2011 | Mining University
Energy Consumption
Via: Travel Insurance
As we experience the shortest day of the year I want to give a big shout out to the natural resources miners and drillers who work hard to keep the lights on.  These industries are indespensible to our current way of life on this dark day (electric lights), our work schedule (power for computers and other technology) and even our social life (facebook, twitter and social dating sites, none of which would exist if we were dependent on solar/wind power).  Traditional power suppliers are the only source with the supply to meet the demand of society.  Global consumption totals: Natural Gas (23%), Coal (25%) and Oil (37%).  The fossil fuels industry provides us with clean, reliable power at a competitive price.

I would also like to ask 'why the low production?' to the so called 'renewable resources.'  These energy production methods are still struggling to provide useful amounts of electricity: natural energy (solar, wind, wave, and tidal power and geothermal energy account for a total of 1% of global consumption), hydroelectricity (3%), biomass (4%).  I think that these struggling power producers should stop asking for government handouts and focus on being competitive in the marketplace.  I would love to power everything by solar or wind power but they are clearly not prepared for the demand.

Sustainable Development

One of the popular catch phrases of our politically correct society is 'Sustainable Development.'  People in the natural resources field have long considered this phrase a misnomer.  Almost all of the elements we depend on for our materialistic society could not be considered 'sustainable' in a strict sense of the word.  The term 'Sustainable Development' is a hippie invention used to raise funds for unproven technologies.  The target for potential donors is people with too much money and too little sense and people who feel guilty about being rich, like actors. 
I will begin disproving the idea of 'Sustainable Development' with the energy industry.  The first step is in determining that most energy sources derive from solar power.  Solar panels directly convert the sun's rays into electricity.  Other methods convert byproducts of solar energy.  Wind energy is really just solar energy that has heated near the earth, risen in the atmosphere and caused the motion of the earth's atmosphere.  Coal and other fossil fuels are plant material that has been concentrated into a usable form.  The original plants converted the sun's energy into fuel via photosynthesis. 
The second step in proving that no energy source is 'Sustainable' is to state that the sun is really just a big nuclear reaction.  We all want to think that the sun is going to be around forever but that is only true in a relative sense.  Other methods of producing eneryg with nuclear elements fall into the same category as solar energy.  I don't think that anyone fond of the term 'Sustainable Development' would argue that mining uranium is a non renewable resource.
Finally, we must look at wave energy.  I have heard of a town in Europe where they use the crashing waves to turn a turban which powers the whole town.  Wave power, like wind power, is a result of the heat provided by the sun along with the gravitational pull of the moon.  In addition, if there were no energy from the sun the ocean would be a frozen lump of ice.  Good luck getting waves out of an ice cubes.
Next time someone starts preaching about 'Sustainable Development' remind them that it is all non-renewable, and should be used responsibly.  Thus, the term 'Sustainable Development' should really be replaced with the term 'Responsible Development.'


Reserves and the Selection file - Maptek Vulcan BUG

The selection file is a great way in Vulcan to reference multiple triangulations.  You can load triangulations by the selection file and you can also reference them in the Advanced Reserves Editor.  Recently I ran into a couple issues while running reserves in version 8.1.2.

1)      The selection file won’t work with Block > Advanced Reserves > Advanced Reserves Editor if it is in UNIX format.  This restriction doesn’t seem to be a problem when loading the triangulations into Envisage using: Model > Triangle Utility > List.  I think I changed my default format to UNIX because another option in Vulcan didn’t like plain ASCII but I can’t remember what that option was at the moment.

2)      The selection file won’t work with Block > Advanced Reserves > Advanced Reserves Editor if it uses the entire file path to the triangulations, only relative path will work.  Again, this works fine when loading triangulations into Envisage.  I think that the Advanced Reserves Editor should be more robust.

I have made Maptek aware of the issues and will post the JIRA number once I receive it.  I hope that this post will save someone else the hassle of troubleshooting something that should be more robust in your $50,000 software.

