2012 | Mining University

256 Color Palette for Maptek Vulcan 8.2

I finally got a chance to play with the new 256 tile color palette in Maptek Vulcan 8.2. This is the color palette we've all been waiting for, for so long. I remember promising Vulcan users an improved color palette since I started working at Maptek back in 2005. 

Now that I see the results in action I have mixed feelings about how this was implemented. From the methods necessary to implement the expanded color palette to the ways the colors are used I see good and bad points along the way.

Upgrading to the 256 color palette

Making the move to the new color palette was more confusing than I would have hoped. In the release notes, Maptek lists the new color palette under the menu section File > Colour Table. In fact, you don’t have to use this menu at all to implement the new color palette.

Following the logic in the release notes I thought that I could just go to the File > Colour Table menu and turn on the new color palette. In reality the File > Colour Table menu is just a list of sub-menus, you have to go another level to get to any actual menu options. The logical sub-menu seemed to be File > Colour Table > Upgrade.

I tried this a number of times and even restarted Vulcan with no change to the available color palette before giving up and calling Maptek. Tech Services filled me in on the real way to upgrade the color palette.

How to turn on the 256 color palette

I don’t know how the team at Maptek expected everyone to know this, they certainly didn't say it in the release notes, but you have to check a box in the preferences panel in order to upgrade to the new color palette.

  1. Go to the menu: Tools > Preferences
  2. Select the Workbench branch
  3. Check the box: Enable extended colour palette (256)
  4. Restart Vulcan

That’s it. You now have access to 256 color tiles. Click on the color tile in the Status toolbar and take a look.

Maptek Vulcan extended color palette
Maptek Vulcan extended color palette

The first thing we notice about the new color palette is that the original 32 colors are preserved at the beginning of the list. I’m not very excited about this, it cuts into the remainder of the color palette, mostly a number of the shades of red get left out. This method does prevent existing items (including plot templates) from changing with the implementation of the new color palette.

I’m also disappointed in the fact that you can still change all of the colors. This means that what was a green line in my session of Vulcan might be a blue line in your session of Vulcan. There is still no standard color set. I say ‘boo’ to this. We all think that we want everything to be customizable but at some point something has to be standardized or we won’t have a common frame of reference from which to discuss things.

CAD Color Palette

All complaining aside, one of the most exciting changes to the color palette is the ability to use the CAD (similar to the AutoCAD) color palette. If we click on the ‘Edit Colours’ button and then the ‘Auto’ tab we can see a number of pre-defined color palettes. Most of these are pretty weird. Who uses ‘Grey Scale’ or ‘Pastel’ color palettes to do design work at a mine? The color palette we are interested in is the ‘CAD’ color palette. Click the ‘CAD’ radio button and click ‘Apply.’

This is perfect. I've been waiting for this color palette since I started working with Vulcan in college.  I know that the folks at Maptek don’t like to hear ‘Make it like AutoCAD’ but they finally copied the color palette and I couldn't be happier.

Maptek Vulcan cad color palette
Maptek Vulcan cad color palette

True 24-bit Color

The most impressive change to the color palette is the move to true 24-bit color. In the Edit Colors option users may set custom colors using the red-green-blue settings between 0 and 255. Vulcan 8.2 actually uses these color settings. Previous versions did not actually use 256 red-green-blue settings (they used 16 settings). 12 bit color (what you would get with 16 red-green-blue settings) only gives about 4,000 color options. 

Four thousand colors seems like a lot, but it's few enough to be visibly different from specified colors. I first ran into this problem when I was creating a logo for one of the clients at Maptek. The client had very specific colors to be used in the logo. Using the 12-bit color created a logo that was visibly different than what was expected. I'm so glad that the new color palette has expanded into true 24-bit color.

Maptek Vulcan 8.2 Release

Maptek Vulcan 8.2 Splash Screen
Maptek Vulcan 8.2 Splash Screen
Maptek came out with their new version today. I think it was today. At least, I got it in the mail today. The letter attached to it was dated the 14th and I have been hearing that it will come out 'soon' for weeks (maybe months). I guess that today is the 'official' day. There is a press release on their website announcing the release on November 20th.

There is a new look to the packaging and the splash screen. The wider space for the working directories is great but other than that it isn't any more helpful.

Useful changes for this release include an expanded color palette and the new rapid pit phase design tool.

The color palette changes have been a long time coming. I remember promising clients a new color palette in 2005 when I first started working in tech services for Maptek. I don't know who thought that 32 colors would be plenty for CAD design but he was one upped by the 'genius' who assigned the first two colors as white for using the plot all wizard and the last two colors as white for plotting with the plot all wizard.

It seems logical that everyone would hate a 28 tile color palette but I have heard people at Maptek argue in favor of a changeable color palette. Mostly this was a color blind engineer who couldn't see all the colors but it looks like someone has finally put their foot down. Congratulations on improving this fundamental part of the software.

The rapid pit phase design has been in production for a long time.  It was a joint development with Barrick Gold that started in 2006. I remember a talk at the 2007 Maptek users' conference that talked about the tool like it was a done deal. Well, it's finally out.

I like the idea of a faster way to do pit design but I haven't had a chance to explore it yet. I look forward to spending more time with this tool in coming weeks.

MINExpo 2012 PandH L-2359 Wheel Loader

P&H L-2350 Wheel Loader Bucket
P&H L-2350 Wheel Loader Bucket

I had a great time looking at all the big equipment at MINExpo 2012. Trucks are impressive, shovels are truly intimidating and I really love tires that are taller than I am. Everything at the show was exciting but the most impressive thing that I saw has to be the P&H L-2350 Wheel Loader.

In the grand scale of mining equipment I usually think of wheel loaders as kind of small equipment. We use them to load freeway vehicles (belly dump semi trailers, highway legal dump trucks, etc...). Some of the really big ones are comparable to hydraulic shovels but they can't load quite as high. Wheel loaders don't even enter into the conversation with wire rope shovels, they're just not big enough. 

Enter the P&H L-2350 Wheel Loader. This loader has a 70 cubic yard bucket. That puts it in the same class as the large wire rope shovels and the body on this behemoth is truly massive. The scale is still the same, it looks just like the small loaders on site and the toys you get your kids for Christmas. It's just several orders of magnitude too big. 

Wheel loaders don't load the same way hydraulic or wire rope shovels do. They don't just swing over the truck and dump their load. Wheel loaders have to shuttle back and forth to go from digging to loading each pass. Because of its size it's hard to imagine something as big as the L-2350 Wheel Loader going back and forth to load a bucket every thirty seconds.

Congratulations to P&H on pushing the boundaries of mining equipment. I am truly impressed.

P&H L-2350 Wheel Loader
P&H L-2350 Wheel Loader

How to Remove the Maptek Vulcan Watermark

Preferences Panel - Remove Watermark from Plots
Preferences Panel - Remove Watermark from Plots

The Problem

If you're new to Maptek Vulcan or just haven't plotted anything in a while, you may be shocked to see the Maptek watermark obscuring some essential parts of your plot. 


The Maptek watermark came into existence when owner Bob Johnson got tired of not getting credit for data printed by users of his software. The initial implementation of the watermark didn't go too well. Paying customers weren't exactly thrilled when their expensive modeling software suddenly had a watermark that they couldn't get rid of. To make matters worse, the watermark isn't really a watermark, it's a logo printed over the top of whatever is in it's way.

Eventually, paying customers managed to talk Bob into allowing them to avoid using his watermark and this capability has been extended to most users (I don't think educational licenses have the ability to opt out of the watermark).

The Solution

To remove the Maptek Vulcan watermark from your work follow these steps:

Go to the menu: Tools > Preferences
Select the branch: Plotting Utility
Un-check the box: Use Watermark (there are several options to place the watermark in a different location or to use your own watermark. Don't get bother with these, you don't want a watermark. If you want a logo on your plot template, use a custom plot template.)
Select the branch: Video Capture
Uncheck the box: Use Watermark (this will remove the watermark from any video screen capture you use. Do this now so you don't have to re-record your video later.)
Click 'OK'

The implementation and optional removal of the watermark is one glaring example of an option that never should have been programmed in Maptek Vulcan.

Preferences Panel - Remove Watermark from Video Capture
Preferences Panel - Remove Watermark from Video Capture

Caterpillar Booth - MINExpo 2012

Caterpillar SD70ACe Electro Motive
Caterpillar SD70ACe Electro Motive

Let's face it, if you saw the Caterpillar booth at MINExpo you saw the whole show. Nobody's booth was bigger than Caterpillar's. Other manufacturers looked like also-rans at the racetrack.

Caterpillar unveiled their SD70ACe Electro Motive at the show but dominated floor space with the biggest of big screen TV's.

What follows is a guided tour of the equipment that Caterpillar had on display at MINExpo. I tried to get a picture of every piece of equipment. There were a lot of them and I apologize if I missed any.

Caterpillar's Big-big screen TV
Caterpillar's Big-big screen TV

Haul Trucks

Cat brought three of the world's largest haul trucks to the show. I think they did this just because they could. Seeing these massive vehicles side by side was really a great way to highlight the differences between them.

Caterpillar 797F Haul Truck
Caterpillar 797F Haul Truck

The Cat 797F offers a 400 ton payload making it one of the largest trucks in production. This behemoth represents more than a million pounds of steel sitting on the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center. 

Caterpillar 795F Haul Truck
Caterpillar 795F Haul Truck

Caterpillar has ventured into the world of electric drive trucks with the 795F. This truck has a payload of 345 tons. It's smaller than the 797F but who can tell?

Caterpillar 793F Haul Truck
Caterpillar 793F Haul Truck

The 'smallest' of the big trucks, the Cat 793F has a 250 ton payload. Seeing it next to the 345 and 400 ton trucks is one of the only ways to tell that this truck is 'small' in any sense of the word.

Caterpillar 777G Haul Truck
Caterpillar 777G Haul Truck

It's hard to think of the 100 ton Cat 777G truck as being small but next to its neighbors at MINExpo it certainly was. The Cat 'triple seven' haul truck has been the work horse of the mining industry. I've seen 777 trucks at more mines than I can think of. They're big enough for most large mines and reliable enough for smaller mines.

Loading Equipment

Caterpillar equipment always looks good with the new yellow paint and the loading equipment on display was no exception. From loaders to rope shovels the Cat earth movers were fun to look at.

Caterpillar 6030B Hydraulic Shovel
Caterpillar 6030B Hydraulic Shovel

With a 22 cubic yard bucket, the Cat 6030B Hydraulic Shovel isn't the biggest shovel out there but it is about the biggest piece of equipment you could hope to fit indoors.

Caterpillar Wire Rope Shovel Bucket
Caterpillar Wire Rope Shovel Bucket

The sign in front of this wire rope shovel bucket said that this design ranged from 50-70 cubic yards. The wire rope shovels are definitely too big to be brought inside the convention center. This bucket even makes me look small. You can't tell from the picture, but I'm 6'5" tall. I look big next to most things that aren't mining related.

Caterpillar Wire Rope Shovel Cab
Caterpillar Wire Rope Shovel Cab

To offset the giant bucket, the Cat guys wanted to bring in the cab of one of their wire rope shovels. I guess this is the next best thing to having a giant wire rope shovel poking out of the roof of the convention center.

Caterpillar 994H Wheel Loader
Caterpillar 994H Wheel Loader

With a bucket size ranging from 19-47 cubic yards the Cat 994H wheel loader is versatile enough for most mines. This is the biggest model that Cat offers and with the right operator this can really move muck.

Caterpillar D11T Track Dozer
Caterpillar D11T Track Dozer

The Cat D11T is the classic track type dozer. In any other setting the D11T would be a huge and impressive piece of equipment. Only the other massive mining equipment can make it look small (sort of). Even compared to the shovels and trucks on the mine site the D11T is large and in charge.


The Caterpillar drills aren't as exciting to me as some of the other equipment but they are still shiny and new, not to mention large and yellow.

Caterpillar MD5150 Track Drill
Caterpillar MD5150 Track Drill

The Cat MD5150 is the largest track drill that Caterpillar offers. With a maximum hole diameter of 6 inches the MD5150 can drill up to 102 foot long holes. What you are looking at in this picture is the main part of the machine. The floor layout wouldn't allow me to get the whole machine in one shot.

Caterpillar MD6240 Rotary Drill
Caterpillar MD6240 Rotary Drill

Though it is the smallest of the Cat rotary drills, the MD6240 can still drill a blast hole up to 10 inches in diameter. Once again the spacing of the show didn't allow for a complete photo.

Underground Mining Equipment

Underground mining equipment is the ultimate in rugged machinery. It is built to stand up to a brutal environment without ever seeing the light of day. I always laugh at open pit mining guys who complain about road grades in excess of 10%. Underground equipment routinely climbs 15% grades with no problem.

Caterpillar AD60 Underground Articulated Truck
Caterpillar AD60 Underground Articulated Truck

Underground mining trucks are one of the more ingenious applications of technology in the mining industry. Low profiles and ejector plates make it possible to have dump trucks underground without gigantic openings. The AD60 articulated truck is the largest underground truck Cat offers with a payload of 66 tons.

Caterpillar Underground Continuous Miner (front)
Caterpillar Underground Continuous Miner (front)

I didn't get a number off the continuous miner on display but I did get two views of it. The front end uses the drum and bits to break up coal or rock and the arms load the chain belt.

Caterpillar Underground Continuous Miner (rear)
Caterpillar Underground Continuous Miner (rear)

The chain conveyor transports the broken material to the rear of the continuous miner where it is loaded onto a buggy. Most continuous miners now have the option to be remote controlled, allowing the operator to stay well away from the working face.

Caterpillar Underground Longwall Shearer
Caterpillar Underground Longwall Shearer

If it was unbelievable that you could use a dump truck underground you will be truly amazed at the longwall shearer. This piece of equipment goes back and forth along a coal face 700-1000 feet wide, breaking up a few feet of coal on each pass.  The broken coal falls onto the chain conveyor and is hauled to the main conveyor belt. Longwall mining is used in retreat and is a very efficient method of mining coal.

Longwall mining operations are supported by continuous miner crews to prepare the entries and initial mining face. As hard as the continuous miner crews work, the longwall shearer will easily out produce two or three crews working in the same mine.

Caterpillar Underground Longwall Shields
Caterpillar Underground Longwall Shields

Longwall shields work in concert with the longwall shearer. The shields protect the shearer and miners from falling rock. The shields also direct the breaking of rock in the roof. Longwall shields are big, impressive piece of equipment but, contrary to popular belief, they don't actually hold up the weight of the rock above them. Even soft sandstone would need only a few hundred feet of depth to exceed the loading capacity of a longwall shield. Longwall mining is a retreat operation and it is important that the longwall keep moving. If forces are allowed to build up mining can become extremely dangerous.


That's what I got from the Caterpillar display at MINExpo 2012 in Las Vegas. I think I got some photos of everything but I probably missed something, there was so much to see. If you have pictures of equipment from the Cat booth I would love to see them.

Other MINExpo posts:

MINExpo 2012
Registration MINExpo 2012
Caterpillar Steals Show MINExpo 2012

Caterpillar Steals Show - MINExpo 2012

MINExpo 2012 - Caterpillar Steals Show
MINExpo 2012 - Caterpillar Steals Show
This year's MINExpo has a lot of lot of large and impressive displays, but the largest and most impressive is by Caterpillar.

Cat's display includes: trucks, dozers, hydraulic shovels, buckets, cabs and even a train.

The equipment was impressive but the best selling point was the location. Caterpillar set  up at the entrance to exhibit hall C and commanded the show from there. Everybody else (Komatsu, Liebherr, Sandvick, EVERYBODY) was in Cat's shadow.

Komatsu set up right behind Caterpillar and it was obvious they were trying to put on the same type of impressive display. Based solely on positioning it looked like Komatsu was Caterpillar's little brother. They had the second most pieces of equipment on display, they had the second biggest booth area and they were second in line for your attention. 

Congratulations to Caterpillar for winning the booth war in 2012.

Other MINExpo posts:

MINExpo 2012
Registration MINExpo 2012
Caterpillar Both MINExpo 2012

Registration - Minexpo 2012

MINExpo 2012 - Registration Desk - South Exhibit Hall
MINExpo 2012 - Registration Desk - South Exhibit Hall
Registration for MINExpo 2012 was a huge hassle. I was sent back and forth to three different desks. Nobody seemed to know what they were doing.

Finally, someone typed my information into a form on the internet.

If I'd known that was the extent of the help available, I would have just done it myself. I guess expecting customer service was setting the bar a little too high.

Other MINExpo posts:

MINExpo 2012
Caterpillar Steals Show MINExpo 2012
Caterpillar Both MINExpo 2012

MINExpo 2012

The Las Vegas Convention Center - Site of MINExpo 2012
The Las Vegas Convention Center - Site of MINExpo 2012
I'm so excited. This is the first time I've been able to attend the MINExpo in Las Vegas, Nevada. I have been involved with the mining industry for twelve years but have never had the opportunity to attend the conference. Every four years something would come up that prevented me from making it to that particular meeting. 

Being held every four years didn't help my problem either. What is this, the Olympics? Who only holds an event every fourth year? 

Little did I know that this really was a big deal. The Olympics might be bigger on a global scale but for the mining industry this is as big as it gets.

This angle of the convention center doesn't capture it's true size. I think you would need something taken from the air to even get the whole thing in frame. The convention center covers two Las Vegas size blocks. East Desert Inn Road goes under the building. I think I walked 100 miles just inside the building.

Other MINExpo posts:

Registration MINExpo 2012
Caterpillar Steals Show MINExpo 2012
Caterpillar Both MINExpo 2012

How to add the Degree Text Symbol in Maptek Vulcan

The text options in the Maptek Vulcan software have issues. I have known about many of the issues for years. Text is one of the low level things that everyone always seems to be complaining about but nobody ever gets around to fixing. This pain point was brought to my attention lately when I wanted to put a degree symbol on a vertical cross section plot.

The Problem

There are two problems here. One is accessing the degree symbol in the first place. Vulcan is not like Microsoft, with a chart of symbols you can use. In order to even get the degree symbol you have to look up the key strokes to reference the ascii character. Once you have done this the next problem is getting the symbol to appear in 3D.

Maptek Vulcan has three methods to create text. Each has some good functionality but none have all the functionality. In this case I want to place text in vertical section view so 2D text is out because it only works in the X-Y plane. This is too bad because 2D text has the option to be converted to 'true type font' a classification that allows it to use all the fonts installed on your operating system. This departure from the ugly computer fonts is a big draw for using 2D text.

Screen text would work in this instance, but I never know how screen text will look in the final plot until I actually plot it out. Screen text is also called the 'surprise font' because it stays the same size on the screen, but the size on the plot is based on the font height set when it was created so you might be surprised to see how large or small the text is when it finally prints. This can be problematic but will work given enough trial and error.

The ideal solution here would be 3D text. This option will create text in whatever plane I am viewing when it is first typed, so I can use it in a vertical section. Another positive factor is the ability to plot the text as it appears in Vulcan. No 'surprise font' text sizes here. Unfortunately, 3D text doesn't have the option for using 'true type font' so I'm stuck with the computer fonts from the 80's. The last straw is that 3D text won't display the degree symbol. It will appear in the 'Text Edit' panel but when it goes to the Envisage window it disappears.

The Solution

To get the degree symbol in Vulcan text you need to hold down the alt key and type 0176 (alt+0176). This works for most Microsoft applications (Word, Outlook, etc...). This part took a while to find but at least it has a useable solution.

The workaround for displaying the degree symbol in section view is to use screen font (SMALL, NORMAL, MEDIUM or LARGE) and play around with the text size until it works for the scale I'm plotting.

A Better Solution

The real solution here would be to correct the font problems that have plagued Maptek Vulcan for years. What needs to happen is a simplification of the options. We don't need three options that all do kind of the same thing but in a slightly different manner. What we need is one option that has all the necessary functionality.

3D text is the only option we need. Text should be saved in the plane I was in when it was created. The 'true type fonts' should be available in 3D text.

The functionality of screen text needs to go away. Have you tried to zoom out with screen text loaded? Everything becomes a mess. You can't see anything because the text starts to smash together and obscure all the detail of your design. You might think you want screen text but you really don't.

The Bug Log - QAM-3509

I talked to the folks at Maptek and they have logged a bug for this issue (QAM-3509). Right now the bug log is just about adding the degree symbol functionality to 3D text but I hope that someone there will see the bigger picture and make some fundamental changes to the way text works in all of the Maptek Vulcan software.

There is also a QAM log for adding 'true type fonts' to 3D text. With this upgrade (QAM-1070) Maptek might as well give up the other text formats. 3D would then have all the major functionality of the other text types making 2D text and Screen text obsolete.

Mining Degree Better than Harvard Degree

The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that the average starting salary of graduates from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is more than the average for Harvard graduates. This seems shocking on the surface but to those in the mining industry, it's business as usual. The shortage of mining professionals, engineers, metallurgists and geologists has driven up salaries across the industry. The average starting salary for SDSMT graduates listed by the LA Times ($56,700) even seems a little low for the market today.

