In a world where IoT, big data, and AI are fast becoming the norm, industries like manufacturing and logistics have readily embraced digital transformation. However, when it comes to the heavy-duty world of construction and mining, digitisation hasn’t always been quite so easy. That’s because collecting data under the ground can be difficult.
The world beneath our feet is a fascinating frontier, full of challenges and opportunities. From tight, enclosed spaces to hazardous conditions, mining professionals brave it all. They need to plan operations efficiently and map underground environments with incredible speed.
So, why all this effort? That’s because the future of underground mining is upon us. With fiercer competition and dwindling ore grades, mining operators are feeling the heat. They’re turning to digital tools to revamp the entire mining value chain, from pit to customer.
Underground mining operations grapple with unique challenges when it comes to data collection. There are no GPS or GNSS signals to guide you, pitch-black conditions, limited access, and safety regulations that seriously limit electronic systems.
This is where 3D mobile mapping comes into the picture. The technology doesn’t require GPS and can scan even the trickiest, darkest, and dampest spaces. With handheld laser scanners or airborne autonomous drones, mine operators can gather crucial data rapidly and safely, making decisions with newfound speed and precision.
They are harnessing the power of simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM) principles to create digital models of underground mines. SLAM essentially involves using laser scanners to generate a point cloud, a bit like creating a 3D digital twin of the mine.
The Future of Underground Mining
So, let’s take a look at the tools available for mapping underground mining shafts and spaces today.
One of the most popular tools they have at hand is drones, which they use to map out underground mine shafts. Drones can fly through the underground labyrinthine shafts, mapping them with precision. These automated robots use powerful laser scanners to swiftly create 3D maps that used to take a person aeons to complete. Companies such as Exyn Technologies are making specialised mining drones that are AI-powered. These can go into spaces where people wouldn’t fit in and map out GPS-denied places easily.
These technologies aren’t just cool gadgets; they’re game-changers that can boost efficiency, safety, and profitability.
Spatial Data Visualisation
Spatial data is the thing in mining, and it’s becoming more detailed and clearer than ever. Thanks to three-dimensional (3D) modelling, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR), we can now explore the underground world like never before.
Imagine designing mines more efficiently, testing equipment without risk, and experiencing the life of a miner—all from the comfort of your office. It’s not science fiction; it’s the power of spatial data visualisation.
However, there is a caveat; technology alone won’t save the day. Whilst it empowers employees to make better decisions, it also shakes up traditional roles, automating tasks that once required human hands. Mining companies need to create new job opportunities, reskill their workforce, and foster a culture of collaboration.
The mining industry has a lot of choices when it comes to groundbreaking technologies. Autonomous vehicles, automated drilling, and drones are no longer science fiction; they’re becoming industry staples.
The stats tell a compelling story: robotics, drones, real-time analytics, and advanced process control are the heroes of the digital revolution in mining. These tools aren’t just fancy toys; they’re essential for modernising mining operations.
The Role of SLAM
As we read earlier, SLAM stands for simultaneous localisation and mapping, and it’s the technology that supports 3D mapping. It enables devices to build a map of their surroundings whilst pinpointing their location in real time.
Innovation in laser technology is revolutionising underground mapping, simplifying one of the most complex forms of surveying. From tunnels and stockpiles to convergence analysis and shaft inspection, the possibilities are endless.
With 3D mapping technology at their fingertips, mine operators can optimise ground support, monitor convergence, and target rehabilitation areas more efficiently. They can do it rapidly, safely, and without the need for GPS.
The Future of Intelligent Mining
In the end, technology is reshaping the mining industry. It’s making mines safer, more efficient, and more productive. New jobs that require AI and automation-specific skills are emerging. Forward-thinking operators are leading the charge toward the intelligent mines of the future.
The digital revolution is descending into the depths, with unmanned technology and complex algorithms on the horizon. We’re on the brink of a truly digital mine, and the future is looking brighter than ever for the mining industry.
So there you have it, folks, the thrilling world of underground mining data collection and its journey into the digital age. As we delve deeper into the Earth, we’re also diving headfirst into a future where innovation knows no bounds.
Parul Mathur has been writing since 2009. That’s when she discovered her love for SEO and how it works. She developed an interest in learning HTML and CSS a couple of years later, and React in 2020. When she’s not writing, she’s either reading, walking her dog, messing up her garden, or doodling.