Maptek Vulcan - White lines when clicking on the screen

When Microsoft came out with Windows Vista a strange bug sprang up in Vulcan.  Any time the user clicked a point in Envisage, multiple white lines or an entire white box appeared between the selected point and the current mouse location.  This situation would persist until another point was clicked and then started again with the selected point and the new pointer location.  Because this screen issue affects where the mouse pointer is located, it is almost impossible to click on the desired objects.  This bug also affects Windows 7.

The problem is in the way Vulcan handles the buffer and screen refreshing.  I thought that this issue had been corrected with version 8.0 but I recently helped a co-worker who was still having this problem in version 8.0.3.  If you are having trouble with Vulcan and the OpenGL graphics, here is a work around.

  1. Go to the Windows start button and right click on 'Computer'
  2. Select 'Properties'
  3. In the 'System' panel select 'Advanced system settings'
  4. In the 'System Properties' panel select the 'Settings' button under the 'Performance' section
  5. In the 'Performance Options' panel de-select the 'Enable desktop composition' checkbox

These steps will fix the rubber band problem with selecting points in Vulcan but it will also limit the performance of Windows.  The dynamic backgrounds and the glass effect on windows will not be functional with desktop composition disabled.  If you still want to have these effects available, you can chose to disable desktop composition only while Vulcan is active.  To do this follow these steps.

  1. Go to the Windows start button and right click on the Vulcan icon
  2. Select 'Properties'
  3. In the 'Compatibility' tab, check the box: 'Disable desktop composition'
  4. Click 'OK'

With these settings, Windows will turn off desktop composition every time you start Vulcan and turn it back on when Vulcan is closed.  A pop up message will remind you of this fact every time this happens.  Most people I know who use Vulcan, have a tendency to open the program and leave it on all day because they come back to it so often.  If Vulcan is always on, then desktop composition is always off and there is no reason to have it dynamically turning on and off inversely with Vulcan.

Sodium Bentonite

While I was in Utah over the Thanksgiving break my father-in-law was telling stories of the slick mud they got where he worked when it would rain.  He claimed that it was so bad that even 4 wheel drive vehicles couldn't move when it had rained just a little bit.  I wasn't surprised when I learned that he worked at Western Clay processing bentonite.

Bentonite clay or, more correctly, sodium bentonite, is an absorbent clay that swells when it gets wet.  It also gets slick and stringy.  My first experience with bentonite was as a summer student working at a coal mine.  We drilled several exploration core holes to define a new lease.  The holes were sealed with bentonite chips which would expand enough to seal the hole when they got wet.  The chip seal was so important that the BLM sent two representatives to observe the process and the director of technical services filled the hole personally.  Apparently, they were all afraid that summer students would feed the chips too fast and jam the hole too near the collar and not allow the remainder of the chips to form the seal.

Bentonite is also used in drilling fluids.  It is added to the water being pumped through the steel and helps to lift the cuttings to the surface as well as seal the sides of the hole to maintain the sides to be water tight.  When I was in Africa on a coalbed methane exploration project the drillers were experimenting with some additives in the drill water.  After about a day of drilling they were surprised to start getting water back.  I realize that Africa is dry but the drillers shouldn't be that surprised to be getting fluid back.

The medical industry uses bentonite for its ability to absorb water and other toxins.  Bentonite is used to treat things such as constipation, bloating and gas, iritable bowel syndrome and poison ivy.

One of the biggest uses of bentonite in the mining industry is as a liner.  The clay swells so much when wet that when the top few inches become saturated they form a water tight seal.  Bentonite clay liners are used for leach pads, tailings impoundments and water ponds because they are so much cheaper than plastic liners. 

I also saw an interesting application of bentonite on the Discovery Chanel.  On their show 'Dirty Jobs' Mike Row and the crew were harvesting walleye fish eggs and delivering them to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish hatcheries.  After the eggs had been inseminated they coated them with a solution of bentonite and water.  I have been unable to find an explanation for this but I can only assume that it is to protect the eggs from being squashed during the rest of their handling.

