This article first appeared in Machine Control Magazine…
Advances in imaging satellites and data processing technology are now enabling cost effective mine site monitoring and volumetric measurement from space. Mining pit, ore stockpile, leach pad, waste dump and tailings beach surface differences are being mapped to within 20cm. A number of mine sites are using this technology for annual and semiannual volume reconciliations. In the oil sands mines of northern Alberta this technology is being applied monthly and weekly.
There are now five commercial satellites in orbit with the capacity to map mine site surface elevation differences of 20cm. These are the WorldView-1, WorldView-2 and GeoEye-1 satellites owned by the US company Digital Globe and the Pleiades 1A and 1B owned by the French government. The Pleiades commercial satellite data is distributed by the European company ASTRIUM.
The original and still the primary markets for the high resolution satellite data are government defense and security programs. Commercial applications have been emerging over the past few years. The first cost effective engineering applications were for regional and scoping studies. With the improvement in satellite mapping accuracy and resolution engineering design and construction applications began to develop over the past decade. With satellite mine site monitoring and volumetric measurements we are now seeing the emergence of operational mining engineering applications.
A Canadian company, PhotoSat, based in the international mining center of Vancouver, has invented new data processing algorithms that produce mine surface elevation maps accurate to 30 cm and elevation difference maps accurate to 20 cm.
A 5.135Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE