Production mine geology must be accurate and efficient in order to reduce risk and ensure that ore value and mining operation revenue are maximised. Present grade control practices are commonly based on outmoded and inaccurate 2D geological mapping techniques where spatial relationships are estimated by eye, sketched by hand and projected to arbitrary reference planes. The 3D mapping approach outlined in this paper integrates 3D photogrammetric imagery with implicit modelling techniques to enable more accurate grade control and reconciliation in underground mines. High-resolution stereo photographs are taken of daily ore development headings. Ore contacts are traced directly on a 2D face photo using a stylus and rugged tablet. Area-weighted face grades are estimated and calculated on mapped 2D face planes. In the office, a 3D photorealistic mesh is processed and georeferenced. 2D face mapping data is transformed into its actual 3D location and true 3D mine mapping is performed by digitising oriented 3D polylines representing ore contacts and other geological features directly onto the image surface. Three-dimensional spatial relationships are fixed, eliminating the projection error of traditional 2D methods. Ore envelope and waste solids are modelled within the closed, drift-round mesh. Volume-weighted ore envelope and round grades, as well as round volume and tonnage, are calculated. Ore/waste classifications, grade, tonnage and per cent dilution are quantified per round, visually assessed in 3D and reconciled with short- and long-term models on a daily basis. Updated geological continuity models provide geological guidance in development headings under geological control and accurate 3D structural and form-line mapping improves definition drilling and stope planning. Three-dimensional imagery provides a permanent detailed survey and geological record of mine workings that can be revisited virtually to reinterpret geological ore controls in light of new observations and insights. In addition images can be used to monitor daily production performance, create training scenarios for miners, engineers and geologists and prepare management presentations. This approach adds value to underground mines by improving the accuracy and efficiency of mine geology practices. The method is particularly effective in mines with visually distinct and geometrically complex orebodies, such as those in the Balmat zinc mine located in New York State, USA, which are used to illustrate the method.
Knight, R H, 2017. 3D mine mapping – improving grade control and reconciliation in underground mines using photogrammetric imagery and implicit modelling techniques, in Proceedings Tenth International Mining Geology Conference 2017, pp 203–212 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).