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‘Unlocking data from silos is critical’

As mining industry adopts a‘productivity-centric’ approach, geospatially located digital data will gradually becoming pervasive and extremely influential throughout an enterprise, says Dave Body, Solution Executive, Mining, Bentley Systems

GIS and remote sensing have been part of the mining industry for a long time now. What are the latest technology trends in the mining domain and how is geospatial playing an enabling role here?

The mining industry is focused on increasing production, improving efficiencies, and reducing costs. Innovation is vital to achieve these goals. Among the innovations that the mining industry is beginning to use include the adoption of digital data, such as data-enabled equipment, operating, safety and environmental sensors, and laser scanning or point cloud data. Digital data will be increasingly used to support real-time tracking, surveillance, traffic management, environmental monitoring, various automated routines (for example autonomous trucks), improved maintenance, and asset management, production monitoring and reporting.

Dave Body, Solution Executive, Mining, Bentley Systems Geospatially located digital data provides another level of visibility to an enterprise and, to this end, will be highly sought-after data by a wide variety of people within a mining enterprise. We are currently witnessing the advent of point-cloud creation technologies which are capable of quickly producing accurate point clouds of the mine’s in-progress state. Technologies such as Aerial Laser Scanners (ALS), Terrestrial Laser Scanners (TLS), and Mobile Laser Scanners (MLS) are becoming more prevalent within the industry. Similarly, another trend that we see is the rise of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) combined with photogrammetric processes, or even more recently UAVs with small-form-factor laser scanners. Furthermore, mine owner-operators are using monitoring equipment in many mines to look for signs of failure, and repeatedly measuring and reporting these results on a 24/7 basis.

As departments within these enterprises begin to harness geospatially located digital data, there is growing recognition of the scale of geospatial data being created and the need to better manage, maintain, and disseminate this information across the entire enterprise to ensure the right information reaches the right people at the right time.

To address this growing and changing market, are there any new solutions that Bentley plans to offer?

As part of a commitment to address this need, Bentley will release three new mining applications: Bentley OpenMine Designer, Bentley OpenMine Survey and Bentley OpenMine Material Handling.

Bentley OpenMine Designer is a mine design application that offers live interactive environment for design, scheduling and evaluation. It empowers mine owner-operators to make faster decisions and develop more economically optimal mine plans. Bentley OpenMine Survey is a comprehensive surface and underground mine survey application that enables owner-operators to make faster, higher-quality operational decisions based on more timely and accessible survey information. Last but not the least, Bentley OpenMine Material Handling is a purpose-built conceptual design application for bulk material handling projects that enables EPCs and consultants to reduce design time up to 30% and win more business at a lower cost.

Each of these applications is built on scalable open database architecture for flexible enterprise-wide access to GIS data and other information produced during design and survey stages of the project. This enables mine owner-operators to leverage the information any time and in any way necessary to make faster decisions that improve operational efficiency. This type of scalable and flexible framework is essential for any organisation wishing to harness this new paradigm of geospatial data.

How would you say a mining company is missing out if it is not using geospatial to the maximum extent possible?

Geospatially located digital data is set to become pervasive and extremely influential throughout an enterprise as the mining industry begins its transition towards the ‘productivity-centric’ approach. As geospatial data from various sources becomes readily available to the broader enterprise, the industry acknowledges the need to better leverage this digital data to target specific productivity challenges. A term Bentley uses to describe the above is ‘information mobility’ — across disciplines and across the entire asset lifecycle. Without information mobility, data languishes on islands, where it becomes stale and obsolete.

To get the maximum value out of this geospatial information, the enterprise needs to unlock it and expose it to those who require this data to be mined for insights, and to which other algorithms and expert systems can be applied to produce predictive analytics that provide for the basis of increasing production and improving efficiencies.

What is the level of customisation required in such solutions? Is tailor-made approach better than vanilla solutions?

This totally dependents on the level of implementation required or requested by the user. Bentley Systems provides a scalable geospatial solution featuring simple implementations and minimal configuration and setup. Bentley Systems can also provide large sophisticated implementations requiring a level of service and customisation. Thus, Bentley offers a full range of capabilities, from a widely used and recognised COTS GIS solution to Bentley Systems’ server-based solutions. This includes solutions such as Bentley Map — a desktop geospatial information system that is 3D by nature and is designed to meet the needs of mining and infrastructure professionals; Bentley Geospatial Server — which brings together information in enterprise databases, legacy and departmental systems, and project-based data stored in virtually any format and makes it accessible to users through a spatial interface.

In addition, Bentley OpenMine Designer, Bentley OpenMine Survey, and Bentley OpenMine Material Handling, will provide the benefits of COTS, but with configurable rules to govern the creation and processing of GIS data according to standards established by the mine owner-operator.

Would you say local governments and policies are conducive to the adoption of these technologies? Which are the geographies where policies are most enabling?

Traditionally, mine owners have not been able to rely on information from local governments, which often only includes surface mapping. Mine owners usually have their own broader systems, which they have to integrate with the less detailed government systems.

Does open source play any role?

If it doesn’t, it should. A proprietary-created database might be acceptable among a core group of users within the enterprise. However, the use of industry-standard databases, such as Oracle Spatial and or SQL Server Spatial, coupled with the ability for data editing to be performed in any open geospatial consortium (OGC) standards-based GIS, supports viewing and editing directly in the Oracle Spatial or SQL Server Spatial database. This ensures that the entire enterprise can offer a truly open, spatially enabled capability that can be used with any open GIS technology.