The walls are coming down. The newest slope stability solutions offer greater integration, making them easier to adopt and deploy. Above, dewatering effects on highwall stability can be modelled in the new, integrated GeoStudio Core. (Photo: Seequent)

Increasing integration and ease-of-use define the latest slope stability solutions, making them easier and potentially cheaper to adopt

By Jesse Morton, Technical Writer

One obvious trend in the latest slope stability solutions is improved integration. The newest tech can now either easily integrate or be integrated. Since integration is a prerequisite for the digital mine, the trend should, in theory, nudge more miners in that direction.

Another quality the newer solutions share is ease-of-use. Their operation is described as intuitive, their interfaces as friendly, and training as minimal.

Both trends suggest that, at least in theory, future solutions will be easier and less expensive to adopt. More mines will be able to deploy more solutions that immediately detect and, increasingly, predict rock movement. Thus, most importantly, they bode well for the future of mine safety in general.

GroundProbe’s flagship slope monitoring platform, MonitorIQ, offers a one-screen view of all the sensors, to include third-party sensors, in a mine, offering near-real-time visibility of all movements and deformations. (Photo: GroundProbe)

Integrated Solutions Speed Alerts

Hexagon Mining and sister company IDS GeoRadar announced upgrades to HxGN MineProtect Collision Avoidance System (CAS) and IBIS Guardian radar monitoring software that allow the two to communicate and drastically cut the time between slope stability risk detection and workforce awareness of it.

Guardian’s integration with CAS 4.6 means properly equipped office personnel, equipment operators and mine site pedestrians can receive near-real-time equipment visualization and timely alerts about hazardous areas and no-go zones.

The no-go zones are defined in Guardian, which creates geofenced zones, hazard maps and alarms. HxGN MineProtect solutions, such as CAS’s in-cab display and the wearable Personal Alert, deliver the alarms and other specifications.

Hexagon Mining described the development as an industry first. “Others have point-to-point or radio-based processes, but can’t really drive the information to the whole fleet,” Marcos Bayuelo, product portfolio manager, MineProtect, Hexagon Mining, said. “We’ve reduced the time to communication to the minimum and really ensured that the people that require the information get it as fast as possible.”

The upgrades to CAS and Guardian launched in June 2020, and the field testing that followed revealed some of the capabilities offered through integration.

With the integrated solution, the process of alerting a workforce to a slope stability risk can involve only one person. IDS GeoRadar slope monitoring radars detect movement. That goes to Guardian, which alerts the geotech crew. The geotech then reviews and signs off on the alarms and any no-go zone. “That person drills down to understand the alarm, and confirms it and the no-go zone,” Bayuelo said.

With only a click, and at the speed of the mine’s network, the alarm and no-go zone specs are distributed through CAS and email. “The no-go zone is in near-real-time transmitted,” he said.

“So, now, all the vehicles and the vehicle drivers can see be alerted instantly about the incoming hazard,” Bayuelo said. “Now they have the capability to visualize where they should not go. And if somebody gets in this zone, then the supervisor or mine manager will see that somebody is in the no-go zone.”

Geotechs can set Guardian to monitor certain areas more critically than it does for others. “You have different levels and it is up to the mine as to what hazardous area is transformed into a no-go zone,” he said. “Within Guardian, you say, I want to monitor here, here and here, because this is a slope movement hazard. Once that hazard reaches a level of criticality, then the geotechs decide when this becomes a no-go zone because the risk of collapse is so high that nobody should be there.”

Recent updates allow Hexagon’s HxGN Collision Avoidance System and IDS GeoRadar’s IBIS Guardian to communicate directly for speedy slope stability alerts and the rapid creation of geofenced no-go zones. Above, an IDS GeoRadar unit scans a shadowy distant slope. (Photo: Hexagon Mining)

IBIS Guardian now assimilates data from, among other sources, the CAS server, Francesco Coppi, production manager, interferometric radars, IDS GeoRadar, said. It “can automatically import the position of vehicles and working machineries and visualize them in real time on the radar displacement maps,” he said. “Highly accurate displacement data is provided to monitoring specialists in near-real time, as it happens, and using an advanced automatic atmospheric correction algorithm to avoid any mistake.”

The primary benefit offered by the integration is speed. “What it does is it allows you to really not require manual communication between supervisors and the control room,” Bayuelo said. “It enables you to really create a workflow automatically through the system integration.”

Without the integration, you are living in 2019, he said. “Somebody in the control room, or that is monitoring the hazardous area, has to call somebody in the mine that now needs to go somewhere to block the area, which would transform this process into a half hour or more.”