I was pleased to get some rock samples from my father in law and was impressed by the variety in color.  I was familiar with the dark brown color, but had no idea that it came in shades of green.


Creating a Vulcan Surface Triangulation

Triangulated surfaces are often the foundation of modeling a mineral deposit.  Whether the surface is current topography, a fault plane or a thickness isopach an accurate surface is an integral part of the model.  Creating this surface should be simple and easy, but in Vulcan there are so many options.  Where do you start?  This tutorial shows you how to create a simple surface triangulation in Vulcan and touches on some of the options you may want to use during creation.

Creating a surface triangulation begins with the input data.  This data can be a topography map with strings at actual elevation or a set of points like drillhole collars or grade values.  The data should be loaded in Vulcan and displayed in Envisage.  Create the triangulation using the menu Model > Triangle Surface > Create.  The panel that pops up will have several tabs, each with many buttons and checkboxes.  This is a good time to introduce the second rule of Vulcan “When in doubt, accept the defaults.”

Mining plays the Villain

The vilification of mining is a frequent occurrence.  It is not uncommon to hear on the news or in general conversation that all the evils of the world can be blamed on mining.  Cinema often portrays the mining industry as the ‘boogey man’ in film.

I can’t deny that mining has a checkered past.  Some really bad things have happened at mines or because of mines, but current regulations have made mining a much safer place.  Other industries have similar histories of taking advantage of people or the land.  Why does mining seem to take the brunt of the negative publicity?

Many industries have used public advertising to promote their products as a whole.  You have heard these slogans before:

Economic Evaluation and Investment Decision Methods

Economic Evaluation and Investment Decision Methods
24-26 October 2011
Colorado School of Mines
John Stermole
Andy Pederson

The Economic Evaluation and Investment Decision Methods course covers industry standard techniques to determine monetary positives or negatives of large scale industrial projects.  The calculation and interpretation of Net Present Value (NPV) and Internal Rate of Return (IRR) are studied in depth.  This session of the course was taught by John Stermole, President of Investment Evaluations Corporation.  John was assisted in teaching the course by Andy Pederson, Operations Manager for Investment Evaluations Corporation.

Blast Hole Depth Script

When designing a blast, it is important to know how deep each of the blast holes should be. Vulcan has an option in the ‘Drill and Blast’ tools in the ‘Open Pit’ menu, but what do you do if you don’t have this menu? The referenced script will allow the user to identify the distance from the hole collar to a given elevation and output this value to the point name.

I first came up with the idea for this script when we were having trouble controlling the bench level on each bench. The floor of the pit was becoming increasingly uneven and management’s method of solving the problem was to have the survey crew shoot in each collar, calculate the depth to the next bench (plus sub drill) and mark it on the stake for that hole. I didn’t want my friends on the survey crew to take hours out of their day to write elevations on wooden stakes so I put together this little script. Now they print the blast pattern with hole depth and give it to the driller, leaving them with plenty of time to survey working faces for me .

Download the script here:

Chronos Mine Plan Destination Script

Chronos is a powerful mine planning tool, but the format of the ‘destination’ tab leaves much to be desired.  The following script copies the results in the Chronos destination, into a new tab, in a format that allows for the creation of reports and pivot tables with familiar Microsoft Excel tools.

The mine scheduling tool available with Maptek Vulcan, is Chronos (named for the Greek God of time).  Chronos combines the visual functionality of Vulcan with the spreadsheet tools in Microsoft Excel.  The different tabs created in excel mirror the actual mining process.  The initial mining blocks are kept in a ‘Reserve’ sheet until they are scheduled by the Chronos ‘Process.’  Scheduled blocks appear in the 'Destination' tab in a uniquely Maptek format.  Final results can be reported out in the 'Period Summary' tab.

