Drones have emerged as a game-changing aerial survey technology for the mining industry, offering a range of benefits that have not been previously possible. One of the main advantages of using drones in mining is the cost savings that can be achieved. Drones can replace traditional surveying methods, complete surveys more quickly, and reduce labor and equipment costs.
In this article, we will explore the benefits of using drones in mining in more detail.
What are the benefits of Drones in Mining?
Drones offer a range of benefits for the mining industry, including cost savings, increased safety, and improved efficiency. They can replace traditional surveying methods, reducing labor and equipment costs, and complete surveys more quickly, resulting in significant cost savings.
Here are some of the main advantages of using drones in mining:
- Drones reduce mining costs by replacing traditional surveying methods and decreasing labor and equipment expenses.
- Drones enhance safety by identifying risks, monitoring processes, and detecting leaks and gases.
- Drones aid in predicting stability and monitoring conditions, and can provide emergency assistance in the event of an incident.
- Drones improve environmental monitoring by collecting baseline data, managing water, detecting hazardous gases and loose rock, and monitoring open pits.
- Volumetric surveys using drones are 60-80% faster than traditional methods, providing reliable and accurate data for informed decision-making and operations improvement.
- Time-lapse photography by drones tracks mining progress, reducing waste and increasing productivity by predicting mineral extraction and transportation timelines.
- Drones create 3D models of open pits in real-time, detecting irregularities and assessing safety hazards.
- Drones revisit abandoned mines, providing detailed and accurate maps to calculate sealing and assist in the reclamation process.
Cost Savings Of Using Drones For Mining
In recent years, drones have become an indispensable tool for the mining industry, offering a range of benefits that were previously unattainable.
One prime example of the cost savings achieved through drone technology comes from BHP, a global mining company. By switching to drones for their surveying needs, BHP estimated they were able to save $5 million annually. This substantial cost reduction is due to the fact that drones can complete the surveying process in a fraction of the time it takes for traditional manual surveying methods. This translates to fewer hours of labor and lower equipment costs, resulting in significant cost savings for mining companies.
Replacing manned aircraft with drones and drone pilots can result in a cost reduction of around 90% per hour of surveying, according to a survey by Global Data. This highlights the significant cost savings that mining companies can achieve by switching to drone technology for surveys. It means that the use of drones can drastically reduce the overhead costs associated with traditional survey methods, allowing mining companies to allocate those resources to other critical areas of their operations.
By investing in drone technology, mining companies can expect significant cost savings and a more streamlined surveying process, ultimately improving the overall efficiency of the mining operation.
Safer Work Environments
Traditionally, mining has been a dangerous occupation due to the nature of the work involved. Workers often have to carry out tasks in environments that are hazardous, including deep underground mines, unstable structures, and extreme weather conditions. This has led to a high risk of injury or death for workers, as well as significant safety concerns for mining companies.
Drones have become a game-changer in the mining industry, providing a safer and more efficient way of carrying out mining operations. By using drones, mining companies can avoid putting workers in harm’s way and reduce the risks associated with manual labor. Drones can be equipped with a range of sensors and cameras that allow them to collect data and gather information about the mine without the need for human intervention.
Advanced Technology for Hazard Detection
The use of drones in mining has evolved to the point where they are now equipped with advanced technology such as infrared cameras, laser sensors and lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) to help navigate dark underground mining tunnels. These sensors allow drones to operate effectively in low light or completely dark environments, which was once a major challenge for mining operations. With the ability to navigate through these tunnels, drones can capture high-quality images, collect data on mining processes and safety hazards, and detect potential safety risks that may not be visible to the human eye. This technology significantly improves mining operations by providing real-time information to decision-makers, thus increasing safety and efficiency.
Predicting Stability and Monitoring Conditions
Mining inspections can be risky and hazardous for people, especially in areas with unstable rock formations, hazardous gases or leaks. However, drones can now take on these inspections, providing a safer alternative while also accessing previously inaccessible areas to gather valuable data. By collecting high-quality images and data, drones can help predict rock mass stability, identify potential hazards, and assist with ventilation modelling. Additionally, drones equipped with gas sensors and thermal cameras can detect hazardous gases and leaks, which was once a difficult task for human inspectors. With the aid of drones, mining operations can not only improve the safety of their personnel, but also collect more accurate and detailed information to help optimize their operations.
Timely Emergency Assistance
In the event of an emergency, such as a cave-in or explosion, mine workers may become trapped or injured and require immediate assistance. In such scenarios, drones can offer crucial help by providing prompt and essential aid to these workers. Equipped with sensors and cameras, drones can quickly locate and assess the situation to provide real-time information to rescue teams.
