GIS Software in Mineral Exploration

Divyansh Rajput

Divyansh Rajput , Evangelist at Indshine

June 09, 2020

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Mineral exploration and extraction activities in mining are inherently spatial. The mining operation is performed on a large expanse of land which generates volumes of location-based information, therefore operations of mine management are perfectly suited for the GIS environment. GIS is a complete tool for storing, accessing, and sharing geographic information in real-time quickly.

Mining managers use GIS to increase productivity by incorporating survey data. Field engineers and operation staff use it for planning and tracking assets. Environmental managers use it for monitoring environmental impact and hazard analysis. So, from exploration to production to mine closure and reclamation, GIS serves as an absolute tool in optimizing mining operations.

To simplify the process of implementing GIS tool in mining works, a three step-based approach has been framed for mining professionals.

  1. Know your data.
  2. Gather your data.
  3. Analyze the data in the GIS.

Know Your Data —> Gather Your Data —> Analyse it in GIS Software

1. Know your data

The data is ascertained by narrowing down the type of activity which is being implemented in mining operation. E.g. Mineral exploration will require geological, geophysical, geochemical and remote sensing datasets. The data-rich foundation serves as a precursor to any mineral prospective mapping activity.

Data required in mineral exploration

  • The geological dataset represents the distribution of rock and surface deposits as well as locations of faults and folds.
  • The geophysical dataset represents the near-surface investigations done to determine archaeology, groundwater status, void mapping etc based on lateral and vertical variations in physical property.
  • The geochemical dataset represents the chemical analysis of earth condition to detect abnormal concentrations of elements and hydrocarbons in materials.
  • The remote sensing data represents the physical properties of an area collected through both active and passive sensing techniques.

All these forms of datasets are gathered to study the spatial distribution of mineral deposit in GIS and decide the economic viability of the mining project.

2. Gather your data.

There are primarily two methodologies of data collection i.e desk-based system and field-based surveys.

The desk-based system means the collection of data held by private corporations, government agencies, state geological surveys, educational institutions, and individuals. The extent and type of geosciences data possessed by these entities vary depending upon their mission.

The field-based system means the collection of data by performing field surveys and exploration techniques. It involves a systematic investigation by employing techniques from common walkover survey, studying outcrops and landforms, to the intrusive methods such as hand augering and machine-driven boreholes, core cutting, to the use of geophysical methods such as electromagnetic, resistivity and seismic refraction, and remote sensing methods such as aerial photography and satellite imagery.

The ultimate aim of any data collection technique is to provide the datasets which will thereby help in developing the spatial distribution of mineral deposits in GIS software.

3. Analyze the data in the GIS

For analyzing and extracting insights from the spatial distribution data, the geological map is digitised in GIS comprising both vector and raster data.

The vector data i.e. series of points, line and polygon objects are represented using CAD software, while the raster data is generated from remote sensing techniques and geophysical surveys in various formats such as TIFF (highest quality), DEM, RAW etc. Format interconversions are applied according to the GIS software compatibility. Each vector object and raster image pixel on the map is described by the attributes which are held in the GIS database in the form of attribute tables. The database for attributes is prepared using database management systems and MS Excel spreadsheets.

A sample of the attribute table for geological mineral occurrence can be referred here:

Sample excel in mineral exploration

Each form of the dataset is imported into a GIS platform to build a multi-layer spatial database which is used to perform metric calculations such as volume, area and distance measurements. Indshine GIS integrates these analytical tools directly into its platform so that all the tools are ready for your industrial use case, right in your browser. Visualization is another powerful tool in GIS which is used to analyze and understand relationships between various spatial data sources, in the form of colour graphics. A combination of various GIS features is used to develop a model for mapping exploration targets.

Here is a sample map visualizing the fault lines and dykes in an area.

For more sample projects refer to our Project Library and to learn more about use cases of GIS Software follow our blog.

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