Another benefit is awareness of who is in or near the no-go zone. “Which means that nobody has to count,” Bayuelo said. “Nobody has to be present, because technology is the one that is present.”

The biggest dividend is increased safety, Neville Judd, communications director, Hexagon Mining, said. “It is important because it is linking two ecosystems that were previously unconnected,” he said.

“That separation potentially put people at risk and now the two things are connected and we’ve made that automatic,” Judd said. “People can now know, if they are using the system, that they can depend on being informed immediately if they are in danger, whereas previously that wasn’t the case.”

The development should help prompt customers who have one of the two software solutions to upgrade it and to adopt the other, Bayuelo said. Upon adoption, any training required should be minimal and center on workflow changes.

“The new information that will be presented to them will be intuitive enough for them to understand it,” Bayuelo said. “There is not a huge change management or training regimen required.”

The integration illustrates a couple of the missions of Hexagon Mining and parent company Hexagon AB. “We are now building solutions that can interact with each other, talk to each other, make decisions with each other, and enhance the overall sum of our solutions,” Bayuelo said. “We don’t only offer the best solutions, but the solutions themselves make the business outcomes better, which is the end goal of our company.”

GroundProbe’s SSR-Agilis is mounted on a light vehicle for easy relocation, and can sit anywhere from 30 m to 1,400 m from the target. It has an integrated camera, making it easier for users to locate movement detected by radar. (Photo: GroundProbe)

Platform Uses Most Sensors

GroundProbe reported seeing strong demand for the MonitorIQ platform. The supplier’s chief operating officer, David Noon, said because of its unique capabilities, the aggregation software system is destined to become the standard platform for the majority of open-pit mines around the world.

The platform can assimilate data from more than 100 types of sensors, including types made by competitors. “It offers the largest number of sensors you can incorporate into a system,” Noon said.

“We have not locked out any data source from this platform,” he said. That combined with robust processing analysis creates “a very data-rich environment for customers” to support confident decisions on monitoring requirements.

“It will allow the mine to do some pretty incredible things, including looking more at the data science around what each sensor provides and how it compares with other sensors,” he said.

The platform offers a single-dashboard aggregation provides an overview of a slope or tailings dam, the company said.

The development of MonitorIQ goes back to 2004 when a customer reported needing the ability to assimilate data from multiple sources on a single platform. “It was a brilliant idea back then, but challenging to implement,” Noon said.

“It probably hasn’t been until the last five years that this really has been able to be adopted because of expansion of IT in the mining industry,” he said. Now it can come standard with GroundProbe equipment and eventually “will be installed across the entire GroundProbe fleet for our customers.”

The system has a number of features that all but ensure widespread adoption. It runs safety critical software complete with a programmable alert system, and it offers an intuitive interface that facilitates reporting and supports efficient workflows.

MonitorIQ runs the company’s SSR Viewer software, which provides data analysis capabilities to detect movement and can be programmed to send alerts.

“We have two types of notifications,” Noon said. “There are the alerts built into the GroundProbe monitoring systems through what we call an alarm center.” They give a warning when movement is detected by a GroundProbe system.

“And then in the MonitorIQ platform, with all of the third-party sensors, you can set thresholds or triggers on data and on trend analyses,” thus predicting movement and giving an early warning, he said.

The alarm center uses “a watchdog system to watch the software so if it is not functioning correctly, the user gets an alert,” Noon said.

Designed to be easy and intuitive to use, MonitorIQ offers a one-screen view of all the sensors in a mine. “If you want to see all the movements or deformations measured by all these different types of sensors, whether they are point measurements or line measurements or area measurements from different types of GroundProbe sensors, or even third-party sensors, you get to see that all on a single display and see how they all tell a similar story,” Noon said.

The capability helps streamline report generation to vastly reduce the time involved. “They can design a standard template and then draw in the data sources into the template; and then, when they run the report, it automatically updates the report based on the live data from the MonitorIQ software,” Noon said. “It is meant to be a workflow process to make it much simpler to get the data to a form that can be easily understood by the operators.”

Reutech Mining’s MSR Modular series models can be truck-mounted, can integrate other sensors and third-party solutions, and can operate in extreme environments. Above, a unit scans for submillimeter movement at Landau coal mine in Mpumalanga, South Africa. (Photo: Reutech Mining)

The platform is designed to be a core system in an integrated mine operation. “It is a platform that the industry has been talking about for a long time,” Noon said. It is more than a product, he said. “It is building in an ongoing support for the life of the mine,” he added.

Recently, the supplier released a solution that was developed with customer input and meant to help miners move toward increased digitization. SSR-Agilis is a turnkey, rapid-deployment, vehicle-mounted standalone monitoring system that uses 3-D real aperture radar. It is ideal for smaller operations that need a highly mobile radar system, Noon said.

