Geospatial services

Mine Management System A Spatial Approach

A vast pile of data will be created during mining activity from pre-exploration stage to closure and environmental impact assessment stage of the mining activity. Spatial data play a major role when compared to non-spatial data and documentation. So, a comprehensive mine management system is a necessary pre-requisite in this modern era of mining. Lease area boundary, various image data acquired during the mining activity in the form of raster data set and vector layers created out of those raster data set form part of the mining spatial data base.

This comprehensive management system helps different people in different ways. For a transport manager, it is all about gradient of the haul roads and hence fuel efficiency estimator. For a geologist, it is a data pool for lithological and structural data sets. For a mine engineer, this system is a project monitoring system which gives present status of mining. An environmentalist sees this system as a back-end information having temporal data sets for the environmental impact assessment.

What mine management system constitute is a web based application where all mine related spatial and linked non-spatial data sets are available. This will enable decision makers to view all related information to arrive at various decision making. Based on the requirement these spatial and allied non-spatial data can be on and off to do various analysis. There will be navigation tools in the portal to navigate the data sets and to do queries both spatial and well as text based. Hierarchical log in will facilitate the administrator to allow editing and other need based solutions. Complete data set in a single platform will enable managers to have information based decision in quick turnaround time.

Drone based stockpile management for mines

Managing stockpile inventory is one of the biggest challenges in the mining industry. The key to a well-administered mining company is to have an objective analysis of the ongoing process. The traditional ground survey technology though found to be very precise, is time-consuming and expensive. UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) photogrammetry, alternatively, provides an efficacious technique for mapping and aerial volumetric calculation of stockpiles.

Before the drones were introduced, measuring stockpile volume was a labor-intensive job. The surveyors had to physically climb on the stockpiles with GPS equipment to do so. The derived estimation could be erroneous as they manually take multiple data points and map the stockpile’s size to calculate the volume. Contrary to this traditional method, UAV eliminates human effort needs and accelerates operational efficiency.

The Wi-Fi enabled drone flies over the stockpile area, outlined by the surveyor, and seizes the high-resolution data on its system. The data is then transformed into a 3D model and sent to the manufacturer’s cloud system. This combination of aerial and terrestrial photogrammetry is a low-cost alternative compared to manned aircraft, as it reduces both, man-hours and resource consumption. Also, unlike the traditional method, it doesn’t demand for a tripod setup or vehicles with bulky equipment, further reducing the expenditure.

Drones can construct an accurate terrain model of an open mine and the obtained highly précised geospatial data helps the company take better decision. Since drones can be deployed frequently, it cost-effectively monitors stockpiles. It keeps a regular check on how much material has been removed from the stockpile, as removing them after a certain period of time is necessary. This reduces the surveyor’s efforts of manually doing so.

The mining sector is now inclining towards drones for mapping and monitoring stockpiles as it comes with added benefits of safety, lower cost, reduced labor and faster processing.

Topographical Mapping for Small Mines Using Drones

Mining professionals conducting topographical surveys have clearly seen the benefits of using drones. With drone support they are able to gather comprehensive, accurate and real time data of the entire mine site, saving money and effort, significantly. As compared to the traditional methods of surveying, the data gleaned is predominantly the same, however the process is much more cost effective, efficient and the data is much richer as well.

Benefits of drone based mapping are plenty, as drones are able to create precise and high definition maps in no time. And all types of date are made available through drones, and almost instantaneously the same can be uploaded to servers and mine management authorities can access the same from anywhere in the world.

Professional-quality maps and 3D models equip mines to calculate aggregate volumes, track equipment locations and monitor safety measures. Volume measurement with drones affords safety, speed, accuracy and completeness. The comprehensive picture it provides helps in making informed decisions that boosts productivity in mines. Stockpile volumetrics is an important aspect in the mining lifecycle, drones can do this much laborious task without the help of survey crews and also without pouting anyone in danger’s way.

Drones have earned a reputation for being cost effective and accurate providing access to real time data creation, which is why it is a boon to small mines. SBL possesses expertise in managing drone based data and is able to process such data almost real time.

Application of UAVs in the Prospecting Process for Mining

An industry that requires large resources of manpower to operate has taken a new techno turn. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) or drones as they are known in common parlance have taken over the role of the human prospector and are proving their worth by giving faster, more accurate and cheaper data collection, accumulation and analysis methods in the field of prospecting.

Drones are unmanned flying machines that are operated by either remote control or they operate on a pre-configured flight path which has already been set for them These flying machines function as photographers wherein cameras are fitted either in their underbelly to capture images of the mining site. Potential mining sites are surveyed using these flying photographers prior to sending the miners to collect samples. A touch and feel dominated industry has welcomed remote data collection and processing with same or better results.

