Next-Gen Surveying at Mining Projects

With the help of technology, mining construction has evolved to be more efficient, accurate, and sustainable. Mining construction companies are using a wide variety of new technology at the jobsite for exploration and mining operations. Think drones, satellite, and so much more.

Dick Zhang, CEO, Identified Technologies, says, “Whether its drones, GPS (global positioning system), or IoT (Internet of Things), this technology helps them conduct operations more safely and efficiently than ever before.”

Gather Survey Data Remotely

One area in particular that has evolved is surveying. When an area is chosen for mining materials that area needs to surveyed and mapped out.

Today, construction companies don’t need to physically send a surveyor to the site to take the measurements. Now there are several options available to survey the land and help dig deep to construct the mine of the future. Case in point: drones.

“Mining companies are increasingly using drones to provide survey grade data for their exploration and mining operations,” Zhang adds. “Using a commercial drone solution, you can map 100 acres in about 10 minutes, and get the data back within hours. Companies can also automatically detect changes in their operations such as changes in high wall and slope stability or in the vegetation and hydrology of surrounding areas. Another new piece of equipment companies are using is a RTK/PPK-enabled drone, which alleviates most of the time and effort needed to lay ground control points when gathering accurate data.”

This kind of technology has had a huge impact on mining construction projects so far, as the systems provide a number of benefits to the industry.

“The advantages for the mining industry are many, but better asset monitoring and increased safety are probably the top two,” Zhang explains. “Mining companies can use drone technology to make sure they do not waste resources and are better able to keep track of reserve depletion. In addition, drones can easily go places where you would rather not send people such as the edge of slope, or a remote area.”

Building on the concept of gathering survey data remotely, another option to consider is satellite, as it offers an alternative way to gain the information needed for the project.

Gerry Mitchell, president, PhotoSat, says, “There is technology available that has the ability to do an as-built mine survey from space. We can now survey to 15 centimeters in accuracy and the satellite is 700 kilometers up. This surveying can be done off-site. Being different from drones where someone has to go to the site and move around the site, satellite surveying is done remotely. The data gets transferred via the Internet and can be accessed globally. This method can access mine site areas that are unreachable by a person. This method is also much quicker than traditional surveying methods. With the amount of earth that is moved on a mine site daily, having almost real-time data is important.”

Advantages at the Jobsite

The potential advantages of using a drone or satellite to survey the area instead of a human is already beginning to change how mine projects are done, and could offer even greater opportunities for the construction industry in the future.

Mitchell of PhotoSat says, “The big way that remote surveying is helping is with safety. Now a surveyor doesn’t have to go on foot or in a truck over terrain that is unpredictable and potentially unsafe. The mining land can have a lot of unpredictable areas.”

Building on that, another benefit is being able to see the mining area almost instantaneously, which provides much faster data to the contractor.

Zhang adds, “Construction managers can now measure profitability throughout projects, track progress and resources, and invoice clients in real-time. With more accurate data, they can improve cash flow, and track subcontractors more efficiently.”

Mining companies encounter many challenges including the length of time it takes to get topographical data back. Leveraging a commercial drone solution, for instance, means they can get mapping data more often, and get the data back in hours. In addition, drone data saves companies about 70-90 percent on survey costs. Using this technology enhances the operational safety and improves operational efficiency.

Still, there is yet another way that emerging technology can expedite the surveying process on mining construction projects that contractors should keep a close on eye for the future—autonomous trucks. Using autonomous vehicles at the jobsite is beginning to draw the attention of a lot of mining contractors. When it comes to full fruition, it will take surveying of the mine site to a whole new level.

Once these new technologies for surveying take off, the efficiency and safety of the jobsite will improve. They will also pave the way for future technology to boost the production of the industry.


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