Home > A layered approach to mine construction: Mapping buried assets

A layered approach to mine construction: Mapping buried assets

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With mines in a constant state of development, operations have to take an intelligent approach to their buried assets such as electrical and communication lines.

To overcome this problem CITIC Pacific Mining has taken an innovative approach to managing its underground infrastructure at its Sino Iron project, the largest magnetite project under construction in Australia.

In conjunction with GIS company Esri Australia it has developed a new reporting and mapping system, which reveals the location of buried assets, to all stakeholders including surveyors.

CITIC Pacific Mining senior GIS analyst Chris Brown said the will not only significantly raise productivity for the Sino Iron project but will also set a new industry standard for safety during construction.

Sino isn’t unique when compared to other mines, featuring large-scale dedicated infrastructure such as a concentrate processing area, slurry pipelines, port facilities, a combined cycle gas fired power station and associated infrastructure.

So “whenever there is a need to excavate, it is crucial stakeholders have a precise understanding of what infrastructure exists underground,” Brown explained.

Previously surveyors had to manually search through archives for paper-based maps and multiple versions of design files, which not only time-consuming, but also susceptible to human error.

“GIS technology provides our surveyors with a secure and efficient way of operating, improving workflow and enabling users to make more informed decisions,” Brown said.

“This not only ensures bottlenecks in the workflow are identified, but ultimately minimises risks and ensures the safety of employees and contractors.

Brown said that “our team can view data such as electrical, location, and access in layers which can be examined alongside other important information such as high resolution photography and above-ground infrastructure”.

“This includes being able to pinpoint the infrastructure’s location using a web map, output to report map, and extracted as 3D data.

“Additionally the system is accessibly using a web browser based interface via company intranet, which enables our surveyors to be on site marking up infrastructure for our construction teams much faster than in the past.

“The same system also enables users to swiftly produce reports to accompany excavation permit applications, which details of the buried services and includes a map highlighting exact locations, ensuring we are always meeting legislative requirements,” he said.

“The result of this is reduced pressure on our budget, resources, compliance with our licence to operate and – above all – enhanced safety for personnel.”

Trevor Smales, Esri Australia’s GIS in Mining expert, added that while GIS technology is helping to set new industry benchmarks for safety, many of the world’s mining companies are using the technology for application such as community engagement.

“Mining companies are consistently required to demonstrate their contribution to minimising the impact of construction on local communities, regulators, indigenous landowners and governments,” Smales said.

Previously speaking to speaking to Willy Lynch and Tom Gardener from Esri Australia, a company which focuses on GIS mapping software, they explained to Australian Mining that the new wave of GIS technology is being used by mining companies throughout the lifecycle of the mine, from the planning stage through to production and even in the mine permitting stages.

"It aids miners in every aspect of the project, as almost everything in the industry is spatial in nature," Lynch stated.

Smales went on to state that “with GIS technology companies can map, layer and analyse a broad range of external – such as social and demographic statistics, economic and environmental information, or community program development – alongside their own business development”.

"GIS and mapping software is about providing the information to make decisions, and currently in mining there is a serious problem with operation silos, and GIS is helping to bring together these silos into a single environment," Gardener said, "so that they can now make better decisions and understand the challenges existing throughout the supply chain as well as helping to track staff to improve risk management onsite".

"Traditionally operators had a number of different programs that cover a number of different areas of the mine, and none of these programs spoke to one another - it was one system for one job, but GIS provides a solution for operators who can now integrate their diverse systems into a single data stream, bringing in multiple feeds.

"You also have the ability to take this data mobile, and people can convert this data to provide a greater analysis of operations where ever they happen to be," Lynch said.

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