There are many types of drones that can be used in the mining industry and they can be chosen based on what they are going to be used for: For example, A first look at a potential site can be carried out by a fixed wing drone equipped with a camera, , a mining safety protocol enabler and an in-depth research oriented data provision are best served by rotary drones, which can access the most inaccessible places because of their ability to hover and move up and down vertically. The data and information collected by these drones has proven to be the bedrock of research and analysis that is used to assess a site’s potential for payload in terms of presence of the mineral resource for which it has been prospected. This information and analysis also forms the basis on which a go or a no-go decision is made and is also used to attract potential investors to invest in the site development for a site which has been classified as a “go” site.

Another interesting development is the integration of UAV’s with other traditional survey equipment like total stations, GNSS systems and terrestrial laser scanners. With commercial software applications developing the ability to combine data from these different sources in an intelligent and logical fashion, the utility of the drone in prospecting has gone up.

With the rapid advancement of technology in this domain we might, in the not so distant future see mines operated by remote by using a combination of Artificial Intelligence (AI – aka robots), drones etc with no human presence required.

Disaster management through spatial modeling

The geographic information system (GIS) has a great role to play in disaster management activities at all stages of its operations. Disasters are emergency situations which cannot be managed locally. Disasters can be manmade or natural or combination of both. Geographic information system is used in all disaster management activities irrespective of its source as manmade or natural. GIS is stool which can be effectively used in disaster management activities in its all phases. It has a pre event phase, during phase and post disaster phase. Disaster preparedness required. Disaster management is altogether a cyclic operation composed of mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. GIS can be effectively used in all these phases of operations and in most of the cases no other techniques can provide such solutions.

Mitigation is the advance prevention and identification of vulnerable zones so that emergencies cannot be turn into a disaster all together. Role of GIS in this phase is the map all vulnerable areas and safe areas in terms of all types of disasters. For this we need to identify all possible disasters in the area, classify them into zones of high risk, medium risk and low rick zones. Here lies the role of GIS. Through GIS technique available spatial domain can be classified. For example, in case of a floods from the major rivers, mapping and modeling using various themes and elevation data in the forms of digital terrain models will ease out in classification of high to low risk areas and provide in the form of map so that planners and decision makers can take better information based decision. SBL multidisciplinary geo spatial team can cater all such mapping and modeling services.

Preparedness phase of the disaster management also require geo spatial services. GIS will help in site selection of shelter areas, location for emergency resource storing facilities. Selection and modeling of evacuation routes is also can be done using GIS techniques. This include road capacity versus population size, direction of travel, where to place relief camps, identification of key tactical and strategic facilities, marking of nearest safe hospitals and public safely facilities. Identifying supply chain of relief materials and its pre routing, mass awareness and training to concerned officers and aiding agencies. The far most important part of GIS at this phase is that to identify the locations of impact, area it will influence, model to how it is spread etc. To achieve comprehensive preparedness, a great deal of information must be gathered and managed. When disasters strike, the right information must be available at the right place to support emergency decision requirements.

When an emergency strike an area, the already amazed spatial data can be effectively used to combat the disaster. Unfolding impact influence area, marking of areas in harm’s way and mass notification can be possible through GIS. Optimizing shelters, routings, estimating effected population and property, assessing quantity of relief materials, advance warnings to nearby possibly affected areas etc will be ease out with the help of GIS

GIS will act as a central data base repository during the recovery phase of a disaster. GIS couples with remote sensing act as an apt tool in assessment of damage and losses incurred. These kinds of spatial data assessment give information on degree of damage to individual properties and aerial extent of the damage. These will enable the planners and decision makers to estimate the reconstructions cost, prioritizing the areas for development.

Ensuring Mine Safety Using Drones

Safety remains to be one of top most concerns in the mining industry. Sadly, miners have succumbed time and again to the dangers that are so characteristic of the mining industry, such as: cave ins/collapses, explosive fatalities, fire breakouts, electrical fires and electrocution, falls from heights and shafts, accidents from vehicles that travel with poor visibility, lack of hazard communication process, illegal entries and of course several other respiratory and health issues as well.

The only way to combat these mining industry safety issues is to leverage automation and resort to drones. Drones are taking wings in the mining industry, and replacing several dangerous tasks that were earlier being done by miners.

During emergency situations in a minefield a drone is dispatched to the site, and live images are relayed to the security team who assesses the extent of damage and responds accordingly, rather going in person as before. Drones relentlessly watch mines and quarries 24/7 and can be programmed to watch certain strategic areas such as stockpiles and equipment areas repetitively.

Drone technology though nascent has already proven how useful they can be in assuring mining safety. As they evolve and become more integrated with mine planning they will play a stellar role in tightening safety measures in minefields.

SBL is playing a key role in the managing of safety in the Nickel mines of New Caledonia. With the help of drones, it provides the mine management with – rectified imagery with accuracy of 5cm and less, elevation (DSM/DTM, contours and spot heights) and 3D mapping data. This imagery and elevation data made available at almost real time enables the mine managers to analyse slope stability and mine pit stability, forecast possible weak spots prone to landslides or caving in and these areas are then targeted for stability precautions which  goes a long way in ensuring absolute safety of these Nickel mines.   

