Hyperspectral remote sensing for detecting geotechnical problems at ray mine

Jingping He, Isabel Barton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


While many or most geotechnical problems at open-pit mines are related to geological structures or discontinuities, highwall movement and failure can also occur as a consequence of nonstructural geological factors. Nonstructural causes of movement are not amenable to detection by conventional geotechnical sensing techniques such as LiDAR. In this case study, we applied hyperspectral remote sensing for large-scale mapping and detection of minerals at a non-structure-related ground instability in the highwalls of the Ray mine near Tucson, Arizona. The spectral images, obtained and integrated with radar images and the geological map, show that the dominant spectrally active mineral underlying the unstable area is the swelling clay montmorillonite, whereas kaolinite and white mica are more common in more stable parts of the highwall. The montmorillonite is concentrated in an outcropping altered diabase and conglomerate that underlie more competent rocks, providing a potential lift and slip surface. This study shows that hyperspectral remote sensing can aid in geotechnical slope characterization, particularly for nonstructural causes of failure. We provide a brief overview of best practices for hyperspectral remote sensing in geotechnical applications (combining drone- and tripod-mounted sensors, integrating hyperspectral with LiDAR and radar data, and using an iteratively refined spectral library based on site-specific sampling supported by ground truth).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106261
JournalEngineering Geology
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Highwall movement
  • Hyperspectral remote sensing
  • Ray Mine
  • Rock mass characterization
  • Swelling clay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology


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