When Thys Smith, Exxaro’s survey manager on Grootegeluk coal mine, realised that 60% of his work day comprised serving information request about geospatial data, he tasked draughtsman Beyers du Randt to start work on a digital mapping system that would allow users to access the data themselves.
The data that users requested were important to the operations and functioning of the mine, and fall firmly in the domain of the mine survey office. Requests vary wildly – from data needed for finding a defective conveyor belt among the 255 other conveyors, to navigating the facility.
Grootegeluk, situated near Lephalale in South Africa’s Limpopo province, is an open-pit coal mine which produces 26 Mtpa coal using a conventional truck and shovel operation. The mine supplies two power stations among other clients, and suffice to say, it is a large site with expansive operations and many facilities, including a production plant.
Du Randt only recently entered the geospatial profession, but keenly set out on foot with his laptop in hand to map and photograph each building on the mine. It became the first dataset to be accessible as an online map on Exxaro’s GIS portal, built on Esri’s ArcGIS geospatial information management software.
Today, there are four such online (browser-based) maps available online to all Exxaro employees. The other three maps include a map tracking all the shovel and drill operations; another visualises mining depths with colour-codes, and third map showing the drill actuals compared to planned holes.
The most difficult part according to Du Randt was deciding what info to publish, which required understanding the end-user’s needs. It’s the reason for creating four maps, each with a distinct function. It also avoids the problem of overwhelming users with all the information in one map, even if it is technically possible to have it in one map. (Another challenge was gaining access to various core databases.)