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The Concept Of Underground Mine Surveying

by William Ngunjiri

The mining industry hums with activity, fuelled by a hidden network of tunnels and excavations deep beneath the earth’s surface. But who guides this intricate network, ensuring its safe and efficient operation?

Enter the mine surveyor, a professional who navigates the unseen depths with precision and expertise. Today, we delve into the world of mine surveying through a conversation with George, a seasoned expert in this field; the concept of underground mine surveying.

To get started, kindly introduce yourself.

My name is Geoffrey Onyango, a seasoned mine surveyor with expertise in delving deep into the earth, unlocking its hidden resources and guiding the development of mines with precision and safety.

A photo of Geoffrey undertaking survey coordinates transfers from the surface to the underground mine working in a Gold mine at Migori County,Kenya

What sets mining surveying apart from other surveying disciplines?

While most people picture surveyors with their tripods on construction sites, mining surveyors are like explorers venturing into the depths of the earth.

Mine Surveying is an expert area of surveying that involves the measurement, representation, and management of data associated with various mining operations.

We guide the development of mines, ensuring the safe and efficient extraction of resources. From mapping tunnels and underground workings to monitoring stability and blast designs, our work plays a critical role in every stage of the mining operation.

What is the difference between surface and underground surveying?

The principles of surveying remain the same other than the survey pegs are placed on the hanging walls in underground surveying while in surface surveying they are placed on the surface for geo-reference. This type of surveying is characterised by the transfer of points or beacons from the surface to an underground mine for localisation on the national grid by use of a static survey or a hand-held GPS.

Underground surveying faces issues like limited visibility, difficult access, potential hazards like unstable ground and gas leaks,   and the need for specialized training and equipment.

Can you elaborate on the different areas where mining surveying is employed?

We play a vital role in various aspects of mining, including:

Exploration: Identification of potential ore deposits, using advanced equipment like LiDAR and SLAM scanners to create detailed 3D models of the subsurface.

Mine planning: Designing the mine layout, including tunnels, shafts, and ventilation systems, ensuring efficient and safe extraction of resources.

Production: We monitor the progress of mining activities, ensuring adherence to the planned design and identifying potential hazards.

Blast design: We use specialized software to design and optimize blasting operations, minimizing environmental impact and maximizing resource extraction.

Environmental monitoring: We monitor the impact of mining on the surrounding environment, ensuring compliance with environmental regulations.

A photo of Hip leaching design  mapped in 3d , surveyed by a total station by Geoffrey, Key monitoring tool to large waste and stockpile deposits in mining.

What are some of the advanced equipment and technologies used in modern mining surveying?

Technology has revolutionized mining surveying. We now use:

Total stations: These highly accurate instruments measure distances, angles, and elevations, providing precise data for mapping and monitoring.

LiDAR scanners: These scanners create 3D point clouds of the environment, enabling precise volume measurements and detailed analysis of underground structures.

 Drones: Equipped with specialized cameras and sensors, drones provide aerial surveys of large areas, increasing efficiency and safety.

GPS technology: GPS receivers provide real-time positioning data, allowing for accurate navigation and monitoring of underground operations.

 How can these technologies enhance productivity, safety, and planning?

For instance, real-time data from total stations and drones helps operators adjust their operations quickly to avoid potential hazards. LiDAR scans can identify ground instability early, allowing for preventive measures and ensuring safety. Also, remote control and robotics reduce the number of people in the field at any one time mitigating risks.

What is the future of modern mine surveying?

By using automated capture technology such as UAV, drones and mobile scanners, more intelligence is being added to mining processes from artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive analytics, and scenario modelling.

These technologies will allow systems to:

  • Understand the data flowing through operations.
  • Enable situational awareness on a rapidly changing site.
  • Develop near-real-time insights.
  • Identify and test ways to improve the process

The emergence of automated tools such as the Promine Live Survey Module (LSV) has breathed new life into mine surveying by enhancing accuracy, safety, and efficiency.

What are the challenges you have experienced on the job?

The mining industry is under considerable pressure. There is a growing demand for companies to gauge their performance against a triple target of social, financial and environmental performance.

At the same time, the need to be efficient and cost-competitive is still very much present. Fortunately, reality capture and the best use of data are helping the mining industry meet these challenges.

 How can someone interested in becoming a mining surveyor get started?

Aspiring surveyors should pursue a degree in surveying or a related field like geomatics or mining engineering. Several universities offer programs in mining surveying. Additionally, obtaining professional certifications demonstrates expertise and commitment to the field.

For those interested in becoming mine surveyors or seeking your expertise, how can they find you?

I’m always eager to connect with fellow enthusiasts or anyone curious about mine surveying.

Email: geoffreyonyango42@gmail.com

Phone: +254720374691 / +254728926775

Let’s continue the conversation!

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