Job History of Mining Professionals

There was a big boom in the number of mining professionals and job opportunities created by the Carter administration. The decreased mineral production and the energy crisis during the late 1970's created a big demand for engineers and geologists in the early 80's. Following this boom, demand for mining professionals faded to the point where there was almost no influx of new personnel into the industry. Take a look at the engineers and geologists in any mining company in the world and count how many employees you see between the ages of 35 and 55. There is an almost complete lack of bodies to fill this interval.

Recently there has been in increase in demand for and personnel in mining and geology. The increase in available mining professionals has not kept up with demand and the price for salaries has gone up accordingly.

Other Mining Schools

Mining Engineering and other Mining related degrees can be earned at a number of other universities. Some of the schools offering mining engineering degrees include:

University of Utah
Colorado School of Mines
University of Nevada Reno
Penn State College
Virginia Tech
Queens University
University of Alaska Fairbanks

Blasthole Depth Script for Maptek Vulcan

The blasthole_depth_by_tri.lava script is intended to give the vertical distance between two surfaces at a given point. The distance between surfaces is written to the point name. The script was written so that you could use a pre-mining surface and a post mining surface in association with a layer containing blast hole coordinates to get the blast hole depth plus sub-drill. Using this method, blast patterns are automatically adjusted for ramps or other topographic variations.

To use the script follow these steps:
  1. Copy the file ‘blasthole_depth_by_tri.lava’ into your working directory. Link here.
  2. Load the top and bottom triangulations along with the layer containing the blasthole locations.
  3. Initiate the script by selecting the menu option: File > Lava and selecting the script from the dropdown ‘Script name’ field. Click ‘OK.’
  4. Follow the on-screen prompts to select the top triangulation surface.
  5. Next, select the bottom triangulation surface.
    1. If you inadvertently select the same triangulation twice you will be prompted to try again to select the bottom triangulation. Click ‘OK’ to close the Error panel and select the bottom triangulation.
    2. If you have picked the bottom triangulation twice click ‘OK’ to close the Error panel and right click to cancel selecting triangulations. Click ‘Cancel in the Sub-drill Depth panel and start the script again.
  6. Once the triangulations have been selected, the Sub-drill Depth panel will appear. Enter the depth of sub-drill in the panel and click ‘OK.

  7. Blasthole Depth Script - Sub-drill Depth panel
    Blasthole Depth Script - Sub-drill Depth panel
  8. Next you will be prompted to ‘Select criteria to compare elevations.’ Select the layer or group with the blasthole collar locations then select ‘Cancel’ to stop selecting data.
  9. The blasthole points will now have a point name specified as the elevation difference between the two triangulations plus the sub-drill. This number will be rounded to the nearest integer.
  10. To review the blasthole depth we want to display the point name on screen. To do this, select the menu option: Analyse > Label > Point Label.
  11. Select the ‘Name’ radio button and click ‘OK.’
  12. Select the layer or group with the blasthole collar locations then select ‘Cancel’ to stop selecting data. 
The blasthole depth is now labeled next to each collar location. The original elevation of each blasthole has not been changed.

The Drill and Blast module in Maptek Vulcan has a similar functionality but this script cost significantly less than the $5,000 Vulcan module.

Export Points to CSV in Maptek Vulcan

Maptek Vulcan - Export to ASCII
The Export to ASCII functionality allows the Maptek Vulcan user to export points from objects. The user can even export in CSV format.

A question came up today about the File > Export > ASCII > Design Strings option in Maptek Vulcan. This is a useful option that you don’t know you want until you need it. The problem is that when you actually do need it, you’ve never heard about it. Hopefully, this post will help some people to know how to export to a CSV file from Vulcan before crisis strikes.

The scenario that I encountered today was simple: points had been imported into Vulcan from a CSV file (well collar locations), converted from mine coordinates to UTM and now the point coordinates needed to be added back to the original CSV file as the converted UTM coordinates. If there had been just a few points it would have been no big deal to simply type in the coordinate data to the CSV file in Microsoft Excel. For a larger number of points we want a function that will export data in a manner similar to how we imported the data.

The first bit of confusion when exporting points to CSV format is that everyone wants to use the 'CSV (Database)' File Format. This seems like the logical choice. We are attempting to export data from the design database to CSV format. Why isn’t this the best solution?  In Vulcan nomenclature, the import and export CSV options refer to Isis databases i.e. drillhole/composite databases. If you want to export CAD data, use the ASCII export option.

Select File > Export from the Vulcan menu. In the Export panel select ASCII as the file format and Design Strings as the File Type. 

