Home Articles Drones vs LiDAR : WHAT’S BEST FOR MINING?


When a need arose to survey a large graphite mine site in Madagascar,two senseFly drones were purchased to avoid the expense of airborne LiDAR. So, what’s the future of LiDAR and UAVs to survey a mine site? Find out here…

Off the coast of East Africa, in Madagascar, a large graphite mining project is underway.The project of Energizer Resources, it is named as the Molo Graphite Project, or simply ‘the Molo’.

Part of the thousand square kilometre Green Giant Graphite Project in the south of the country, the Molo deposit is thought to contain between 80 and 120 million tonnes of high-quality, all-flake graphite that is used in refractories, batteries and consumer electronics, making it one of the largest such deposits in the world.

Having released the preliminary economic assessment of the Molo in 2013, the organisation contracted a mining engineering company, DRA, to perform a full Bankable Feasibility Study. The goal of the study was to determine whether or not it was viable to bring the Molo into production.

As part of the study, a full land survey was required to create a 3D contour map of the site. The map is essential to determine the location of the mine’s dam — since such mines are highly dependent on water — plus the location of its accompanying pipeline, as well as the positions of plant assets such as buildings and equipment.

Explaining further, Eric Steffler, Geomatics Manager, Energizer Resources says, “For this survey, we looked at various approaches with the mining engineering company. We looked at a largescale LiDAR survey using manned aircraft, which would have enabled us to produce a full hydrological model of the region, covering 3,000 square kms. However, this would have been an expensive affair as it would involve importing the aircraft from South Africa.”

Luckily, the mining engineering company discovered that another organisation had already flown some of the area in question and was happy to share its data. With access to this info, Energizer and DRA were able to narrow down the target region to a much more manageable 150 square kms. But ‘how to survey this land’ still remained a question.