Mining faces obstacles that other businesses do not. For example, in an underground mine, your GPS and compass do not work. Miners are applying laser scanning technology to overcome some of the special difficulties as well as to reduce costs and improve safety. This month, we’re turning the spotlight on several examples.

Shaft No. 1 goes down 3,400 feet. On the surface, 1,100 feet away, Shaft No. 2 goes deeper, 4,500 feet. How can you dig out a gallery between the two at the 3,000-foot level? With a 2°slope. Laser scanning the two shafts and a tight survey control loop show exactly the direction to dig, and periodic laser scanning of the new gallery keeps the excavation on track to intersect the other shaft and maintain the slope. On one such project the projected intersection point was accurate to within a few hundredths of a foot.

As an underground mine is worked, the volume of the mine increases and so does the volume of air that must be moved through the ventilation systems. How do you measure the volume of such an irregularly shaped space? Laser scanning rapidly (hours not days) measures the volume of the mine. And scanning can do it in total darkness.

Surface mines must maintain specific slope angles as the material is removed. All manner of incidents can alter the slope and jeopardize safety and schedules: torrential rains, detonations of explosives, vibrations of large equipment, natural subsidence to name a few. Long range laser scanning can measure all angles –and movement – in surface mines in just a few hours.

Your geologists, working from the surface, have taken a number of test borings and identified the location of an ore body that is unsuitable for surface mining but within striking distance of your existing underground mine. Within the seven miles of your mine, how do you choose the point to start digging towards the new ore body? By laser scanning the surface and the underground mine and by overlaying the data onto the geologists’ 3D map of the ore body, you can see the shortest route to the ore. Periodic scanning of the new gallery assures the excavation will go in the right direction.

The processing of ore is another expensive and dangerous process. From time to time, the engineers devise better processing methods, and each improvement means downtime to make the changes. At one copper plant, downtime cost $50,000 per hour, or about $1 million per day. Having an accurate model of the plant before starting the re-design saved both design time and downtime. A laser scan and computer model of the plant saved several days of downtime and improved the safety of those making the changes.

Have questions about how this technology might be applied to your business? Visit us at MINExpo Booth #25743 in the South Hall, September 26-28. We'll have live laser scanning demonstrations, so be sure to schedule an appointment.