Hitachi EX-5500 Shovel Boosts Mine Plan

The Hitachi EX-5500 is an impressive machine that moves a lot of material with its 35 cubic yard bucket.
I have to admit that one of the big reasons that I got into mining was the big equipment. I think that the fact that I am a big guy plays into this a little bit. It's nice to see that there are things in life that are truly huge and impressive. I don't think that I went on a field trip at the University of Utah where I didn't get my picture taken in front of one of the big haul trucks.
One of the drawbacks of working for Maptek Vulcan is that I wasn't able to be around this big equipment as often. Now all that has changed. At the mine last month we got a new, bigger shovel.
I can't believe how big this shovel is. It is so big and powerful that it makes the 300 ton haul trucks look like empty shells. This new shovel can't help but increase what is being produced in the mine plan.
The only thing better (bigger) than the 5500? A wire rope shovel!

Nevada Supports Mining

As I was driving to work the other day I saw this billboard on the side of the highway.  On my way home I saw another.  Over the next few days I saw several of these billboards in the Reno area, sponsored by the  Nevada Mining Association.  This is great!

For as long as I can remember, the mining industry has been content to play the bad guy.  In movies and television shows and books the villain is frequently a mine or mine owner.  I realize that mining's history isn't the cleanest but we need to look at the present state of the industry.  I also think that when mining is performed in a country with responsible mining regulations (like Nevada, USA) that it is a safe industry both for the employees and the environment.

I am very happy that someone is willing to promote mining as a good and viable part of our economy.  Good work Nevada Mining Association.

Chronos - Sum Product

The first thing I want to do with every Chronos workbook I have ever made is to take each 'WEIGHT' variable in the Reserve sheet and insert a column that multiplies it by the weighting field.  In most cases this is taking the grade and multiplying it by the tons.  Now I finally have a script that does this and it's pretty quick. 
The trick to getting this to run in an acceptable time frame for large numbers of columns was to turn off the screen update and the automatic calculation.  I just tested this on a workbook that has 1,600 columns and the script took about a minute to run.

There are some assumptions that this script makes.  First, it assumes that the 'WEIGHT' columns are to the left of the field by which they are weighted.  Second, it assumes that you haven't manually added any columns that are labeled as type 'WASTE' and don't have a 'weight by' field (yes I actually did this).  Other than that I think it works pretty well.  Let me know if it works for you.

To run the script, copy the code below and paste it into a VBA macro for excel.

Vulcan - Snap Modes

Vulcan snap modes are a powerful tool that allows the user to snap to the exact point specified.  Using snap modes is an important part of creating drafting objects that are precise and accurate.

Whether you know it or not, if you have been digitizing objects in Vulcan, you have been using snap modes.  The default snap mode is called 'Indicate.'  This mode allows the user to specify a point anywhere on screen.  This point will have the easting and northing coordinates of the point that was clicked, but what about the elevation?  If the point was digitized in plan view (click the 'Reset' icon a few times) the point will be at the elevation specified in the 'z' field of the 'Status' toolbar.  If the point was digitized while in a rotated view the elevation of the point (and possibly the easting and northing coordinates) will be at a seemingly random location defined by the Vulcan software.  This tendency for randomness is a big reason that the other snap modes exist.

Just below the primary window and on the left (if you haven't changed the Vulcan layout) you will find the 'Digitise' toolbar (Australian spelling by design).  The first five icons from the left are the snap modes.  The first one is the 'Indicate' snap mode and should be depressed.  The next icon over is called the 'Object' snap mode.  This mode will snap the digitized point to the nearest point or line object.  The elevation coordinate (and northing and easting coordinates in rotated view) is controlled by this intersection with the existing object.  While using the 'Object' snap mode, if you click a point too far away from any object, no point will be created and a warning sound will be played.  This is not a problem, just click the next point closer to an existing object.

