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Laser scanner keeps Wits mining students at leading edge

Mining engineering students at Wits University will be better exposed to the contribution of modern survey technology in a range of mining disciplines.

This is thanks to the donation of equipment by Maptek Africa.

At a handover to the Wits Mining Institute (WMI) today, Maptek’s Nick Venter said the company’s I-Site 8800 Laser Scanner will give students valuable insight into how this technology can assist in functions like survey, geology, geotechnical and mining.

It is applied in both open pit and underground environments. The value of the laser scanner, including all its auxiliary hardware and software, is in excess of R6 million.

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“Using our technology combines long range laser scanning hardware with processing and modelling software for the mining industry,” said Venter.

He said the data collected by the scanner can be applied in various duties, including: stope and drive survey; drive mapping; rock bolt identification; geotechnical analysis; stockpile volumes; mine modelling; and identifying tailings dam deformation.

The equipment scans a large number of cloud points very quickly, providing detailed data that can be analysed with three-dimensional modelling and analysis software.

WMI director Professor Fred Cawood emphasised that real-time visualisation of underground environments for risk management is very important for safe mining. 

“The ability to scan complex scenes and then add risk management content to the point cloud, allows for a ‘realness’ that other forms of augmented reality are not capable of,” said Professor Cawood. “It is in this context that the Maptek scanner will be put to very valuable use by the Wits Mining Institute.”

The WMI hosts the Sibanye-Stillwater Digital Mining Laboratory (DigiMine), the Centre for Sustainability in Mining and Industry (CSMI) and the Centre for Mechanised Mining Systems (CMMS).

Said Head of the Wits School of Mining Engineering, Professor Cuthbert Musingwini:  “The School of Mining Engineering deeply appreciates the Maptek laser scanner donation to the Wits Mining Institute because it will be beneficial for both teaching and research in geospatial techniques. This aligns well with our re-designed curriculum – which focuses on Mining 4.0.”

Venter noted that Maptek has maintained a long and healthy relationship with Wits, recognising the importance of strong partnerships between academia, the mining sector and its technology suppliers.

At the handover, senior lecturer as the Wits School of Mining Engineering, Huw Thomas, highlighted the value of raising technological awareness and competence among students.