Open Cut

Coal Subsurface Mapping for Open Cut Selective Mining

Open Cut » Geology

Published: October 18Project Number: C25035

Get ReportAuthor: Andrew Strange and Zak Jecny | CSIRO

A reliable coal seam sensing system is required to improve the productivity of selective mining in open cut mining operations. Currently, operators are required to manually adjust the material extraction depth based on various cues, such as sight or machine vibration as the implement cuts the strata. Manual seam selection can be complex or tedious which often leads to a diluted coal product. Furthermore, the ability to visually observe changes in the geology at night time or in poor weather conditions can be near impossible if the coal looks similar to the waste material. Although assistive guidance systems exist for shovels and excavators, these systems are typically uploaded with extraction surfaces generated from existing geophysical logs which only provide sparse detail about the geology.

This project developed a prototype subsurface scanning system that can measure coal thickness from the top of the exposed coal surface down to a coal-interburden interface. The system consists of a sled that houses ground penetrating radar and position sensors, towed by a remotely controlled robotic vehicle. The system scans the open cut surface in a grid-like fashion after the surface has been prepared, but prior to mining. A digital surface model of the underlying coal to interburden interface is generated which can be uploaded to an in-cab guidance system.

The key research outcomes include the following:

  • A workflow was developed where information generated by a GPR-based sensing system that scans the exposed seam roof surface can be processed and integrated into production to provide guidance information for operators with minimal impact to production.
  • The level of interference and clutter that different materials and a robotic tow vehicle introduce into GPR sensor data was investigated.
  • A custom sled was designed and manufactured whereby no noticeable interference is introduced into the sensor data.
  • Custom software to acquire and process sensor data was developed that allows the generation of a digital surface model within hours of survey completion.
  • Three surveys were conducted at a production mine site and the performance of the sensing system was assessed. Whilst the system did not meet the desired accuracy tolerance specification of ±5% requested by site personnel, there are questions regarding the validity of the accuracy assessment method. Furthermore, lessons learnt from these surveys provide insight as to how the performance can be improved.
  • The full system was successfully demonstrated at a production mine site with a dozer operator mining using a digital surface model for in-cab machine guidance.

The benefits described by the dozer operator that evaluated the digital surface model during survey #3 provide strong motivation for ongoing technology development. It is recommended that ongoing research and development be pursued with the following activities:

  • Conduct additional surveys incorporating the lessons learnt from survey #3 such as using the GPR scanning system to measure the elevation of the mined floor.
  • Trial the system in the application of coal roof detection to measure the remaining overburden stand-off thickness after a blast cycle.
  • Implement autonomous control for the robotic towing vehicle and develop path planning software to enable mine sites to survey areas automatically.
  • Adapt the system so that it can be machine-mounted to provide layer thickness measurements for real-time sensing whilst mining.


Health and safety, productivity and environment initiatives.

Recently Completed Projects

C26059Proof Of Concept Of The Electronic Spark Test Apparatus On Existing Known Power Supplies

This project continued a long running research program into an elect...

C25001Ventilation And Gas Management - Underground Coal Mines

This planning guideline has been prepared to assist mine operators t...

C27010A Clinical, Radiological And Occupational Review Of Coal Mine Dust Lung Disease In Queensland

The aim of this project was to review recently diagnosed cases of Co...


Open Cut

Safety, productivity and the right to operate are priorities for open cut mine research.

Recently Completed Projects

C26034Coking Properties Deterioration In Small Samples

Accurate evaluation of coking coal parameters at the exploration sta...

C23029Alternative And Sustainable Explosive Formulations To Eliminate Nitrogen Oxide Emissions

This technical report describes the technology of a novel mining exp...

C25005Site Based Trials Of Alternative Explosive Formulations To Eliminate Nitrogen Oxide Emissions

This report documents the outcomes of Phase 3 of this project and b...

Open Cut

Coal Preparation

Maximising throughput and yield while minimising costs and emissions.

Recently Completed Projects

C26009Improved Precision Of Determining Coal In Urban Dust

Dust samples collected in coastal locations using High Volume Air Sa...

C26015Novel Characterisation Of Coal Petrography For Improving The Dewatering Of Fine Coals Using Chemicals

This project aimed to develop alternatives to existing mechanical de...

C26014Low Cost Online Measurement Of Particle Size And Density For Diagnostics Across The Fine Coal Circuit

This project has developed a novel prototype optical system for prof...

Coal Preparation

Technical Market Support

Market acceptance and emphasising the advantages of Australian coals.

Recently Completed Projects

C26045Mineralogy Effects On The 3D Porosity Evolution Of Coke And Coke Reactivity

CRI/CSR CO2 combustion data are key metrics of coke quality and perf...

C25049Fusibility Of Coal Blends And Minerals In Coking

The CSIRO optical reflected light imaging CGA (Coal Grain Analysis) ...

C25045Stage Two - Assessment Of In Situ High-Temperature Strength Of Cokes

Stage I of this project established a reliable and repeatable proces...

Technical Market Support

Mine Site Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

Mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from the production of coal.

Recently Completed Projects

C27058Technological Assessment Of A Recycle Reactor For VAM Abatement

Underground coal mining emits high volumes of methane, diluted in ve...

C27008Selective Absorption Of Methane By Ionic Liquids

The connection of a ventilation air methane (VAM) abatement plant di...

C24061Proof-Of-Concept Photocatalytic Destruction Of Methane For Coal Mining Fugitive Emissions Abatement

Australia's fugitive emissions in 2015 were 41 Mt CO2-e (representin...

Mine Site Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

Low Emission Coal Use

Step-change technologies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Recently Completed Projects

C17060BGasification Of Australian Coals

Four Australian coals were trialled in the Siemens 5 MWth pilot scale ga...

C17060AOxyfuel Technology For Carbon Capture And Storage Critical Clean Coal Technology - Interim Support

The status of oxy-fuel technology for first-generation plant is indicate...

C18007Review Of Underground Coal Gasification

This report consists of a broad review of underground coal gasification,...

Low Emission Coal Use

Mining And The Community

The relationship between mines and the local community.

Recently Completed Projects

C16027Assessing Housing And Labour Market Impacts Of Mining Developments In Bowen Basin Communities

The focus of this ACARP-funded project has been to identify a number...

C22029Understanding And Managing Cumulative Impacts Of Coal Mining And Other Land Uses In Regions With Diversified Economies

The coal industry operates in the context of competing land-uses that sh...

C23016Approval And Planning Assessment Of Black Coal Mines In NSW And Qld: A Review Of Economic Assessment Techniques

This reports on issues surrounding economic assessment and analysis ...

Mining And The Community


National Energy Research,Development & Demonstration Council (NERDDC) reports - pre 1992.

Recently Completed Projects

1609-C1609Self Heating of Spoil Piles from Open Cut Coal Mines

Self Heating of Spoil Piles from Open Cut Coal Mines

1301-C1301Stress Control Methods for Optimised Development...

Stress Control Methods for Optimised Development and Extraction Operations

0033-C1356Commissioned Report: Australian Thermal Coals...

Commissioned Report: Australian Thermal Coals - An Industry Handbook