Vulcan - Lines and Polygons

Many of the CAD functions in Vulcan are created in the same manner and share common properties.  Lines and polygons are two objects that differ in fundamental ways.  These differences are not detrimental to the user in either case but you should know what the differences are so that you are not surprised when they show up in the normal course of work.
In some other drafting programs (AutoCAD) the difference between a line and a polygon is simply the fact that the first and last points share the same coordinates.  This seems intuitive enough as you are digitizing data but when you stop to think about it, there are really more points on the line than are needed.  A square with four corners would, in this method, need five points (the first and last being the same). 
There is also the problem of the point snap.  I’m sure that all of you are conscientious digitizers and always use the snap to points mode when creating a closed polygon, but what about your co-workers?  When working with a polygon digitized by someone else, how do you know that it is actually closed?

Vulcan > Chronos > Reserve Sheet > Unschedule Blocks

Dear Vulcan,

I am doing a life of mine schedule with your Chronos scheduler (which I love), but I have become very frustrated by the ‘Unschedule Blocks’ option.  Basically, this option will let me unschedule by reserve sheet or by destination/period/block but does not allow me to unschedule multiple periods at the same time.  The flexibility to unschedule a specific block in a specific period for a specific destination is great.  In my current situation, however, I am trying to unschedule multiple periods at once and am frustrated by the need to specify one period, wait for it to unschedule and then specify the next period.

Vulcan - Layers and Points

The basic organizational tool for Computer Assisted Drafting (CAD) data within the Design Graphics Database (DGD) is the Layer.  Layers can have names of up to 40 characters and a description of up to 80 characters.  Layers contain point, line and object data representing, in 3D space, real world locations. 

I was helping a co-worker with Vulcan the other day and was surprised when he asked me what a layer was.  I was shocked.  It has been a long time since I talked to someone who didn't know what a layer was in the CAD sense.  In mining and geology, almost everyone has some exposure to AutoCAD or other drafting software, but that shouldn't be a pre-requisite to using Vulcan.  Think of Vulcan layers as drawings on a Mylar sheet.  A single sheet/layer might contain property boundaries or topography lines and we can stack as many on top of each other as we want.  No matter how many sets of building outlines or lakes and rivers we stack on top of each other we can still remove them individually and store them away for future use.  Layers are not the only method of grouping data but they are the most basic and they are a very powerful tool.

Vulcan - Workbench Layout

Understanding the layout of the Vulcan workbench can do a lot to increase utilization of the software. The default layout gives the user a great amount of information, but a custom layout can give the user power and confidence when using Vulcan. The naming convention of the different sections is also important. With a basic nomenclature everyone can discuss what is happening in Vulcan using the same words. I always prefer to talk about the Vulcan Explorer rather than ‘the white section to the right of the screen.’
When you first start Vulcan the screen that presents itself is very similar to other windows applications. The most dominant section of the screen, the big black rectangle, is the Primary Window. This window will display CAD data and triangulations in 3D. This is where the magic happens. Keep the primary window maximized to see your data better.
Just to the left of the Primary Window is the Vulcan Explorer. This is a list of virtual folders that organize your data. Vulcan creates a large number of files as part of its general procedure. The Vulcan Explorer organizes these files into easy to find virtual folders like ‘Block Models’ and ‘Design Databases.’ The folder structure is virtual, meaning that if you look in the folder where your data is, you won’t see any of the subfolders listed in the Vulcan Explorer. This lack of folder structure prevents you from having to follow a strict hierarchy of folders and sub-folders.

