Elevating the role of the South African mine surveyor

May 31st, 2016, Published in Articles: PositionIT


GPS control mining, photogrammetry for drones and expanding the role of the mine surveyor were some of the topics under discussion at the 20 May 2016 meeting of the Mpumalanga branch of the Institute of Mine Surveyors of South Africa (IMSSA) in Cullinan.


Front from left to right: Dave Wilson, Johnny Kemp, Nigel Atkinson, Angus Bradford, and Robin Kock. Back: Karl Kaiser and Jan Kruger.

During the course of the branch meeting there was a rather sombre discussion on the future of the mine surveying profession in South Africa with members discussing retrenchments taking place around South Africa. Alex Bals highlighted recent research undertaken by the Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG) which reveals that geoscientist employment in Australia has been in continuous decline since September 2011 and has been at Global Financial Crisis levels since September 2013.  As of 31 March 2016, the AIG research reveals that the unemployment rate amongst Australian geoscientists stands at 19,5% and the under-employment rate remains at 23,4% (www.aig.org.au). The situation in South Africa and in Australia is seen as being due to low metal prices and a lack of confidence in the equity market.

Following on from this discussion, Angus Bradford from Process Flo spoke about GPS-controlled mining and how surveyors are well situated to deliver this service to mines. He provided concrete examples of how mine surveyors can use their knowledge of positioning technologies to derive more accuracy, value, efficiency and safety during drilling, blasting, hauling and loading operations.  He also explained how mine surveyors have the opportunity to provide multiple contributions to a live 3D model of a mine via the geospatial data centre which can then be used by mine management for informed decision-making.

Robin Kock from Premier Mapping announced that  his company is the first existing aerial survey company to become a legal RPAS Operator in South Africa, and the seventh company in the entire country to achieve this status. He gave a detailed presentation on photogrammetry for drones starting with the pros and cons of multi-rotors and fixed-wing RPAS. He provided details on how to control accuracy and whether to use a camera with a metric or fixed lens. Lastly he spoke about the editing methods expanding on the types of processing, the available software and stereo editing.

Next up was Dave Wilson from the University of the Witwatersrand who delivered Rudzani Mukwevho’s presentation, “From the perceived machine operator to the user of technology”. In her presentation, Mukwevho points out that mine surveyors are no longer involved in mine planning or valuations, and that they are increasingly being perceived by related mining professions to be button pushers. She recommends that tertiary education be emphasised to ensure the development of mine surveying into a reputable profession, that a culture of post-graduate studies be promoted, and that there should be a concerted drive to develop and restore pride in mine surveying.

Nigel Atkinson from AngloAmerican took the debate further by discussing the registration of mine surveyors in Australia and its possible application to certification in South Africa. He said that Australia had previously had a similar system to South Africa and when its inadequacies were noticed, a new system was introduced which required all mine surveyors to have a basic surveying degree. Atkinson stressed that it was essential that South African mine surveyors start making changes in this regard otherwise mine surveying in South Africa will continue to regress. He added that mine surveyors need to constantly be identifying ways to add value to their mines’ operations.

The final presentation of the day was given by Johnny Kemp who provided details on Optron’s latest underground survey solution, Promine. Locally developed by Optron over a three-year period, the survey solution is presently undergoing trials at Thorncliffe Chrome Mine.

Click here to see photos from the gallery

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