Information from Airbus Defence and Space
For any business, having a comprehensive understanding and accurate visibility of its commercial operations is understandably important. For a mining operation, with activity spread over a large area and potentially located hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away from management teams, it is vital.
Regardless of whether it relates to new blasting and excavation sites, strategic equipment placement, material movement and waste dump locations or environmental compliance, significant and highly time-sensitive decisions must be made on a regular basis. Each decision requires a thorough understanding of what is happening on the ground and this is where satellite imagery, and its derived intelligence, has come into its own.
In recent years, following the launch of the latest generation of very high resolution Earth observation (EO) satellites, the potential applications for satellite imagery within the mining industry have grown exponentially. Traditional data sources, such as local grids, paper maps and Landsat satellite images, have been replaced by very high resolution imagery, and perhaps more importantly, the intelligence which accompanies it.
An accurate base map, often including detailed topography, can be used from the earliest stages of exploration and throughout the project’s lifecycle. During initial exploration stages, satellite imagery can be used to plan infrastructure, identify anomalies and features of interest within the landscape, or support the planning of access routes. In sensitive areas, or those which are difficult to access, satellite imagery can provide significant cost savings by removing much of the need to send personnel to site.
One of the latest and perhaps most significant developments, named Stack Insight, goes one step further and utilises technology to offer highly-accurate, satellite-based change detection and volume calculation. This service has been specifically developed by Airbus Defence and Space for mining and civil engineering applications. It eliminates much of the cost and risk associated with on-site surveying by remotely calculating extracted volumes, including piles and stacks of mined material. In addition, the service has the capability to assess changing volumes on a regular basis.
To achieve this, Stack Insight utilises the company’s very high-resolution (50 cm) imagery products from its optical Pléiades constellation, which offers high flexibility and up to daily revisit capabilities of any area around the world.
Initial studies show that the service can offer an accuracy compared to traditional methods, proving that it is a suitable replacement for higher-cost, more traditional mine and civil engineering measurement tools. At the same time, it offers the advantage that no expensive equipment or experts are required on-site. To complete its appeal, the service’s automatically derived results of structural, volume, vegetation, ground and water body changes are provided, easily accessible online with a standard internet connection in a user-friendly report to match the required frequency of data collection.
One recent project that takes advantage of the multiple opportunities satellite imagery can bring to a mine is located in South Africa. The mine is a large open pit mine, with an area of more than 100 km2.
To meet the demands placed on the mining and surveying team, the company required accurate and timely information for reviewing and planning activities. With an operation of this size, important decisions must be made on an almost daily basis. This ever-present time constraint made satellite imagery an ideal solution – offering the client rapid delivery of up-to-date, accurate and highly detailed information about its areas of interest.
Airbus worked in partnership with Pinkmatter Solutions, which specialises in geo-information software design and satellite image processing. The partnership ensured the mine received the satellite-based intelligence it needed to monitor the continued evolution of the mine, and efficiently manage extraction over the long term.
Pinkmatter receives images from Airbus’ Pléiades constellation, covering the entire 100 km2 mining area and the data is made available quickly after acquisition.
Pinkmatter’s FarEarth system automatically orthorectifies the images using custom, high-precision ground control points (GCPs). The precision ortho product is produced in the mine’s custom projection so that it can be used within its own computer-aided design (CAD) software. From the first day, the customer had all the updated geographic information required to make informed decisions for optimal production and resource allocation.
Regular orthorectified images are used to monitor the progress of excavation operations and in activities planning, including the nature and location of machinery and other resource deployments. The Airbus imagery, along with Pinkmatter’s precision processing, is utilised by the mining company to monitor infrastructure, plan operations, monitor excavation and dump sites, track progress, and eventually provide a better overall visualisation of the mine.
The tangible results delivered by the partnership between the two companies has been so valuable that the mining company has implemented the same solution at a second large mine in South Africa.
Contact Corné Eloff, Airbus Defence and Space, Tel 011 266-2614, firstname.lastname@example.org