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BIM for underground mining – value adding to the digital mine?

2 Mins read

BIM (Building Information Modelling) could be utilised within the underground mining world to deliver improved transparency for progressive digital mines – or is it just a layer of data entry and feedback that would have little value for miners?

I first came across BIM whilst working in the UK in around 2007, with several large architectural customers using the term for the designs, installs, schedules and ongoing maintenance documentation that flowed on from our initial site surveys. I noticed back in 2018 that BIM had made it onto a sub-Reddit and that several Western Australian survey businesses now employed specialists in the sector, its reach spreading across the globe.

But what is BIM, how does it help construction projects, and could it help mining projects that are moving toward more complex and digital futures?

“BIM is an acronym for Building Information Modeling or Building Information Management. It is a collaborative process that allows architects, engineers, developers, contractors, manufacturers, and other construction professionals to plan, design, and construct a structure or building within one 3D model.”

The wheel of BIM – if translated into underground mining projects could it add value?

The wheel of BIM above clearly shows how a simplified, repeatable cycle of work that is organised through a centralised model, allows for ongoing improvements in process and delivery. Construction and Civil Engineering projects have jumped onto this working methodology due to the specilaised nature of each package of works that must be delivered on site. This can sometimes mean organising, reviewing and managing in excess of 100 different contractors to deliver a project, each with their own potential issues or delays that may cascade onto others in the process.

With industry appetite growing by the month for a more digitised mine, could BIM for Mining be of value? Fundamentally, the process could be advantageous to any project as constant feedback and review is always positive for learning and progress. However, the use of a centralised 3D model in conjunction with BIM design principles, could be ground breaking for ongoing maintenance and project delivery within the mining ecosystem.

Digital mining will often rely heavily on a totally unsexy network running in the background that delivers underground WIFI for data transfer. With many vendors plugging into this technology and leveraging their projects from this central network, a BIM style system could allow for simplified project roll out and then ongoing maintenance. When used in conjunction with near live mining activities, in a holistic 3D model, this could greatly improve combined digital systems and contribute to intra-system value add.

Maintenance schedules, running times and activity within the mining area could all be referenced in this central model. Then conceptual designs and schedules could be played out in this model space to show if any clashes or errors have been made ahead of roll out and execution.

BIM for Mining or MIM (Mining Information Modelling) may be on the horizon with software specialists and progressive mining houses. So maybe it is worth reviewing practices within your business to take into account a new transparent digital wave between owner, contractor and vendor?


If you like my content and discussions on underground mining, please follow me on LinkedIn or Facebook. I continually strive to offer new and interesting content for those exploring new technologies and ideas for underground mining – so please send me an email if you would like to get involved.

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