The demand for mine planning solutions is on the rise in Africa, with mining solutions developer Maptek Africa GM Nick Venter noting that there is particular interest in new technology that can be integrated with current systems.
While Africa has historically lagged behind most of the rest of the world in its adoption of the latest technologies and trends – with labour providing a cheaper alternative to automation – he stresses that the continent needs to move forward, and is in a good place to do so with most commodities rebounding, compared with commodity prices last year.
“Our African customers are great adopters of mining technology and this reflects the current stage of the mining cycle facing the international sector.” He stresses that companies are becoming more innovative, eliminating waste from their operations and aligning work processes with energy availability, which has also resulted in many sites making strides with renewable energy to reduce their reliance on diesel fuel.
“At Maptek, we see tight economic times in the sector as an opportunity to continue investing heavily in research and development to help our customers grow the value of their sites and improve efficiencies from exploration to rehabilitation.”
Responding to the global mining industry’s demand for increased innovation to enhance the performance of operations, Maptek introduced its third-generation I-Site XR3 and LR3 laser scanners, providing efficient field-to-finish performance when collecting data for mapping and geotechnical analysis.
“Less time in the active pit means a safer operating environment, while faster results for highwall or face/bench slope stability mean safer, more economic decisions for digging,” stresses Venter.
The latest upgrades to Maptek’s I-Site survey systems, first launched in 1999, were introduced in March. The solution has undergone constant refinement to meet the mining market’s need for high-end survey equipment. Smaller and lighter than the older I-Site 8800 series, Venter highlights that the new I-Site XR3 and LR3 models offer significant improvement in range capability while retaining the reliability and usability for which Maptek has become known.
With a scanning range of up to 2 400 m, the I-Site XR3 extra-long-range laser scanner delivers a 25% greater range, compared with its predecessor. Data acquisition that is two-and-a-half-times faster allows for wider coverage using fewer scans, enabling the surveying of otherwise out-of-range areas. A new, high dynamic range digital panoramic camera also provides better imagery for geotechnical analysis and geological mapping.
The I-Site LR3 has a scanning range of 1 200 m, making it “the system of choice” for small to medium-sized pits and quarries, as well as indoor stockpile volumetrics, says Venter.
The I-Site XR3 and LR3 are, moreover, ergonomically designed to be smaller and lighter for safe handling and easy setup and have an Ingress Protection (IP) rating of IP 65, which offers complete protection against particles and a high level of protection against water for tough mining environments.
“They are one of few terrestrial laser scanners available on the market that are designed with mining in mind and, paired with dedicated software, they can easily handle large pit surveys, stockpile volumetrics, design conformance, geological mapping and geotechnical analysis,” Venter points out.
The I-Site XR3 and I-Site LR3 are also compatible with laser scanning applications such as Maptek Sentry for surface monitoring and PerfectDig for design conformance. The modular design of the systems further allows for configuration to match site requirements.
The latest version of Maptek’s Sentry software, a fully transportable monitoring system, was also introduced in March.
Sentry, the company explains, applies the powerful remote sensing capabilities of laser scanning to the monitoring and analysis of mine-site ground conditions to ensure the effective risk management of movements. The system was originally released in response to industry demand for a cost-effective, flexible system to monitor surface stability and is now available as a fully deployable system with a custom trailer, providing remote power and communication support for continuous monitoring.
“Sentry delivers significant safety and awareness benefits, allowing for the reliable, simultaneous monitoring of multiple zones, including in low-light conditions underground. This is of significant benefit in rugged and remote sites, reducing the time needed for personnel to be on site to analyse the area through its simple and efficient setup and remote-access capability.”
Good Planning Tools Crucial
Venter notes that, with mines being complex environments that require practical and tactical planning from the outset, Maptek solutions can help enhance the planning process by presenting an integrated, holistic three-dimensional view of a mine site by simultaneously displaying multiple models, waste dumps, haul networks and topography.
Data can be fed back into the mine production loop in real time, so insights gained from comparing designs with existing infrastructure can be immediately leveraged.
He adds that scheduling production and planning for lifetime flexibility needs to be at the forefront of mining strategy planning to ensure that the value of assets can be increased. Planners must consider cutoff grade, route and equipment allocation, cycle times, fuel use and waste dump locations.
“Mining software is central to mine design, planning and scheduling. Maptek solutions bring together technical and geological data on orebodies, planning, design, mining processes, performance measurement and monitoring to deliver reliable information across the entire mining value chain, allowing for planning and operational decisions to be made with confidence,” Venter concludes.