Intensive mechanization has been a feature of many open-cast (pit) mines for quite a long time. Underground mining, due largely to the environment in which it operates, was slower to adopt this trend. In fact, there are many underground mines, especially smaller mines and those in less-developed countries, that are still very manpower-intensive– to the point where almost all mining work is done manually.
There is a growing trend, though, towards the introduction of more mechanization in underground mines– even narrow, hard-rock mines that have traditionally been one of the most labour-intensive types of mines.
This move towards mechanization has created a few challenges of its own. New ways of doing things have had to be developed to accommodate the introduction of new types of mining machinery. Likewise, the surveying technology and equipment used in underground mines has to be constantly adapted to keep pace with what is happening in the industry.
As more and more machines are introduced to underground mines, the need for accurate navigation and sizing (“will it fit?”) information increases. In addition to this, the size of many tunnels and drifts has had to be increased to accommodate large mining machines.
These larger tunnels present a problem for some older types of surveying technology and equipment and the techniques that go with them; for example, a surveying method that requires the positioning of wall-mounted prisms at regular intervals. As tunnels become wider and higher, this becomes a difficult task indeed, with a corresponding rise in the time taken to survey the required areas.
In this situation, the adoption and use of mobile 3D Laser Scanners like the uGPS Rapid Mapper™ makes a lot of sense. Laser-based scanners can easily survey large areas within a short space of time. The uGPS Rapid Mapper™ can be attached to an existing mine vehicle (e.g. underground ATV) and is capable of generating sufficiently accurate point-cloud data while the vehicle is being driven through the mine at normal operating speed.