Utilizing new technology to improve visualization in mine construction and planning – A case study of the A21 Project, Diavik Diamond Mine


Adan Olivares Castro, Rio Tinto - Diavik Diamond Mines Inc.; Marko Pudar, Rio Tinto - Diavik Diamond Mines; Branwen Price, Rio Tinto - Diavik Diamond Mines

The effective implementation of an engineering design can often be hindered by the lack of a common language between engineers, field supervisors, and equipment operators, leading to miscommunications that can impact both design conformance and operational safety. When information is presented in a format in which it can be visually processed, it can be more consistently understood than when relying on cognition alone. The implementation of visualization technology such as drones, bathymetric surveys and three-dimensional (3D) printed models can enhance understanding of an engineering design through perception and interaction. These specialized techniques enable users to visualize a more complete as-built picture, allowing them to evaluate and improve performance in a construction environment. This paper discusses the implementation and impact of these three technologies on Diavik Diamond Mine's (DDMI) latest dike construction, the A21 Project. This project consisted of the construction of a 2.2 km long earthworks dike in Lac de Gras, Northwest Territories, Canada, prior to the development of a new open pit mine. The A21 Project brought together miners, engineers, and contractors from across the globe, requiring the coordination of multiple and overlapping scopes of work in a remote, sub-arctic environment. Aerial surveys of earthworks such as stockpiles using drones mitigated the risk of exposing survey personnel to busy construction areas while providing accurate survey information efficiently. Underlying bathymetric surfaces and 3D printed models of the embankment design provided equipment operators with a visual tool to understand how submarine slopes would impact the embankment push, enabling them to anticipate changes and compensate accordingly. All together, these technologies, which were originally intended as quality control and survey tools, became drivers of performance, wherein the engineering and construction teams evaluated project performance on a shift-by-shift basis.
Keywords: Information Visualization, 3D Printing, Survey, Drones, Mine Construction, Embankment Construction, Earthworks, Water-Retention Dike