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Mapping: Planning to production

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Mapping of the mine, while important, used to just be about getting a snapshot of your operations.

It was about getting a picture of your operations at one time, and then down the track you could map again and compare the two.

It played its part in planning and then you moved on.

But now mapping is playing an even more crucial part in mine development.

Constant mapping, using the latest satellite and geographic information (GIS) technology, is helping mining to evolve and become more efficient.

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.

"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.

Gardener went on to say that in terms of Australia, the main areas where GIS is used in mining is land management, access and in environmental and heritage management as well as exploration.

"Everything you do in mining requires you to know the location of your people and your equipment, and using GIS in this process makes asset management simpler, and in turn knowing where your people are in relation to your equipment also makes health and safety management easier."

It provides near real time informationfeeds, which Gardener says "promote organisational awareness andunderstanding of your own site" as it operates.

"Now a miner can follow their operation throughout the life of the project, from the moment they are mapping it out for environmental surveys through to drill locations, ore deposits,actual mining, and eventually rehabilitation works."

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