They can also deliver critical supplies, such as water, medicine, or communication devices, to those who are trapped or injured. Furthermore, drones can safely survey the site to assess the extent of the damage, without putting rescue teams in danger. With the use of drones, mining operations can ensure that they have a reliable and efficient method to offer prompt and essential assistance to workers in distress.
Improve Mining Environmental Monitoring
Mining operations can have a significant impact on the environment, making environmental monitoring and management essential. In this section, we’ll explore how drones are helping mining companies to monitor their environmental impact more effectively and efficiently.
Collection of Environmental Baseline Data
Geologists often use drones to identify and map outcrops in mining operations. By equipping these drones with temperature and fume sensors, environmental baseline data can also be collected at the same time. This data can provide insights into the environmental conditions of the site and identify any potential hazards, such as gas emissions or temperature fluctuations. By using drone technology, geologists can quickly and accurately collect this data, which can help to inform decision-making and enhance the overall safety of the mining operation.
This technology can also aid in compliance with regulatory requirements, which often require the collection of environmental baseline data. By attaching temperature and fume sensors to drones, mining companies can improve their environmental monitoring capabilities while reducing the cost and time required for data collection.
Improved Water Management
Water management is an essential aspect of mining operations. Drones can assist in this area by providing accurate assessments of tailing dams, which are used to store waste materials from mining activities. These dams require careful management to prevent potential environmental risks, such as dam failure or water pollution. Drones can also be used to assess watersheds and drainage basins, which provide valuable information about the movement and storage of water in the mining area.
By mapping the potential flow of water, mining companies can identify potential hazards and plan for the management of water resources. Drones can also be used to monitor the water quality of rivers, lakes, and other water sources in and around mining operations, which is crucial for environmental protection. By providing valuable data on water management, drones can help mining companies make informed decisions and enhance the safety and sustainability of their operations.
Detection of Loose Rock and Hazardous Gases
In addition to identifying rock type, strike, faults, and dips, new algorithms in image processing can also detect hazardous gases in mining operations. Hazardous gases such as methane, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen sulfide are a significant risk to the safety of mining workers, and early detection is essential for preventing accidents. By using algorithms in image processing, mining companies can quickly and accurately detect hazardous gases, which reduces the need for manual labor and improves safety.
The technology can analyse large volumes of data and identify hazardous gases in real-time, allowing for the timely implementation of safety measures. By incorporating this technology into their operations, mining companies can enhance safety, increase efficiency, and reduce costs associated with manual labor. The identification of rock type, strike, faults, dips, and hazardous gases are all critical for successful mineral exploration, and the use of advanced image processing algorithms can provide a more accurate, efficient, and safer way to gather this data.
Improved Mine Surveying and Mapping
Surveying is a vital aspect of mining operations that helps determine the quantity and quality of mineral deposits. Traditional surveying methods can be slow and hazardous for surveyors. However, with the use of drones, surveying operations can be performed more efficiently and safely.
By collecting high-resolution images and data, drone surveys can accurately measure the volume of stockpiles, monitor the progress of mining activities, and identify potential issues such as erosion and stability concerns.
According to Terra Drone, drone-based volumetric surveys can be completed up to 60-80% faster than conventional surveying methods, saving time and reducing costs for mining operations. Additionally, drone-based surveys provide more accurate and reliable data, which can help mining companies make informed decisions and improve their operations.
Volumetric Surveys of Stockpiles
Volumetric surveys are critical in the mining industry as they help determine the quantity and value of extracted minerals. One way to perform these surveys is by calculating the volume of material in a stockpile. In the past, this task was done manually by surveyors, which was time-consuming and often resulted in less accurate measurements. However, with the use of drones, volumetric surveys can be done much more efficiently and accurately.
By using cameras to capture hundreds of images of a stockpile, drones can create a 3D model of the pile, which can be analysed to calculate the volume of material within it. This technology enables mining companies to monitor their stockpiles more efficiently and accurately, which can lead to better decision-making and improved operations. By using drones for volumetric surveys, mining companies can save time, reduce costs and increase the accuracy of their measurements.
Time-Lapse Photography to Monitor Sites
Time-lapse photography is a technique that involves capturing images at regular intervals over time to create a video that shows the progress of an activity. By using time-lapse photography in mining operations, companies can monitor their sites and track the progress of mining activities. This technology can provide accurate timelines and data that can help predict the time it takes to mine and transport minerals.
By analysing this information, mining companies can optimize their operations, reduce waste, and increase productivity. Furthermore, time-lapse photography can also be used to identify potential issues and assess the efficiency of mining processes.
Mining companies can make informed decisions and predictions about future timelines for mineral extraction and transportation, which can lead to better planning and increased profits.
