Draining out water woes

Draining out water woes

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Using virtual reality techniques, a Mozambique coal mine developed a mitigation mechanism to solve its drainage problems

The Moatize Coal Mine in Mozambique, built and operated by Brazilian mining giant Vale SA, faced challenges due to the unique characteristics of its surface drainage system and the local climatic conditions, which included high intensity rainfall. The heavy rainfall periods often hindered planning of constructing water canals and reservoirs. Identifying the location of the canals and estimating their capacity was another major design challenge. An important goal in planning these drainage systems was directing the superficial water flow to avoid problems of hydraulic concentrated flow, water accumulation and erosion that may undermine the mine’s operations and worker safety.

The solution
Coffey, a consulting firm specialising in geosciences, in partnership with Vale, developed a working methodology and technology tools that first enabled the integration of diverse data sources such as spatial geo-referenced databases, digital terrain models, aerial images and engineering CAD designs to generate threedimensional models that faithfully represented the current state of the mine and its planned expansion into three distinct temporal scenarios (from 2013 to 2015).

Using geospatial technology and virtual reality, the team created hydrological models and simulated the hydraulic behaviour of drainage devices in different mine pit scenarios. A set of tools was applied to analyse these models and extract the physical parameters to support the mathematical calculations with respect to the flow of water at critical points, surface flow lines, concentration times and watershed sizes.

A guided user interface was developed to enable process automation, which offered the speed needed for GIS users to simply enter their data to generate the necessary mathematical and spatial information results. The information generated was combined with 3D models which were then integrated into an intuitive VR interface providing real-time interaction and analysis.

The use of these resources allowed a collaborative and qualitative 3D analysis of the data generated by the mathematical model, empowering the technicians in defining the ideal type, location and engineering workdesigns required to solve the challenges they faced. Vale is now able to plan and model scenarios and is able to mitigate potential problems long before they occur. This in turn is reducing the need for large investments, complex interventions, loss of profits arising from production stoppages while increasing the safety of the work environment across its diverse operations.