Drones: Cost Effective and Ideal for the Mining Industry

World over mining companies are leveraging drones for various key processes such as: site scoping, mapping, mineral exploration and investigating stockpiles to name a few. Here are some key points related to how drones are cost effective and an ideal partner for the mining industry:

Drone based data collection boosts productivity with better decision making, as surveying projects that used to take months earlier now gets completed in a matter of days. This reduction of man hours and spend on resources and infrastructure is a significant cost saver.

Using drones particularly for underground mining is a big help, as human beings do not have to be exposed to such life endangering mining operations. Additionally, drones enable real-time monitoring and surveillance which arrests illegal intrusion of mine fields.

Drones equipped with sophisticated cameras provide real time aerial footage and 3D maps of mine sites assuring accurate assessments. In fact with the help of drones, mining companies are able to collect more information of their sites than in the past.

Drones have replaced manned aircrafts which are pretty expensive and not suitable when narrow segments of the mines need to be surveyed. And drones are extremely adept at repeating any mining activity several times over with clinical precision.

Especially in the mining industry new ways of using drones are being discovered every day, and usage is bound to increase. In the years to come, we will see drones growing nurtured amply by helpful laws, evolving technologies and patronized by large mining conglomerates.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV): Impact on Small Area Surveying

Would you spend your effort in analysis of actionable data readily available? Or would you devote time and effort in the actual collection of data? Obviously the former, right?

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), referred as Drone is the Man Friday in this process of collecting crucial information that organizations rely on. Drone is the next big thing in surveying technology.

Especially in small area surveys such as mining, agriculture and military operations, UAVs are huge time savers, cost effective and have largely reduced the risk element involved in these fields. Organizations are saving money spent on resources and infrastructure while simultaneously garnering unique and powerful insights with the help of drones. UAVs are commonly used these days in communication, agriculture, remote sensing and transportation.

Some of the benefits of deploying drones in different industries are:

  • It reduces manual effort as it does not require a qualified operator
  • It is safe, easy to use and ideal for being on the move
  • It provides accurate results with little investment
  • It discharges high quality pictures through high end cameras and laser scanners
  • It assures safety as it does away with the human component
  • It can stay up in the air for long duration performing repetitive but precise tasks
  • It can function in fog, darkness and autonomously as well

From informing the farmer on where to spray fertilizers to assessing the extent of damage after a natural disaster, drones can be very handy. Still a nascent development, drones are certainly going to fly higher!

Virtual reality applications scoping new dimensions for Geospatial Information System

I can talk for hours on the importance of Virtual Reality for GIS but then you might have known the facts through industry experts. Just imagine how easy it becomes when you can physically inspect the elements of an area virtually through the advancements in VR. Elements can now be inspected from a First Person perspective and this enables adding head attitude tracking support, and stereo rendering. Thus the user can now explore a 3D virtual earth in first person with his mobile device.

Fresh avenues are opening up in personal, public and environmental health sectors. Be it urban planning and building smart cities, or virtual tourism and 360 degree views, or emergency preparedness of a city/county; GIS applications are trending.

Recently in the newspaper, there were two interesting news items which demonstrates how virtual reality applications in the GIS space are a boon to users.

Firstly, a mix of Virtual Reality(VR), Augmented Reality(AR) and Mixed Reality(MR) was used to facilitate the corporate real estate owners and facilities management by using Microsoft holo lens for the visualisation of maintenance workflows, the overlay of data relevant to physical objects and Building Information Modelling(BIM). This also enables the teams to work virtually without the limitations of the physical space.

Secondly, layering a proposed layer over an actual layer in real time was implemented for urban planners by integrating custom made engines with the VR headsets. This also aids for a transition from virtual reality to augmented reality, exploring even higher dimensions in the space.

As we peek into the future, the possibilities in the VRGIS space are limitless. As it enters other arenas it can afford further useful benefits. If matched well with the industries, VRGIS applications can be leveraged for healthier and safer living.

Modelling of waste water pipe network by using Hand held Lidar scanner point cloud data

SBL was recently awarded a waste water pipe modelling project from a handheld scanner point cloud data by a global firm of 3D scanner manufacturers and retailers from the UK.


Figure 1- Input point cloud data (Isometric View)

A section of sewer pipe network and its connections (refer Figure 1 above) was modelled with the help of point cloud data from a hand-held scanner. A major challenge in the project was that the input point cloud data was provided without RGB values since the LiDAR survey was carried inside a pipe where there is no light.
SBL carried out the detailed mapping from the LiDAR point cloud data using “as is”, rule without generalizing or offsetting any feature. Cross section views were used to capture the data to the highest possible accuracy wherever changes occur in terms of shape and size.
Check out the images below which depict graphically the level of expertise and care that was taken by the team at SBL to execute the project.


Figure 2- Input point cloud and extracted pipes (Isometric View)


Figure 3 -Waste water Pipe network Surface model view


Figure 4 – Inside view of the waste water pipe


Figure 5 – Aspect angle view

This project marks another achievement by SBL in the LiDAR modelling domain. We are expecting to showcase few more such projects in our upcoming blogs.

BIM and LiDAR Team – SBL Knowledge Services Ltd.