Christian Bijsterveld
Business Manager
GroundProbe North and Central America
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View from the Top

Narrowing the Margin of Error in Underground Operations

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 17:37

Q: Of your three areas of focus, open-pit, underground and tailings dams, where are you seeing the most potential for growth?
A: We previously focused mainly on open-pit mining but only recently we began to take our technology underground. In September 2017, we launched an instrument called GML-Underground, adapting open-pit wall movement detection technology to the underground setting. Globally, no similar technology that offers the same level of accuracy has yet been developed. Underground is a particular area of growth for us, especially in Mexico.
We have had tailings dams and dam monitoring capabilities but until now that area has attracted a lower level of attention from mining companies. But a number of events in Mexico and globally have proven that this area cannot be ignored. We have a new instrument that is specifically designed to monitor tailings dams more stringently than before and is more cost-effective than radar. Although radar may be required in some situations, this new equipment can negate the need for this. Those that have seen the technology are very interested but it is too soon to tell what its success rate will be like.
Q: How can your company help operators go deeper underground in the search for new deposits?
A: Our equipment can measure to an immensely small and accurate degree the amount of movement the walls of underground tunnels are experiencing through convergence. We can measure the movement to less than 0.1mm in close to real time. There is nothing else on the market that can do that. In the past, if damage was identified in the mine drifts or if, after a blast, the structure needed to be assessed, a waiting period of up to days or weeks was required. With our instrument, we can pick up the impact almost immediately and evaluate where the trends are. The speed at which we can pick this up is worth a great deal of money to mines.
Sometimes about 20 percent of the cost of underground mining is in supporting the tunnels. Many of the rules regarding support infrastructure were developed many years ago. This instrument allows operators to measure the effectiveness of the support and to change strategies to reduce costs or recognize the areas in which more focus is required. We view it as a safety tool, similar to our surface equipment, but also as a way to improve underground productivity.
While constructing the mine, this technology can be used to assess the stability of the structure and the need for more support. Operators can create a drift, carry out some blasting and then evaluate the impact of this on the structural integrity of the mine tunnel. Our experience in underground mines is that the measurement is often done in a contained area but these decisions can affect huge areas of the mine. We are offering a way to take a panorama of a large area to make more informed decisions.
Q: With the growing number of technology companies, how is GroundProbe differentiating itself?
A: First of all, our technology is very much cutting edge. We do not work through agents but go directly to the market and to our clients. We are offering a particularly high level of innovation in this field and we are specialists so we are able to continue evolving with the customer. Two out of every three radars in the world is one of ours so we are the market leaders and we were the originator of that technology in mining. We want to maintain our edge and also transition our technology to expand and position ourselves in wider markets such as underground mining and tailings dams.
We also have a 24/7 ability to monitor our products remotely from anywhere in the world, 365 days a year. Sometimes our clients request that we monitor their activities in this way and giving the operator a chance to react preemptively. There have been examples in North America where we have been able to predict collapses and structural failures and issue warnings in enough time for the operator to act. I do not believe any other company has this depth of capability on this continent.