Continued demand for commodities, particularly in China and India, is boosting the need for long-range survey capabilities in mining operations. Surveyors monitor mines to locate any inconsistencies, cracking or problems that might affect stability while also gathering data that can help mine operators assess quantities and recover the maximum amount of valuable material. In the past, such tasks were carried out using traditional tools such as reflectorless lasers. Today, however, advanced hardware and software is making it easier for surveyors to capture and deliver increasingly detailed information for improved safety and planning.
Having the right tools is essential. Mine surveyors in large open-pit mining operations require fast and accurate results, along with the ability to easily transfer data to other departments. The speed of data processing is crucial, and a smooth interface between hardware and software helps optimize workflow. Terrestrial laser scanning preserves the data in true 3D, avoiding the need to revisit a site to take further measurements. Some of the latest tools allow surveyors to deliver results while they are still in the field collecting data, which provides valuable real-time or near-real-time information for improved decision-making.
New geotechnical software tools allow users to easily monitor changes in surfaces such as walls, batters and faces. Stereonet plots allow users to plot slope and slope direction (dip and strike) on 2D graphs, helping to identify discontinuity sets and analyze the stability of rock slopes. Contours can be added to pinpoint data of interest. Rose diagrams reveal the frequency of data versus the direction of the data for identifying directional trends. Coloring surfaces by the dip or strike values of the individual facets helps to highlight discontinuities and planar areas, making it easy to see fractures.
Overlapping surfaces that have been scanned at different times can be compared to reveal the extent and rate of movement--for example, to identify a slow-moving failure in an open pit mine. Surfaces can be colored based on changes from a previous surface, and data can be exported to measure distances from previous and base surface measurements. Other capabilities include open-pit model updates, contour and label elevations, automatic toe and crest detection, and volume displacement measurements.
Cross-department solutions allow data and results to be shared among teams and with management and stakeholders. The same data the surveyor collects in daily tasks can be fed to geotechnical engineers, geologists and mine planners. This capability allows mine operations to be confident they are making decisions and sharing strategies based on up-to-date and accurate data. The ability to seamlessly export data into mine planning packages provides a substantial time savings, especially for operations with multiple sites and pits.
Applications that might have been industry-specific in the past are now commonly applied in mining as users see the benefits of the technology. For example, as-builts captured through laser scanning, which are increasingly used in civil engineering, are now also being used in mines to compare the as-designed and as-constructed models to quickly and accurately spot important differences, such as the actual batter angle of a pit wall compared to the design angle. These capabilities are increasing the value of a mine survey.
As the mining industry seeks new ways to enhance efficiency, improve safety and reduce costs, in-depth data capture and analysis will become increasingly beneficial. Surveyors who are equipped with the knowledge and tools to extend the resources of mining operations will be in a good position to unearth valuable new opportunities.
In the Mines: Three Keys for Equipment Selection1. Safety. Avoiding the risk of active machinery, unstable faces and stockpiles is a major factor in choosing a surveying approach and, ultimately, a specific product. Look for solutions that provide accuracy and high levels of data capture at a long range with a wide horizontal and vertical field of view.
2. Workflow. Equipment specifications don’t reveal the total cost of ownership. For the best return on investment, seek out solutions that optimize the interface between the hardware and software, and include time-saving step-by-step guides.
3 .Ease of use. A laser scanner that is oriented the same way as a total station can be more easily integrated into a traditional surveying practice. For a smooth transition to new technology, look for solutions that have a familiar survey-style setup.
Digging Deeper on Crime ScenesSome of the same technologies applied in mines are also providing benefits in forensic applications, where objective, reliable data is required for legal proceedings. For example, modern laser scanners provide an incredible amount of extremely detailed data along with dedicated tools to filter, model and analyze the datasets and distribute the models in easily accessible formats.
When analyzing crime scenes and accident sites, users need to work directly with data in true 3D and with confidence that the evidence trail is preserved. Specific requirements include calculating angles and distances between objects and creating CAD for export in multiple file formats. Users are now beginning to expect 3D animations to better represent crime scenes, with 3D PDFs allowing investigators and the courts to interact with the highly accurate 3D data.
By collaborating with crime scene investigators and the security industry, technology developers are gaining insights to create even more advanced evidence capture and analysis tools.