Vulcan software evolution

MAPTEK has been developing software for the mining industry for 25 years, with its 3D Vulcan software currently helping 600 mines worldwide undertake modelling and mine planning.
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A Thiess longwall coal miner at work.

Staff Reporter

The company says Vulcan started as a stratigraphic modelling and mine planning system, and has evolved into the most advanced three-dimensional mine modelling package on the market, leading the world in 3D geological modelling, surveying and mine planning.

Vulcan business development manager (Australasia) Steve Sullivan said Vulcan is used in opencut and underground coal operations around the world, including those operated by BMA, Thiess, Solid Energy New Zealand, Peabody Coal and Xstrata.

“A new generation of mine planners insists on mine planning software that does everything they need in one package, that makes their work-day more efficient and allows them to funnel their creative energy into building better mines,” Sullivan said.

“Vulcan skills are in high demand within mining companies – just read the job ads. As Australia experiences a mining boom, skilled mine planners are in short supply. Using Vulcan, the lead time to train new geologists and mining engineers is significantly decreased, and someone trained at one site can easily transfer their skills to another.”

He said Vulcan is used at all stages of the mine planning process, as well as in exploration for potential near-mine expansion. During the evaluation phase of a deposit, Vulcan generates plans and resource models, using data collected from drillholes, surveys, assays and geological mapping.

These plans can be used to guide further drilling to delineate deposit boundaries and structural constraints, and as new information is acquired it can be incorporated. Being able to display and manipulate all data and models in 3D provides visual validation and enhances the intuitive knowledge of the geologist or engineer, according to Sullivan.

“Where geologists, surveyors and engineers once used different systems and databases, sharing information as needed, data can now be shared seamlessly with Vulcan software.

“Information and staff can be transferred easily between sites, and management is able to access all information to make better planning decisions.”

Vulcan offers grid and triangulation options for modelling, and can handle seam splitting and faulting.

Traditionally, grid modelling methods are chosen for coal deposits.

Mathematical operations can be easily applied to grids to generate roof and floor structures from seam thickness and burden grids. More complex calculations can also be achieved using Vulcan’s GridCalc macros.

“Vulcan can interpolate missing and weathered stratigraphic horizons from drillhole data, using all data available in neighbouring holes,” Sullivan said.

“This process can be run internally or as a scriptable routine and provides detailed feedback for high level auditing and error reporting.”

In Vulcan Version 7, due for release later this year, GridCalc will operate through an upgraded interface which will help new and more experienced users navigate the menus they require more quickly. The user will be able to create a single gridded surface incorporating data from mapfiles, design data, triangulations or a combination of all of these.

Faulting can also be incorporated with this data, with an option to create a number of grid models based on mapfile data, such as multiple quality grids to accompany a structural grid model.

Sullivan said Vulcan Version 7 represents a continuation in the evolution of Vulcan software.

“Global customer input has been important in establishing this version as the most relevant, easy-to-use mine planning and geological modelling software in the market," he said.

A new block faulting method allows the user to model complex faulting scenarios including low angle thrusts and reverse faults.

A new coal compositing tool allows the compositing interval to be constructed based on a cutting height, bench level or existing surface, weighted by sum, thickness, mass, yield and mass/yield.

Once the mineable reserve is identified, a life-of-mine plan is developed using Vulcan, and grid models can be built up incorporating financial parameters. Block models, once considered the domain of metals mines, are also applicable for mine planning in stratigraphic deposits.

Vulcan’s ventilation design module is based on the inter-relationships that exist between ventilation, strata control, drainage, material handling systems and mining methods.

It provides familiar tools for creating and editing network schematics, with powerful graphics for 3D viewing. It also allows the ventilation network to be viewed with all other relevant mining data.

Any number of parameters can be added into the model to identify quality, throughput, operating costs, profitability and margin ranking, using variable cut-off criteria and financial assumptions.

“Long-term mine plans can be developed in a similar way, concentrating on strategies to minimise risk and maximise profit. These five to 10 year strategies can be updated at any stage. Alternative schedules and mining techniques can be compared easily using Vulcan to facilitate scheduling,” Sullivan said.

“Short-term [one-year] planning concentrates on operational efficiency and relies on accurate and timely information to keep the mine models updated. Mining engineers can then control development to take into account the as-mined quality and equipment/infrastructure factors.”

Sullivan said that on a daily basis, mine geologists and surveyors can input data as it is acquired so the model is always up to date, providing the engineer with the best possible information to make planning and operational decisions.

“Twenty-five years ago, Vulcan was the first mining software based on 'true' three-dimensional architecture – which means the data analysis and modelling are performed entirely in 3D,” Maptek said.

“Interacting with models on the screen by flying through them and viewing them from different perspectives greatly enhances understanding of the mineral deposit and the methods required to exploit it. This is critical in today’s market, where stakeholders demand up-to-date, 3D geological models and complete mine designs for review at all stages of the mining process.”

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