attractive from a safety perspective,” says Vernon Banks, acting AMEC Water Resources Project Manager, and costed less than one third of the traditional survey. Clearpath Robotics and the Kingfi sher quickly proved their worth. “We were able to safely collect 100 times more data in 1/8th the time, cutting costs by 60%”, says Jason Marsh, the AMEC site technician supervising the process adding.

“Covering that amount of area, in such a short time was remarkable!”


The full survey was finished in 12 hours with 89,000 usable data points collected, all from the safety of the shore.

By combining the data collected using Kingfisher with slime depth measurements taken with physical probes, AMEC was able to easily determine the capacity of the tailing pond and create a bathymetric map.

The quality of data received from Clearpath exceeded early expectations. “The measurements we were getting physically, in the places where we have actual measurements in conjunction with sonar, agreed very well — within 5 to 10 cm. For what we were doing, that’s great,” says Banks

AMEC plans to continue using Clearpath Robotics’ Kingfisher and their data collection services for future projects. Banks adds that he found the process to be “extremely time efficient, and as far as budget spent for amount of data given it was really great value.”