Vulcan – Envisage Resources

Vulcan software uses Environment Variables to specify the line styles, symbols libraries and plot templates that are used by the program.  This allows everyone on site to use the same base templates, but if you’ve never worked with Environment Variables before they can be confusing.
The plot templates, symbols libraries and line styles in Vulcan are stored in a folder called ‘Resources.’  This folder is installed to the program files folder when Vulcan is installed and allows all users to access the default templates.  If you work at a large site that has many Vulcan users who all need access to the same ‘Resources’ folder then a version on the network is perfect for you.  A simple Environment Variable points to the location of the folder and Vulcan will do the rest.
If your site doesn’t already have a ‘Resources’ folder you can copy the default one to the network and start customizing templates.  If your company already has a folder set up, here’s how you access it in Windows 7:
1)      Go to the start icon, right-click on ‘Computer’ and select ‘Properties.’
2)      Select ‘Advanced system settings.’
3)      In the ‘Advanced’ tab select the ‘Environment Variables’ button.
4)      The ‘Environment Variables’ panel has two parts.  The top part is for ‘User Variables’ and the bottom half is for ‘System Variables.’  In the ‘User Variables’ section click the ‘New…’ button.
5)      In the ‘New User Variable’ panel set the variable name and value:
a.      Variable name: ENVIS_RESO
b.      Variable value: path to the ‘Resources’ folder i.e. E:\vulcan\resources
6)      The variable name and value are case sensitive, please type carefully.
7)      Exit the ‘New User Variable’ panel by clicking ‘OK.’
8)      Exit the ‘Environment Variables’ panel by clicking ‘OK.’
9)      Exit the ‘System Properties’ panel by clicking ‘OK.’
10)   Clicking ‘Cancel’ on any of these panels may not save the changes and you will get to do them all over again.
11)   If Vulcan is open, restart Vulcan.  Environment Variables are read at startup.
Now that everyone is using the same ‘Resources’ folder all plot templates and symbols libraries will be the same for everyone.  Just be careful not to delete the plot templates that everyone else is using.

Vulcan - Remove Internal Walls

Maptek sent out their newsletter 'Tech Source' yesterday.  The current edition advertises the new menu option 'Delete Internal Walls.'  This is an option that I have been wanting for a long time now.  In Vulcan, it has always been easy to cut a triangulation into smaller pieces, but to put them back together again is a complex procedure that is often not worth the effort.  The idea behind the 'Delete Internal Walls' option would greatly simplify the task of combining triangulations that share a side but which need to be valid in order to calculate volumes or reserves.

There are three reasons that I typically want to 'Delete Internal Walls' and they all have to do with triangulations that have been split and then appended together again.  The first scenario involves simply cutting a triangulation (Model > Triangle Utility > Cut).  For whatever reason, I have both parts of the triangulations but not the original  and want to combine the parts into a complete whole.  Removing the internal walls in this simple situation can be done using a tool that Vulcan has had for a long time, Model > Triangle Solid > Delete Triangle > Internal Wall Delete.  The new option also does a good job in this situation but I don't really need it, there is something very similar in my tool set.

Overall Slope Angle vs. Interramp Slope Angle

In the mining industry, nomenclature can be very important.  This became especially clear to me a few weeks ago when discussing the slope angle of an open pit mine.  In the context of the discussion, the term 'overall slope angle' was used.  Later, when attempting to apply this 'overall slope angle' I discovered that what we were really talking about was 'interramp slope angle.' 

Very often, when professionals in the mining industry say 'slope angle' they are referring to the 'interramp slope angle' or the angle from the toe of one bench to the toe of the next bench, exclusive of any ramp system.  This measure is consistent and easy to visualize.  It includes one bench height, one catch bench and the offset due to the face angle.  This should not be confused with 'overall slope angle' which is the angle between the lowest toe and the highest crest inclusive of any haul roads (Slope Stability in Surface Mining; W.A. Hustrulid p48).

Complete script

A few weeks ago I was doing some work with Vulcan's Chronos scheduler and became increasingly frustrated, doing tasks that took a few minutes to complete, but which had no alert to let me know when it was done.  This wasn't the first time I have wished for an alert from a program and it finally hit me that if I was looking for this script then someone else might be also.  This script is the result of that realization. 
Prior to writing this script I had very little knowledge of the Microsoft batch file or even c-shell commands.  It took a while to get the syntax correct, and it isn't optimized for performance or simplicity but it does work and it wasn't all that hard.