Unleashing the POWER OF VR: Revolutionizing Exploration with Digital Twins in Mining

In the time of technology transformation in all aspects of our lives, the mining industry is inundated with a revolutionary potential. IGO location-specific subsurface Exploration workers will use Virtual Reality (VR) visualisations, a process that will transform their work for location-specific subsurface exploration and create an unparalleled inter-departmental collaboration; with digital twins as the centrepiece integrated with VR. This technological transformation is not just about how technology is changing the industry, but an illustration of the power of innovation.

Harnessing the FORCE of Digital Twins at IGO's Nova Mine

IGO’s decision to produce rich digital twins of its Nova mine in Western Australia is another step in this process of bringing together rich 3D geophysical and geological data into a single, seamless product. Using Seequent LeapFrog together with leading-edge machine learning and 3D-modelling software, IGO is creating a highly detailed, volumetric digital twin of the Nova mine. Geologists will be able to explore, interpret and make decisions in 3D.

The Transformative Effect of VR on Geological Exploration

VR-ready digital twins, according to the world’s first Exploration Geologist Erin Martin, ‘should allow for faster and better understanding of our geological domain’. She hopes that navigating and analysing 3D models in VR will ‘open the lines of communication about the data in a way that makes it easier to discover and/or develop our mining targets’. This project shows how VR can be harnessed to overcome the various friction points of the geological sciences, and empower observers to finally see geometries and relationships in the field in a way that they never could before.

Bridging Departments: The Collaborative POWER of 3D VR

An important side benefit of using VR in mining exploration is improved communication between different departments. ‘If we have the geologists and the 3D-mapping specialists inside the 3D environment at the same time, we can get better teamwork, because it’s very clear for all,’ Martin told me. Building accurate geological models means aggregating noisy data from a wide range of inputs and sources from many experts.

Overcoming Business Hurdles with Innovative Solutions

Despite the promise of what lies ahead, the introduction of XR services onto the industrial hustle and bustle of mine sites brings its own set of challenges. During the pilot phase of the new XR services at the IGO mine site, overall feedback reflected a requirement to bring greater ingenuity and creative thinking to how we now onboard and engage with these new VR 3D data points. The amount of strength needed to show that you can overcome these old obstacles is the real take-home message. For now, there’s a new focus on the IGO team’s journey to expand VR’s use to the rest of its sites across Western Australia and beyond.

Evaluating the Impact: VR Pilot Program Insights

The pilot programme is as much a trial for human adaptation to VR and digital twins as it is for technical feasibility in the mining sector. ICK aims to help departments think in a more holistic way by ‘experiencing our 3D models in virtual reality’. They use the word ‘experience’ because it’s not just about inter-departmental collaboration. It’s an approach to work that employs the latest advances in earth imaging and modelling to help mining companies achieve more sustainable, efficient mineralising processes.

The Final Frontier: Embracing the FORCE of Technology in Mining

IGO’s experience in this cutting-edge era of technology-driven integration is watched closely by the industry. If VR and the digital twins that IGO is using prove successful, they might herald the future of mining exploration, with more effective, immersive, accurate and collaborative approaches in the decades to come. It is exciting to observe the intensifying role that technology is playing in the future of mining and, indeed, extraction more widely.

Understanding the FORCE

But in terms of the metaphor, the ‘force’ represents the power of technology to drive and remake existing industry practices. IGO’s role in developing VR and digital twin tech represents this power both in terms of driving change and in what changing will mean for the mining exploration of the future. Using the force, to evoke a different work of fiction, IGO is changing an industry, not just enhancing the practice of geological surveying.

In other words, as we start to harness the force of innovation, we make possible the space where challenges become opportunities and the future becomes a playground of possibilities. IGO’s story of adopting VR and DT in a mining context is not just a technical story: it also demonstrates the power of the force of technology for breathing new life into traditional industries, and for helping to shape a sustainable, cooperative and innovative future.

Jun 06, 2024
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