Eyeing the future of mine design visualization technology

Image from MICROMINE.

Mining software producer MICROMINE has launched Micromine Effects (MFX), a viewer aimed at facilitating the sharing of complex design and visualization files for resource estimation.

Paul Hooykaas, MICROMINE’s chief product strategy officer, has been with the company since its inception in 1986, and says it has been an interesting journey as the industry is becoming increasingly digitized.

A former surveyor, Hooykaas joined forces with geologists with a vision to create software that geologists could use themselves, at a time when the PC had just come to market.

They started coding their eponymous product, Micromine the software, an exploration and mine design solution, with integrated tools for modeling, estimation, design, optimization and scheduling.

MICROMINE has a large international geographical footprint and says it is the only provider of solutions relevant to every stage of the mining process. Its software can be used from exploration to day-to-day operations on a working mine and can record events that occur on the mine as they happen.

Geobank is MICROMINE’s in-house data management solution that begins with collecting data from the field.

“Orebodies are getting deeper, and more difficult to find. You want to test different techniques before you commit money to a drilling program”

Paul Hooykaas, chief product strategy officer, MICROMINE

Micromine, the product, comes under the banner of a general mining package (GMP). It does everything from looking at exploration data, modeling drill hole information, generating block models, resources, and pit optimization through to mine design and scheduling.    

Pitram is a mine control system that tracks what is happening on any mine in real time.  It is equipment-based and can record events like truck movements. It knows the location of equipment, records when loading starts and when hauling to the ore or waste dump begins.

The new MFX (Micromine Effects) is similar to a PDF reader, the utility enables anyone to view, share and interrogate Micromine output files without needing access to a full software license. 

The user interface offers drag and drop functionality and interactive tools like zoom-to-selection and a measurement tool, Hooykaas said.

“Recording those events, you can work out your truck cycle times, and the associated material movements.  If it is interfaced to a payload monitoring system it can accurately track tonnage as well,” said Hooykaas.

Pitram monitors and records the dump, when the vehicle is coming back empty and where it is queuing. The equipment is always tracking the trucks’ GPS – if a truck enters the wrong dump zone Pitram can tell, and can trigger an alarm.

For the first time, sophisticated data analysis and design models are no longer locked away with technical teams. Instead, they can be shared with consultants, clients and colleagues. 

“People are busy 100% of the time working on a mine – and if what they are doing is working and gets the results they want to see – they a reluctant to try something new, even if the technology has the ability to increase efficiency,” said Hooykaas.

Image from MICROMINE

“Micromine Effects is something we are providing for free – it’s a product with all the editing and data processing capabilities removed. What you’ve got left are the 3D visualization capabilities enabling collaboration between departments. The feedback we’ve got is about how much power is still left in the application.”

“Orebodies are getting deeper, and more difficult to find. You want to test different techniques before you commit money to a drilling program, and use techniques like magnetic and gravity surveys to get a feel for what’s below the surface,” Hooykaas said.

Micromine has one of the few applications that enables the user to view 3D seismic information, without significant financial cost. The reflections indicate where there are structural boundaries – like faults – underground.

“The tricky thing is to get rid of all of the “noise”, get to the data that is meaningful, and generate an outer shell that represents the underground workings”

Paul Hooykaas

“The real beauty is that we can see this with drill hole information, topography, geology and geophysical models together in one place, and get a real appreciation of what is going on.”

In terms of underground mine surveying, Hooykaas said , the way of the future is using laser scanners to collect huge point clouds, by moving through underground workings and getting reflections off the walls and the floors.

Micromine can convert the point cloud into a solid. 

The difficult thing is that although you pick up the bits that you are interested in, you also pick up bits you are not interested in, like people and infrastructure, Hooykaas said.

“The tricky thing is to get rid of all of the “noise”, get to the data that is meaningful, and generate an outer shell that represents the underground workings.”

“Colors represent the grade. You effectively model the drill hole data into blocks, each with a value, in terms of grade, and that becomes the basis of other processes that work out what the optimal pit shape would be to mine that resource.”

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