LiDAR – The Catalyst for Digital Transformation in Mines

Light Detection and Ranging, also known as LiDAR, has been a critical remote sensing tool in various geospatial survey industries for many decades. In the mining industry, LiDAR is used to provide context for critical operational decisions such as where to put ground supports, measure overbreak, and for mine planning. In our last article, we explored the different types of LiDAR and why this technology is such a big deal for the mining industry. In this post, we’ll explore 4 applications of LiDAR in mining, and what the future of LiDAR could look like in mines across the globe.  


4 Ways mines are applying LiDAR Technology 

The flexibility of LiDAR unlocks several different applications for mines, but most applications generally fall into one of four key areas. 

1.) Inspection (single pass scan)

 LiDAR can provide support during a technical team’s ground inspection. Since LiDAR can capture information missed by the human eye, mines can leverage this technology to improve decision-making. For example, if a visual inspection results in suspected geotechnical risk, technical services teams can confirm with LiDAR and design a solution

2.) Monitoring

By scanning the same area at different points in time, LiDAR can help monitor ground deformations. This data captured by LiDAR can then be input into software to calculate the differences between the two point clouds.

3.) Control to Design

Detailed point clouds enable mines to produce high-resolution images of underground openings. These are commonly used in conjunction with more traditional survey methods. Additionally, meshed point clouds allow for seamless integration with existing mine design models.

4.) Feature identification and Ground Mapping

The point clouds created with data captured from LiDAR scans have machine learning applications that can be used for support detection, identification of hazards, vent ducts, major structures, water seepage, etc.  


What does the future of LiDAR look like for the mining industry? 

With LiDAR technology advancing at unprecedented rates, there are four key trends we’re seeing with LiDAR in the Mining Industry.

1.) Innovations

Rapidly evolving innovations in the geomatics sector is bringing new opportunities for automation and geotechnical data collection processes. The mining sector has been seeing a dramatic shift from more traditional data collection practices to high tech solutions. For example, mines are replacing manual and analog methods of data collection with automated data collection and digitization.

2.) Mobile LiDAR

With the growing popularity of mobile LiDAR and its ability to be mounted onto robotic systems such as drones, automated data collection in challenging environments has never been easier. This technology can improve safety and unlock previously inaccessible areas for mines.  

3.) Increasing LiDAR adoption

With this shift towards digital and automated data collection practices, many up-and-coming technology companies, as well as big-player mining companies are recognizing the value of these LiDAR-based tools.  

4.) Actionable LiDAR data 

To optimize for success, these technology companies are developing solutions that will provide maximum value for these operations, while still being able to complement the mine site’s existing processes. Many solutions exist for capturing LiDAR data, but post-processing efforts can be time consumptive. Technology companies are using computer vision and machine learning techniques to identify features, scenarios, and hazards alerting operators of critical information.  

Want to learn more about LiDAR in the mining industry? 

What is LiDAR mappingOur team of experts can help you unlock the power of LiDAR to improve accuracy, safety, and efficiency in your mine site. Learn more about RockMass LiDAR solutions by connecting with our team.

By Sierra Mercer

Sierra Mercer is an alumnus of Queen’s University Geological Engineering and is currently working as a Geotechnical Engineering Specialist at Rockmass Technologies. With a background in ground control for underground mining, she has been involved in the testing and development of various LiDAR systems, UAVs and cutting edge advanced robotic systems in underground environments. She is passionate about innovation in mining technology and continuously works to bring new opportunities to modern mining operations.


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