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Title Mining
Edited by GMV
Level Intermediate
Year of Publication 2011
Logo GMV.png

Satellite navigation has proven a significant increasing in productivity and improved on-site safety in mining activities, e.g., mineral and aggregate extraction with especial incidence in iron ore and coal extraction and transport tasks.

In open pit mining, accurate GNSS is useful for tasks such as machine guidance, grading, dozing, drilling, collision avoidance, surveying, and fleet management.

GNSS Augmentation techniques such as DGNSS or RTK increase the accuracy achieved to the level required for some of the mining activities and are normally used in GNSS mining systems.

Application Architecture


Mining is often done at remote sites, which are difficult to monitor from a company's central control base. At the same time, any problems or failures with the large and expensive trucks and excavators need to be resolved fast to minimise downtime.[1]

The conventional coal mining surveying, positioning and monitoring approaches are both time-consuming and costly. With the introduction of GNSS based systems aims to increase the productive availability of ultra-heavy mining trucks, giant excavators and earthmovers that extract and transport mineral ore from open-cut mines to processing facilities in some of the most remote regions of the planet.[1]

The most of the mining GNSS systems are implemented using Differential GNSS (DGNSS) or Real Time Kinematics (RTK). These systems require a reference stations for which the position is accurately known allowing the deviations between measured position to the actual position and more importantly the corrections to the measured pseudoranges to each of the individual satellites to be calculated for the mine site. The corrections calculated are transmitted by a radio network to the equipments in the field.[2]

Mining Operations

The GNSS guidance systems are applied to many aspects of mining operation including:

  • Blasthole Drilling: GNSS based blasthole drill systems provide drill monitoring, control and guidance. The prime objective of GNSS positioning for drilling is to navigate the drill rig over the designed collar position, eliminating the need for manual survey.[2]
  • Shovels, Loaders, Dozers and Graders: The planned design of the mines, ore blocks, pits and roads, is overlapped with the vehicle's current positions providing the operator with the assistance required to mine the pit and ore block to the intended mine design. The on-board display provides required assistance by providing visual cues to where are located the ore blocks and whether the current floor grade is below or above the design floor grade.[2]
  • Vehicle Tracking and Dispatch: The dump trucks positions obtained are sent to the central control station, where is carried the dumping scheduling management. This application determines which material is loaded and sends information and instructions to be followed by the truck drivers, in order to guarantee that the assignments are followed and the materials are correctly collected from the correct ore block and dumped in the correct dumping location.[2]
  • GNSS Surveying: The advantage of using GNSS for surveying in open pit mining is that only a single surveyor is required, in opposition to the conventional methods.[2]
  • Monitor Drivers and Vehicles: The sensors in the vehicle provide monitoring information of equipment's, like for instance air pressures. These systems also provide sensors to analyze the operator's well-being, by measuring key body parameters such as heart rate and skin temperature. This information is combined with GNSS information and is sent to a central control station. This information will allow for rapid intervention in case of problems.[1]

Application Characterization

GPS applications in the mining industry include the following features:[2]

  • Control of heavy machinery such as draglines,
  • Control of bucket wheels and dozers,
  • Drill guidance,
  • Roads grading and maintenance,
  • Fleet management systems for haul trucks and other vehicles tracking and dispatch,
  • Asset tracking, for instance, of lighting plant and mobile generators,
  • Guidance and control for drill rigs and explosive trucks,
  • Access and zone control for visiting vehicles,
  • Detecting dangerous driver behavior and
  • Collision avoidance applications.
  • Surveying crews can be reduced

Safety Applications

GNSS based applications for survey and machine guidance brings important safety benefits in the mining industry. [3]

  • Surveying: GNSS considerably speeds up the surveying process and reduces the time surveyors are in the field often in vulnerable locations, eliminating the process of establishing field control points.
  • Truck Fleet Management: In a fleet management application, trucks can be assigned to different loading machines in real time to improve overall efficiency. A safety benefit is that the central control station always knows the location of each truck.
  • High Precision Machine Control: This systems increase efficiency, eliminating the need to have people on the ground outside vehicles, where they are most vulnerable to accidents, and the eliminate the need to deploy pegs in the field. Also the recording of events can be useful is accident situations, in order to obtain the causes that lead to the incident
  • Hazard Avoidance: These applications warn the operator of onsite hazards such as machines operating next to each other where the operators don't manage to see other due to terrain orography or voids from older workings. These systems can also be set to automatically broadcast an assistance required signal to the central control station if the device is tilted beyond a preset angle.
  • Collision Avoidance: This systems must be included in all mining vehicles, which continuously report their position to the central control station, where the data is analyses and vehicles can be warned, if they are in collision course. This type of architecture requires large bandwidth capabilities and is especially relevant in environments where light and heavy vehicles work side by side.

Application Examples

The following systems are among the most relevant in mining industry:[2]

The following industry fields are using similar GNSS-based systems:

Gas and Oil Offshore Platforms

In offshore platforms field, there are also advanced tools to monitor remote gas and oil infrastructures using GNSS. These applications require very high precision, reliable and highly available positioning tools for the monitoring of platform deformation and subsidence[4].

Civil engineering

In civil engineering accuracy and reliability are essential. Combined with digital mapping, GNSS represents a powerful tool for reducing costs and increasing productivity while maintaining the highest construction standards, from the planning of structures to the maintenance and surveillance of existing infrastructure[5]. Heavy equipments used in construction such as blades and buckets of construction can be automatically controlled with GNSS-based machine guidance systems[6].



  1. ^ a b c d ESA Portal, Space technology aids mining
  2. ^ a b c d e f g GPS Guidance System and Reduction of Open Pit Mining Costs and Revenue Loss, Andrew P. Jarosz and Raleigh Finlayson
  3. ^ Safety Applications for GPS Systems in the Mining Industry, Queensland Resources Council
  4. ^ Monitoring of Offshore Platform Subsidence Using Permanent GPS Stations, Halim Setan and Rusli Othman, Journal of Global Positioning Systems, 2006
  5. ^ GSA, Europe's Satellite Navigation Programmes
  6. ^ GNSS applications on Wikipedia