“The customer asked to put a radar that is typically on a trailer on a vehicle to be able to move it in close and focus it exactly on a work area, protecting the crew working directly underneath a slope,” Noon said.

SSR-Agilis measures submillimeter deformations, and maintains that accuracy even as range increases. It can sit anywhere from 30 m to 1,400 m from the target.

It is designed to be easy to use, and to provide optimal visualization. “The customer is able to see the wall with a camera image, but also with the radar data overlaid on to it or co-registered with it. When they see the heat map of the radar image moving, they can, with their eyes, directly identify the location on the slope that is moving,” Noon said. “GroundProbe is the only technology that provides a co-registered visual image and radar deformation image to help to make a very quick intuitive decision when safety is on the line.”

One result is increased decision confidence. “From a user’s perspective, that is the most valuable,” he said.

The customer selects the model of light vehicle, and GroundProbe takes it from there. “We deliver the vehicle of their preference with the equipment installed on it out to the site,” Noon said.

The solution broadens the already vast range of monitoring offerings from GroundProbe. “The technology that sits on this platform is common across all those platforms so all the software, all the support and all the benefits that we have are common across all the platforms.”

SSR-Agilis, of course, can speak to Monitor IQ. And both can be supported by our area reps and remotely.

“We are able to give solutions or solve problems or do repairs or maintenance to make sure the equipment is running with as much uptime as possible,” Noon said. “The miners really appreciate the local and remote support, especially in this time of COVID restrictions.”

The Scan2K is designed to fill the gap between smaller short-range scanners and bigger long-range scanners. Unlike other LIDAR scanners, Scan2K can operate in mines that use prisms in slope monitoring. (Photo: Carlson Software)

Modular Series Does Double Duty

Reutech Mining reported the MSR Modular series, known for versatility, offers simultaneous critical and strategic monitoring capabilities with submillimeter precision, making it the most advanced system of its kind on the planet.

The third-generation movement-and-
surveying radar system is designed to operate in extreme conditions, and can integrate with technologies from third parties, such as Lecia GeoMos, Trimble 4D, QuickSlope, SlideMinder and Rocscience.

MSR Modular offers multiple mounting options, including trailer mounted, fixed installation or vehicle mounted. The operating temperature range runs from -50°C to 55°C. Units are equipped with an integrated onboard weather station with advanced atmospheric correction algorithms.

Models within the series are licensed for operating at as close as 30 m to as far out as 4,000 m. They can operate off-level by as much a 15°.

MSR Modular is known for its modularity, Reutech Mining said. “It provides building blocks that consist of a radar module, battery module, generator module and solar module,” Jan de Beer, executive manager, Reutech Mining, said. “This allows for custom solutions for each requirement.”

The MSR is also known for reliability and accuracy. “It offers operational availability of more than 99%,” de Beer said. “It can detect submillimeter movement over long distances in harsh environments and volatile atmospherics.”

Units are capable of simultaneous strategic and critical monitoring. “A single standalone system will alarm on movement in critical areas while also doing wide-area or strategic monitoring,” de Beer said.

Equipped with a camera, inclinometers, and a L1GNSS receiver, Scan2K can be wired for power and data, or can operate on a battery and wireless. It can be controlled by third party slope stability software. (Photo: Carlson Software)

When powered by MSR Connect, the series “is the most cutting-edge geotechnical monitoring solution available on the market,” he said. “It is considered to be the world’s most advanced slope stability radar, improving safety and productivity through accuracy and reliability.”

It can operate as a stand-alone system, or “other products can be integrated with the MSR to enhance your geotechnical monitoring program,” de Beer said.

“The Multi Purpose Platform offers a mounting platform for various sensors and equipment,” he said. “Typical sensors include the Slope Vision camera, in pit alarm systems, personal alarming devices, automatic weather stations and Wi-Fi repeater stations.”

After-sales support includes a 24/7 call center, on-site support, geotechnical support, and advanced virtual remote support.

MSR Modular reflects the company slogan: Safety and productivity through accuracy and reliability, de Beer said.

“We listen to what our client’s needs are and we assist in providing custom solutions to problems,” he said. “Our mission is to understand the mining environment and to provide the industry with world-class products.”

LIDAR Scanner Bridges Gap

Carlson Software showcased the Carlson Scan2K, set to soon be co-released with software. The laser scanner is equipped with an integrated high-resolution camera, inclinometers, a compass, a L1GNSS receiver and weatherproof housing, and is designed to “bridge the gap” between small short-range sensors and large long-range sensors, the company reported.

