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Killer application for surveying poised for release

A revolutionary underground mine survey system developed in Sudbury by Falconbridge is about to be commercialized following an agreement with mining software developer GijimaAST.

A revolutionary underground mine survey system developed in Sudbury by Falconbridge is about to be commercialized following an agreement with mining software developer GijimaAST.

The Falconbridge (now Xstrata Nickel) Mine Operated Survey System, better known by its acronym, MOSS, has been incorporated into GijimaAST’s mine planning application, mineCAD, and will be marketed as mineMARKUP.

Described by GijimaAST’s Sudbury-based North American business manager Shawn Curtis as “the next killer application in mining,” mineMARKUP provides real-time, end of shift updates to the mine plan.

Using a Leica TCRA1205 total station with automatic target recognition and an Xplore tablet PC, the system updates drawings immediately, allowing miners or surveyors to see where they are in the field and make any adjustments necessary for the next round, ensuring improved accuracy in advancing the drift.

The system uses wall-mounted prisms at chest height for control points and Leica’s laser-based automatic target recognition capability to minimize set-up time and eliminate human error.

“There has been a lot of talk about (MOSS) for years, but it was developed behind closed doors,” said Curtis. “It’s fairly well known in the mining industry through word of mouth and presentations at conferences, but (no one else) could get their hands on it.”

The application is scheduled to be available in March, with a full customer release planned to coincide with an international GijimaAST user conference May 8 – 12 in Sudbury.

The Johannesberg, South Africa, software company has partnered with Northern Survey Supply to market mineMARKUP internationally.

One stop shop

“We wanted a one-stop shop for our clients,” said Curtis. “We will provide the software development, training and implementation and Northern Survey Supply will focus on hardware, maintenance and after sales support. We are partnering to put the right people with the right skills in front of our clients.”

Both companies are planning to add staff to cope with expected sales volumes.

“The industry is chomping at the bit to get this and you can’t implement at 50 mines at the same time, so we’re both increasing our staff to accommodate this rollout,” said Curtis.

Northern Survey Supply is based in Mattawa, 63 kilometres (39 miles) east of North Bay, and has offices in Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie. However, its partnership with GijimaAST will launch the company into the international market and require the hiring of staff for offices in Australia and South Africa.

“The integration of different technologies has brought all of this together,” said of Northern Survey Supply owner Marty Warkentin. “Com-puters have become smaller and faster and instruments have become smarter.”

For Xstrata, releasing the application to the marketplace eliminates the cost and risks associated with continued software development, bug fixes, client support and implementation of new systems, said Curtis.

“We’re a software company. That’s what we do for a living. Xstrata is a mining company. They developed the tools in-house because they couldn’t find a system on the market at the time. By commercializing it, we put it in a format that other clients are willing to accept and sell it to a broad range of clients who will contribute to the ongoing enhancement of the product.”
The application will be available as three modules: one for surveying, one for markup and a third for cavity monitoring.

“We’re genericizing some of the functionality and adding enhancements along the way, but it’s an extremely solid product,” said Curtis. “What Xstrata has done with this system is incredible and we have no desire to change the brilliance. We just want to make it easily acceptable to other clients.”

As part of the deal with Xstrata, GijimaAST is required to base its software development team for mineMARKUP in Sudbury. That meant transferring a software developer from another location and hiring another one. The company currently has 23 employees in Canada – most of them in Sudbury – and an office in Calgary.

The product has undergone pilot testing at CVRD Inco’s Garson Mine since November and meetings have been held with groups of surveyors to seek input and ensure that the product meets the needs of a broader client base.

The GijimaAST conference in May is expected to attract approximately 125 users from all over the world.

“Quite often, we also get people from companies evaluating our software and, this time, we expect mineMARKUP to draw a crowd,” said Curtis.