Kitware and Newmont guide mining with virtual reality

Through a combined effort, Kitware and Newmont Mining Corp visualized ongoing expansion of the Tanami mine in virtual reality (VR). For the work, Kitware added functionality to ParaView, its open-source software solution for high-performance computing (HPC).

“We teamed up with Newmont geologists to not only model the existing underground development of the Tanami mine but to map planned activities in accordance with results from exploration drilling,” said Ken Martin, who led the visualization effort at Kitware. “The virtual environment in ParaView has helped geologists to investigate whether their expansion plans will allow miners to reach gold in the most effective and efficient manner.”

The Northern Territory of Australia holds the Tanami mine. To date, the mine includes around 130 km of tunnels and is over 1,500 m deep. According to Newmont’s Group Executive for Resource Modeling, Marcelo Godoy, over the next two years, Newmont plans to complete approximately 122 km of core drilling, aiming to increase estimation confidence and expand the gold reserves.

“The work we do in mining makes intense use of three-dimensional visualization of spatial data, so we have been monitoring advances in VR technology for a few years,” Godoy said. “The traditional mining software providers were too slow to include VR into their development roadmaps; therefore, we decided to partner with Kitware to bring the technology to a level where it can be effectively used for resource modelling and mine planning.”

To assist Newmont geologists, a team from Kitware added functionality that grants users control over the exact scale of the virtual world in ParaView. This functionality has encouraged Newmont geologists to easily transition from viewing the entire model of the mine to individually touring life-size tunnels and branches.

“VR provides a unique way for us to interact with our drilling data, geological models and mine plans,” Godoy said. “The ability to visualize huge amounts of data at real-world scale enhances our abilities to recognize mineralization patterns and make better design decisions.”

The Kitware team worked with Newmont to create a customized version of ParaView that enables users to virtually travel at scale-appropriate speeds. Further refinements to load and save viewpoints have allowed Newmont geologists to quickly navigate the virtual mine model. Members of Newmont demonstrated such navigation at this year’s BMO Capital Markets Annual Global Metals & Mining Conference, where they led attendees through Tanami with VR.

“It has proven to be a powerful communication tool to showcase our operations and projects to investors, analysts, reporters and Board members,” Godoy said.

The Visualization Toolkit (VTK), which provides the rendering engine for ParaView, will gain the enhanced functionality that Kitware worked with Newmont to produce in the 8.0 release cycle.

Kitware is an advanced technology, research and open-source solutions provider for research facilities, government institutions and corporations worldwide. It specializes in research and development in the areas of HPC and visualization, computer vision, data and analytics and quality software process. Among its services, Kitware offers consulting and support for high-quality software solutions.