Sishen Mine, owned by Kumba Iron Ore, is one of the world’s seven largest open-pit mines, and is still expanding. To assist the company in planning for increased production, Southern Mapping Company (SMC) was contracted to perform an aerial Lidar survey.

Hein Pienaar, chief mine surveyor at Sishen Mine, says that the complex geology of the mine requires that Kumba invest in the best available methods and technology to guide further expansion. “We asked Southern Mapping Company to do an aerial survey and data obtained was used for planning purposes, such as contours, drainage, non-ground features, volumes of waste dumps and inaccessible areas. We started implementing the results of the survey within one day after presentation.”

The mine’s open pit is almost 400m deep and stretches over an area that is 12.5km long and 1.5km wide. Peter Moir, chief executive for Southern Mapping Company, says: “In any project, accurate and timely information forms an essential part of the planning phase. For the Sishen Mine project we used our Optech ALTM 3100 EA airborne laser terrain mapper to collect the required data. The 3100 EA, combined with a digital camera, fires 100,000 laser pulses per second, allowing for precise and high-speed digital terrain mapping.”

Pienaar concludes that Lidar surveys will play an even more significant role for the mine in future. “ALTM technology helps us to put detailed engineering plans in place and data was made available in record time. In the past, this was not possible but as technology has evolved, we have started using this to our advantage. Lidar is becoming an increasingly important part of our planning actions and will continue to be of essence for many years to come. We also plan to start with assessments on environmental conditions in and around the mines using hyperspectral technology to deliver on the required information.”