JV Article: Visualising the future for mineral exploration and mining

A multi-platform, mixed reality environment to collect and visualize data in real-time. Credit: SRK Consulting.

SRK Consulting’s EasyMine XR Mixed Reality software blends the physical and digital worlds, transforming how mining experts interpret and characterise mine sites.

One of the biggest challenges faced by geologists when exploring potential areas of mineralisation is their inability to visualise the subsurface conditions, which often consist of spatially variable soil and rock strata, numerous fractures and crushed zones, and complex host-rock formations.

Mining engineers face the same obstacle when planning and constructing underground mining operations once an economic ore body has been discovered.

In recent years, however, advances in computer science, virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) technologies are transforming the geological and geotechnical characterisation of mines by allowing mining experts to visualise these complex underground conditions in three dimensions (3D).

Working at the forefront of this technological revolution in mining and mineral exploration, SRK Consulting has partnered with Simon Fraser University to create the EasyMine XR software.

Using Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 headset, the EasyMine XR software allows mining teams to map the lithology and structure of rocks in surface and underground environments by allowing virtual objects in the real world to be holographically displayed on the HoloLens’s transparent screen using a set of holographic painting tools.

“Using the HoloLens, geologists and geoengineers will be able to see all the information they need while standing in front of the rock face, forcing them to think in three dimensions and empowering them to make better interpretations,” says Wayne Barnett, a structural geologist at SRK Consulting.

A multi-platform, mixed reality environment to collect and visualize data in real-time. Credit: SRK Consulting.

Detailed geological and geotechnical data can be captured using the pen-and-paper style pattern-drawing tools and displayed on the HoloLen’s screen alongside previous mappings, reference data, models, and wireframes to further aid the interpretation.

A 3D scanner built into the HoloLens creates a 3D mesh-map of the real world and allows users to draw traces on to rock formations in the field. The technology can also display geospatial information like drill holes, further assisting the geological mapping process and interpretation.

By using the VR capability of the EasyMine XR software, users will also be able to undertake 3D mapping of rock surfaces on a 1:1 scale from the safety of the office. They will also be able to overlay data from remote sensing techniques like Lidar as well as photogrammetric, thermal, and hyperspectral data onto the holographic visualisation.

“By incorporating these datasets into numerical models, users can then use the HoloLens headset to map and interpret sites more accurately,” says Doug Stead, a geoscience and geotechnics professor at Simon Fraser University. “This makes for a very effective communication tool.”

By combining photogrammetry and imaging data from landslides, for example, the technology can also provide a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the deformation and failures of slopes, a potential game-changer in the modelling, communication, and mitigation of geohazards.

Furthermore, by rendering geological and geotechnical information in 3D, the software allows geologists and mining engineers to work together in a multi-platform, mixed reality environment where they can collect and visualise data in real-time.

“Users will be able to stand safely next to rock faces during online meetings and discuss geological features, map and see interpretations provided by others, provide remote in-field training, and conduct data reviews or reconciliation audits,” says Emre Onsel, a consultant at SRK Consulting.

— The preceding Joint-Venture Article is PROMOTED CONTENT sponsored by SRK CONSULTING and produced in cooperation with The Northern Miner. Visit www.srk.com for more information.


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