Geostudio Core integrates the three most popular GEOSLOPE programs. One is a new version of SIGMA/W, rock deformation modelling software with a comprehensive material model library and automated strength reduction stability analysis. (Image: Seequent)

It is a “high-accuracy, LIDAR scanner that is extremely easy to use and easy to integrate into existing or new slope stability monitoring solutions,” Bradley James Husack, special project engineer, Carlson Software, said. “The amount of training in the use and setup of the Scan2K is very minimal and very intuitive. That combined with the lower cost of ownership and enhanced operational capabilities, the Scan2K is a great choice.”

The supplier adopted the LIDAR technology last year and announced Scan2K in early 2020. The solution exemplifies how far LIDAR in general has evolved in two decades, Husack said. “The Scan2K can and does provide an effective and economical solution that can help enhance and help with stability monitoring.”

Company literature described the scanner as “perfect for all applications, with programmable data collection rates that enable a range of up to 2,000 m.” It has a range accuracy of 5 mm at 100 m and a range resolution of 2 mm.

Features include “three range settings: 250 m, 750 m and 2,000 m with associated pulse rates of 500 kHz, 200 kHz and 50 kHz, respectively,” Husack said. “For each pulse at those data rates, the scanner will record up to four returns, which is extremely helpful for vegetation and dust penetration and bare earth applications.”

The vertical view can be adjusted from the maximum 120° to a narrow field, he said. “This will allow the system to collect data at the set data rates over a smaller vertical field of view, which will allow denser data point collection.”

The variable range, scan rates, and vertical view allow for customized and detailed scanning of areas of concern.

“The Scan2K will also work with survey prisms that are in the scanner’s field of view that might be mounted or positioned on the target area slope that are being used for other methods of monitoring,” Husack said. “Why this is important is that other LIDAR scanners will shut down if a prism is detected or encountered in the scan as a means to protect the optics of the scanner,” he said. “The Scan2K was designed in such a way that it will be protected and not shut down when it encounters these prisms at typical monitoring ranges.”

The scanner can be mounted on a tripod, vehicle or moving platform. It can be wired for power and data or can be battery-powered and wireless.

It can be controlled by an onboard touch-screen color interface that remains visible in direct sunlight or, remotely, by a tablet or PC running ATLAScan Software, a data management system for scan projects.

ATLAScan offers target-free automatic alignment, 3D meshing, automatic line features extraction and monitoring. Scan2K can be paired with Point Cloud Software, which offers automation for large data sets. The software can process millions of data points and has the ability to go from field scan to finished plat.

The scanner can also be controlled by third-party slope stability monitoring applications.

Aggressively priced, the Scan2K was set for market release in H1 2020, but was delayed to Q4 due to the lockdowns. The introduction of “the most versatile terrestrial laser scanner on the market” now is a subtle flex by the supplier, Husack said. “This shows the forward-thinking and evolution of Carlson Software.”

Integrated Software Optimizes Modelling

Seequent released GeoStudio Core, which integrates the three most heavily used programs in the GEOSLOPE suite and offers comprehensive modelling of a wide range of soil and rock behavior.

GeoStudio integrates SLOPE/W for modeling slopes; SEEP/W for modeling groundwater; and a reformulated SIGMA/W, with a comprehensive material model library and automated strength reduction stability analysis, for modeling rock and soil deformations.

The integration allows users to conduct multiple analyses all within a single project file, Seequent said. “Results from one analysis can be used by another, or analyses can be made to simultaneously model stresses and groundwater flow,” said Paul Grunau, president, GEOSLOPE, Seequent.

GeoStudio supports multiple geometries within a single file, making it easy to compare the effect of mine geometry on stability and groundwater flow, he said. “It is also multidimensional, meaning that 1D, 2D, 3D, Plan View and Axisymmetric are all contained within a single project, with results seamlessly shared between 3D groundwater flow analyses and 2D stability analyses.”

Thus, it offers “the most rigorous saturated-unsaturated groundwater flow formulation in the geotechnical software market,” Grunau said. GeoStudio is “the only solution in the world offering the capability of conducting both a General Limit Equilibrium analysis and an automated Strength Reduction stability analysis within the same modelling environment.”

The integration empowers the user to analyze the entire lifecycle of a mine, from conception to closure. It can create a digital twin of a mine for use in detecting and resolving all potential failure mechanisms, Grunau said. “It allows the engineer to make confident decisions regarding mine design,” he said.

GeoStudio Core is a Windows application available by subscription. It can be run as a standalone application. Or, when used with Seequent’s Central, for cloud-based file management, and Leapfrog, for digital twin management and modelling, it can offer a single source of truth in change management.