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28 October 2019

The mining engineer puts down her cup of coffee and reaches for a headset. Immediately her desk, filing cabinet and rubbish bin disappear and are replaced by rock formations and machinery. The temperature doesn’t change, but her body tells her she must be underground. Slowly she looks around the space, taking in the fact that the wall of the mine appears to be far away from her outstretched hand. Graphics start to appear that lead into a training session…

This is the world of spatial data visualisation, one of the fastest growing and most valuable aspects of modern mining:

What is spatial data visualisation?

Spatial or geospatial data is all around us – it represents positions on the surface of the earth through numerical values in a geographic coordinate system. Technologies we use every day rely on geospatial data: web mapping services, weather maps, geotagged tweets, and airline routes.

How is it used in mining?

Spatial data is being used more and more in the mining industry, with spatial data models and maps becoming more detailed and clearer than ever before. Today, we are seeing breakthroughs in three-dimensional (3D) modelling, Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR) technology.

These new technologies allow us to design new mines more efficiently and makes it possible to experience what it’s like to work in a mine without being out in the field.

3D modelling

3D modelling creates a viewable, life-like impression with depth perception that allows the human brain to understand and relate to complex interrelated issues. Objects can be rotated and related to other objects with spatial depth, giving mining teams all the information they need to make decisions.

Virtual and augmented reality

Virtual reality provides a more immersive experience. For example, a user can test a piece of mining equipment in the virtual world without the risk of damage or cost. All of the data is analysed, efficiencies found and tested before being deployed in the real world.

To improve the quality of training and reduce equipment maintenance costs, miners are also actively adopting Augmented Reality technology which instead of replacing the real world with a simulated one, overlays a digital visualisation onto a real-world environment.

Where do we go next?

By using spatial data effectively, the mining industry already gains valuable insights into mine systems at a reduced cost and impact on the environment. The ever-improving technology also helps improve safety, makes learning more engaging and increases productivity.

Spatial data visualisation helps the mining industry to steadily move toward a future where it’s possible to virtually construct and deconstruct buildings, plants, and mines before even breaking ground to create a more sustainable and truly intelligent mine.

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