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Geological tool detects ground activity in abandoned mines


A tool has been developed to detect the geological movement and groundwater flow in abandoned coal mines.

The remote monitoring tool was developed by the University of Nottingham to manage safety and environmental issues associated with the abandoned sites.

The rebound of groundwater is a major issue with abandoned coal mines, as it can contaminate waterways, lead to localised flooding and reactivate geological faults.

While the tool has only been tested in the United Kingdom, the university believes it can be adopted globally due to the decline in coal demand leading to more abandoned sites.

Satellite radar imagery is used to capture measurements of terrain height changes through the tool. These readings can be used to monitor and forecast groundwater levels.

The study used stacks of the satellite images across a specific time period with its Intermittent Small Baseline Subset technique (InSAR) to pick up any topographical changes.

University of Nottingham PhD student and study lead David Gee and his team discovered a link between ground motion measurements and rising mine water levels in the study.

“There are several coalfields currently undergoing mine water rebound in the UK, where surface uplift has been measured using InSAR,” Gee said. “In the Nottinghamshire coalfields, the quantitative comparison between the deformation measured by the model and InSAR confirms that the heave is caused by the recovery of mine water.

“InSAR measurements, when combined with modelling, can assist with the characterisation of the hydrogeological processes occurring at former mining sites.

“The technique has the potential to make a significant contribution to the progressive abandonment strategy of recently closed coalfields.”

Gee said the next steps of the project will be to work with local planning authorities, developers and consultants to design drainage systems in coalfield areas.

The findings have been published online via ScienceDirect

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