IMSSA: Focus on resource operations will ensure professional survival for mine surveyors

October 16th, 2017, Published in Articles: PositionIT

The Institute of Mine Surveyors of Southern Africa (IMSSA) held their annual general meeting and colloquium at the Riverside Sun in Vanderbijlpark on 20 and 21 September 2017. Day one of the programme featured a series of presentations covering various technical aspects of mine surveying as well as ongoing issues of professional concern, while day two focused on the AGM and institute affairs.

Delegates at the 2017 IMSSA AGM and colloquium.

IMSSA President Dr. Hennie Grobler welcomed the delegates before introducing the first speaker, Mike Lundie from Optron, who presented a case study which compared four different acquisition technologies – an RTK GNSS system, a multi-rotor drone, a terrestrial scanner and a handheld scanner – by means of conducting volumetric surveys at a small crusher plant with four medium-sized stockpiles. Lundie explained that all four sensors performed equally well but stressed to the audience that the choice of scanning tool is dependent on the required accuracy, productivity, profitability, safe working conditions and streamlined workflows.

Dr. Fred Cawood from the University of the Witwatersrand gave a thought-provoking presentation on professionalism and asked whether the mine surveying profession was on the brink of extinction. He identified ongoing trends and pointed out that mines of the future will be and look different, be funded and managed differently, will require new skill-sets and be staffed by professions that do not exist today.

Back row: Khwezi Zitha (De Beers), Johan Scheepers (De Beers), Johan Erasmus (Aciel Geomatics), Hannes Malan (University of Johannesburg) and Dr. Fred Cawood (Wits University). Front row: Leon Koorse (Lonmin), Kevin Schmidt (Deswik), Norman Banks (Southern Mapping), Dr. Hennie Grobler (IMSSA President), and Musa Mkhwanazi (De Beers).

Cawood advised the mine surveyors present to avoid professional death by ensuring that they develop skills relating to big data, geographic information systems (GIS), spatial database design, the internet of things (IoT), mine planning and design, and simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM) – all of which are fundamental 21st century skills for digital mining. He stated that converting ore resources to cash is the primary business of a mine, and stressed that mine surveyors need to ensure that they are working to facilitate the growth of reserve life, improved margins, and enhanced risk detection and effective risk management on mines.

The previous point about mine surveyors needing to work more closely with the ore body was reiterated by Johan Scheepers from De Beers who spoke about the schedule and design challenges at the Snap Lake Mine Tailings facility; Canada’s only fully underground diamond mine. He outlined the need to meet regulatory requirements that the facility blend into the original escarpment, that it not be higher than the highest point in a 35 km radius, and that no portion of the facility be higher than 35 m. He explained the challenges involved in having to find creative retrospective solutions to theoretical promises that had been made upfront about meeting these regulatory requirements. While describing the extended care and maintenance solution which will reduce environmental risks and allow for a cost-effective opportunity to work the mine for a longer period, he stressed the importance of thorough design analysis at the planning stage.

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Dr. Hennie Grobler also gave an informative presentation on technological changes and future proofing the mine surveying profession. He described the four stages of the industrial revolution and explained how wireless connectivity, smart machines, virtual reality and augmented reality, wearable technologies and data analytics are changing the world of work. While addressing the issue of the mine surveyor shortage, Grobler stated that despite the increasing trend of multiple appointments, most mine surveyors are more likely to be at risk from carrying increased responsibility while simultaneously having fewer surveyors available to carry out the work. Over the last decade 100 000s of jobs have been lost in the mining sector due to mechanisation, he said, before going on to advise mine surveyors to future-proof their jobs by enhancing their creativity, innovation and communication abilities while building and maintain an elaborate network of expert knowledge to assist in problem-solving and interdisciplinary co-operation.

In an entertaining presentation, Johan Erasmus from Aciel Geomatics, spoke about high-definition scanning and remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), outlining the benefits of both technologies. HDS is useful for rapid and precise capture of massive datasets and reduces occupational health and safety risks, while drones can cover larger areas quicker, are useful for measuring limited access areas, and the data processing is largely automated except for checks and balances. He concluded by stating that each tool has its use, but that using both can enhance the required end product.

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Other interesting presentations included one by Musa Mkhwanazi and Khwezi Zitha from De Beers who spoke about a gyromat calibration at the Venetia Mine where two vertical shafts and a decline shaft are in the process of being sunk. They explained that the gyromat calibration was required to facilitate continuous quality control in terms of tunnel bearing and to compare the functionality of the Gyromat 5000 with the Gyromat 3000. Leon Koorse from Lonmin spoke about ore inventory management with regard to backlog sweepings and vamping and white areas, and the unrealised potential that they hold. He explained that this could provide an opportunity to supplement normal production volumes when there are shortfalls, and outlined a sustainable programme to extract this inventory.

Andries Botha from Southern Mapping, which specialises in developing spatial monitoring services for the mining sector, spoke about the Stack Insight Solution. The solution sends high-resolution data directly to mines via a web-based viewer or data delivery in order to facilitate quick automated change detection. It also provides agnostic insight into historic elevation, satellite and imagery data. Deswik’s Kevin Schmidt gave a presentation which highlighted the survey features of his company’s mining software and also demonstrated how the package is able to facilitate month-end reporting. And Hannes Malan from the University of Johannesburg spoke about an alternative methodology for meridian convergence.

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