Cavity monitoring system catches on
A new cavity monitoring system developed by Oshawa-based GeoSight Inc. is getting rave reviews across Northern Ontario.
The MINEi is a ruggedized, wireless laser system with built-in battery pack that performs 3D scans of open stopes and ore passes.
“The market was crying for a robust, wireless solution for the underground survey market, so I registered GeoSight and started doing some R&D in 2006,” said John Lupton, president of GeoSight Inc. “We worked on it for five years and launched our first prototype in 2010. Since then, we’ve built 22 systems for customers around the world.”
The laser is introduced into openings at the end of a series of 1.5 metre rods extending from a wheeled buggy.
The benefit of being wireless is that there are no cables to get twisted, hung up or run over, said Lupton.
The laser communicates wirelessly with a tablet or laptop, capturing geospatial data that can be imported into the mine plan, and overlaid with the design rings and geological data.
“Cavity monitoring allows you to determine the amount and value of the ore that was left behind and how many tonnes of waste rock came in that shouldn’t have,” explained Lupton.
“Forget what you planned or budgeted. This is the gospel truth, and it’s available to you before the mill calls up and tells you what you sent. You’ve got some data now that says you didn’t send 100,000 tonnes, you only sent 80,000 tonnes, and the grade wasn’t 4.5, it was 3.5.
“A survey will tell you if $1 million of ore was left in a corner and allow you to come up with a plan to retrieve it, rather than walk away from it.”
Lupton performed contract surveying in Sudbury for Vale, FNX (now KGHM International) and other mining companies in Northern Ontario while the MINEi was in development.
“They needed contract surveys because their systems were down so much,” said Lupton. “Until now, lasers were delicate. Their internal workings were high-maintenance and the turnaround time for repairs was slow.”
The MINEi by comparison is ruggedized, waterproof and can be calibrated by the user. Lupton also advocates the use of his lasers for surveying ore passes and other raises to determine the cause and location of hangups.
“One we did last week (with Minewise Technology Ltd. of Sudbury) was blocked up three years ago for four weeks and last year for two weeks, and they had no idea exactly where and no idea why,” said Lupton.
Lowered into an ore pass along with a camera and lighting supplied by Minewise, the laser takes a scan every 50 feet. The images are patched together and provide a 3D, geospatially accurate picture of the blockage.
“The video helps to get the scanner over any hurdles and obstacles because we could be laying out cable and not know that it’s hung up. The video helps us maneuver the laser and get around obstacles.”
A camera alone wouldn’t be sufficient to identify the location of the blockage because it’s only a 2D image, so “you’d never know if you’re looking at something that’s four metres away or 10 metres away from the camera.”
Conventional methods of unblocking ore pass hangups are less precise and potentially dangerous. Miners can drop a soap on a rope down an ore pass together with a measuring tape to see where it stops or they can be lowered down themselves to inspect it.
Once they have a general idea of the location of a hangup, they can drill a hole toward it, load it with explosives and blast it.
Alternatively, they can launch a “sputnik,” an air propelled device with a 12 kilogram explosive charge, from lower down in the ore pass.
With a laser scan, there’s no guesswork about the precise location of a hangup, but even more important, the scan can help determine the cause of a blockage and what needs to be done to prevent further blockages, said Lupton.
GeoSight is “the new kid on the block” in a market currently dominated by Optech Inc., but Lupton is optimistic.
“We’ve only been in business for 19 months and we’re seeing nothing but positive response,” he said.
“Laser technology was developed by Noranda in 1988-89 and stayed the same for 10, 15 years. When there’s no competition and you’re not forced to change, why spend the money? It’s only when competitors come in with better technology that you have to think about innovating.”
MINEi lasers are currently at work in Canada, Australia, Chile, Mexico and Turkey.