Sand Dumps

Twice monthly satellite surveying of Millennium Mine sand dump

PhotoSat has surveyed the surface of the sand dumps at the Suncor Millennium mine over 60 times since January, 2013. This twice monthly detailed topographic survey enables tailings engineers to observe the actual distribution of the plumes of sand within and around the sand dump cells. Our 15cm accuracy elevation data allows Suncor’s engineers to optimize both the design of the sand dump cells and the location of the inputs.

The sand dumps are too unstable for access by surveyors and too wide and flat for mapping with ground-based laser scanning, making satellite surveying an ideal and safe method.

Tailings engineers use satellite surveying for:

  • Engineering projects that require 15cm elevation accuracy.
  • Snapshots of the entire sand dump at the time of the satellite photos.
  • Reducing the field risk for ground surveyors.
  • Shortening project timelines: final data usually delivered within eight days of the satellite photo capture.

Experience at Suncor’s Oil Sands Minecase_study_ch
Suncor’s Tailings Reduction Operation (TRO) employs twice monthly PhotoSat satellite surveying as a key component of their process. This case study presentation outlines how Suncor switched to surveying the sand dumps using PhotoSat’s technology after their experience with laser scanning and aerial LiDAR mapping. View the presentation.

Thickness of sand deposited over a one month period showing 50cm interval contours.

Thickness of sand deposited over a one month period showing 50cm interval contours.

PhotoSat’s satellite surveying

Our unique system generates the world’s most accurate satellite survey data with 15cm elevation accuracies for oil sands engineering projects. We have delivered over 1000 projects globally and regularly map several of Alberta’s oil sands mines.

PhotoSat’s satellite surveying package includes an engineering grade 1m resolution topographic grid, 50cm or 1m contours, and a 50cm satellite ortho photo.

Proof of accuracy

PhotoSat’s satellite surveying accuracies have been proven using tens of thousands of ground survey points for comparison. View our Proof of Accuracy Reports.

For more information, contact PhotoSat at or 1-604-681-9770

You can also visit the satellite surveying page for additional information.

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