Central Alliance to map soil moisture backing Welsh Government’s commitment to coal tip safety

September 23, 2021

Central Alliance (part of the RSK group of companies) has been commissioned by the Coal Authority through a Welsh Government grant scheme to undertake an extensive satellite mapping project to assess colliery spoil tips in South Wales. This work is upholding the Welsh Government’s commitment to proactive assessment of climate change.

The project, which will utilise GroundSat, a new innovative analysis technique utilising ASTERRA’s revolutionary and patented EarthWorks technology combined with additional datasets and expert analysis provided by Central Alliance, has been funded by the Welsh Government as part of the Coal Tips Safety programme and will add value to the assessment and monitoring of disused coal tips.  High-resolution EarthWorks soil moisture data and analysis will be carried out over tips and surrounding areas across 10 different local authorities in South Wales.  The assessment will confirm the effectiveness of existing drainage systems and identify any hidden moisture which could represent a future risk.

GroundSat, which uses the space-borne remote observation technique alongside other data sets and expert analysis, has been developed in collaboration with satellite technology partner ASTERRA, pioneers in the detection of water on earth using L-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar. The technology is an adaptation of what is used to search for water on other planets.   It allows users to remotely measure soil moisture levels below ground level, assessing sites and identifying geotechnical risks or drainage issues before they have an impact on critical infrastructure, construction projects and development sites.

Richard Pidcock, Central Alliance’s Joint Managing Director commented on the project saying,

“It’s fantastic that the Welsh Government and the Coal Authority are turning to the latest technology proactively, to help provide reassurance that existing drainage systems are effective and to identify hidden wet areas. As we have seen from recent extreme weather events from around the world, it is vitally important to monitor the impact of climate change, and this project will form an important dataset for that assessment, confirming the Welsh Government’s commitment to proactive assessment of climate change.’

Lori Frater, the Welsh Government’s Head of Coal Tip Safety Task Force added: “Alongside engineering works, technology has an important role to play in ensuring the safety of disused coal tips. It’s important that all possible means of monitoring of tips over the long-term are considered and funding different technology trials helps to ensure we have appropriate approaches in place.”

The project is due to start in September 2021, capturing data in relatively drier months, with a second phase to capture seasonal change in winter introduced early next year

Tim Marples, Head of Tips Response at the Coal Authority said: “We are pleased to engage Central Alliance to undertake this innovative review which we believe has the potential to add value to the project. We look forward to working with Central Alliance to assess this technology and the opportunities it presents.”