Digital Models of Open Pits
Digital models of open pits are created by using a combination of aerial photography, LiDAR technology, and other remote sensing techniques. These models can provide detailed 3D representations of mining operations, including topography, infrastructure, and mineral deposits. By using these digital models, mining companies can detect irregularities and assess potential safety hazards in real-time. For example, changes in the terrain, or movement of the slopes can be detected and addressed before it leads to safety concerns.
This technology can also help improve the efficiency of mining operations by optimising the placement of equipment and determining the best route for transporting materials. By providing detailed and up-to-date information about mining operations, digital models can aid in better decision-making and planning, resulting in a safer and more productive mining operation.
Detection of Irregularities in Mines
The coal face is the location in a coal mine where extraction of coal is taking place. This area is often hazardous and unsafe for workers. By using drone technology, mining companies can perform inspections of the coal face, improving safety for workers. Drone images can provide valuable information on the current conditions of the coal face, such as stability, potential hazards, and changes in the terrain.
Additionally, the use of drone technology can assist in the investigation of problem areas, and provide insights into the geometry of haul roads. By analyzing the data from drone images, mining teams can identify areas that require improvement and make necessary changes to enhance worksite efficiency. This technology can lead to safer, more efficient mining operations, which is beneficial for both the workers and the company.
Revisiting Abandoned Mines
Abandoned mines are a significant issue in the United States, with over 50,000 sites scattered throughout the country. These sites can pose significant risks to public safety and the environment, and thus require careful monitoring and management. By utilising drone technology, the risks associated with these sites can be mitigated, making the reclamation process more efficient and cost-effective.
Mapping Location of Abandoned Mine Sites
Abandoned mines often pose significant risks to public safety and the environment, but traditional methods of mapping these sites can be time-consuming, costly, and sometimes dangerous. By using drones, the risks associated with abandoned mines can be mitigated by cost-effectively mapping large areas that have little or no commercial value. With the use of advanced sensors and cameras, drones can capture high-quality images and data of these areas, allowing mining companies to create detailed and accurate maps.
These maps can be used to identify potential hazards and assist in the reclamation process, which is critical for restoring the site to its original state. By using drones to map abandoned mines, mining companies can more effectively and affordably mitigate the risks associated with these sites, ensuring public safety and environmental protection.
Calculate Amount To Seal Abandoned Mines
Abandoned mine sites require reclamation to restore the land to its original state, which often involves the use of soil and vegetation to cover disturbed areas. Mapping of these sites using drones can help create subsistence inventory maps, which identify the types of plants and wildlife that inhabit the area. This information is valuable for restoring the site to its original ecological state.
When reclaiming a closed mine site, one crucial aspect is determining the amount of soil required to cover and restore the area. By using drones, detailed digital models of the site can be created, which allow for more accurate and efficient calculation of the amount of soil needed for reclamation. These models can provide a 3D representation of the site, which can be analyzed to determine the precise amount of soil needed to restore the area to its original state.
By using this technology, mining companies can save time and money by ensuring that they have the necessary amount of soil required for reclamation, without wasting resources or money. Additionally, the use of drone technology for digital mapping and soil calculation can improve the accuracy and efficiency of the reclamation process, resulting in better restoration of the land and protection of the environment.
The reclamation of closed mine sites is a crucial step in responsible mining practices, and by using drones to create subsistence inventory maps and digital models, the process can be made more efficient and environmentally friendly.
Determining Potential for Reopening Mines
Abandoned mines often contain valuable minerals that can be extracted with the right technology and resources. By using drones, mining companies can revisit abandoned mines to assess their potential for reopening and accessing these materials. Data collected by drones can provide detailed information on the site’s current condition, including the location and condition of existing mine openings and the amount of remaining minerals to be extracted on-site.
This information is essential for determining the feasibility of reopening the mine and presenting a case to potential investors. By using drone technology, mining companies can save time and reduce costs, compared to traditional surveying methods, while collecting accurate data. The ability to revisit abandoned mines and assess their potential for reopening using drones opens up opportunities for mineral extraction that may have been previously overlooked, providing an additional source of valuable materials for the mining industry.
In conclusion, drones have revolutionized the mining industry by offering significant cost savings, enhanced safety, and environmental monitoring capabilities. With the use of advanced sensors, cameras, and image processing algorithms, drones can navigate hazardous environments, detect potential safety risks, and collect valuable data. By incorporating drone technology into their operations, mining companies can improve the efficiency of their mining operations, enhance the safety of their personnel, and reduce costs associated with traditional survey methods. Drones have become an essential tool for the mining industry, offering a range of benefits that were previously unattainable. As drone technology continues to advance, we can expect to see even more innovations that will transform the mining industry further.