File > Export > ASCII > Design Strings
Use the 'ASCII' File Format to export CAD points from Vulcan objects.
In the ‘Export to ASCII’ panel (the first of two panels with the same name) select the CSV radio button and type in a name for the new CSV file that we will be creating. Click ‘OK.’

Export to ASCII panel 1 of 2
The first 'Export to ASCII' panel allows the user to specify a CSV file type and the name of the resulting file.
The ‘Export to ASCII’ panel (why Vulcan has two panels with the exact same name is beyond me) has four sections to fill out:

  • Description: This section is purely informational, it lists the file name and extension for the export results.
  • File format: Specify the separating character. Typically a comma, although sometimes we use a ‘tab’ character if importing into an .xls or .xlsx file type. Use the characters '\T' to specify tab. Check the box ‘Write a file header.’ This will add a header line in the export file. If this box is not checked, the resulting CSV file will not have any information on which column is which.
  • Object header: Vulcan has the capability to add a line of header for the points in each object being exported. It has been my experience that if I am exporting more than one object at a time, Export > ASCII is not the way to do it. The CSV file for multiple objects gets really confusing really quickly. Don’t do it.
  • Object points: This is the meat of the panel. Select the fields you want to populate in the CSV export. X, Y and Z fields are specified by default. I like to use Point Name instead of Point Number so that the points are more easily identifiable.

Export to ASCII panel 2 of 2
The second 'Export to ASCII' panel specifies which fields will be populated in the resulting export file.
Click ‘OK’ and select the data to export. Click ‘OK’ when Envisage tells you how many points have been exported and again when it tells you that the file has been successfully created. Click ‘Cancel’ to exit the Export panel and take a look at the file you have created.

In this format you can easily copy and paste the translated well coordinates to the original CSV file. 

Nevada Mining Association - Mining Benefits Nevada

I recently saw this television ad for the first time. I complain a lot about the fact that the mining industry is happy to accept all the bad press thrown at it. It is nice to see that some mining organizations are working to improve the image of mining in the world today. Good work Nevada Mining Association.

Peabody President Americas Richard A. Navarre Retires, Collects $30,000/Month Consulting Fees

Peabody Energy Corporation recently announced the retirement of its President - Americas, Richard A. Navarre. Richard worked for Peabody for 19 years. His stint as President of Peabody Americas lasted from March to July 2012.

Navarre retired for personal reasons and is succeeded as acting President of Peabody Americas by Charles Meintjes.

As part of the separation agreement Navarre will consult for the company for a maximum of 6 days a month for the rest of the year. For these exhaustive services he will be paid the sum of $30,000/month. Payments are due to him for September - December for a total of $120,000. This is on top of a lump sum severance payment of $630,000 and 41,356 vesting shares of company stock worth about $895,000.

I have to say that, if Peabody Energy ever needs someone else for the President - Americas role, or even just for consulting services ($120,000 for 24 days of work) I know someone who would be happy to fill in.

Retirement Announcement of Richard A. Navarre
Peabody Consulting Update

Kennecott Copper Theft and Meth Lab

My friends in Utah will probably already have heard about this. Everybody might be a little shocked. Last summer Rio Tinto's Kennecott Mine was victim of $200,000 in copper theft. They were also host to a meth lab on site.

Four men were recently arrested and charged for the crimes according to local news station KSL. The men stole copper wire and brass clamps totaling about $200,000 in value and sold them to a local recycling business for $2,000. Yes, that's right, they got one cent on the dollar for the stolen goods. Even for goods that need a fence, that's a bad rate.

The meth lab was found inside a large pipe on the Kennecott property. The lab was never used and the criminals weren't Kennecott employees, they were contractors, but was anybody in charge of this area or not?

I'm sure there's plenty of blame to go around but the people who seem to have made it out scot-free are the recycling facility. Who accepts $200,000 worth of copper and brass, pays out $2,000 and thinks that everything is on the up and up? I guess that because they are 'saving the planet' it's okay to steel from publicly traded companies.

Chronos not Happy with Excel 'Sort' Function

I just got done re-building my Chronos workbook. It's not the most fun I've ever had especially on a Friday afternoon, but it had to be done.

I wanted to leave the scheduler running over the weekend with a Life of Mine scenario but this morning I noticed that the scheduled blocks weren't honoring my precedences. No matter what I did Chronos would still schedule blocks that had no business being mined. Benches from the middle of the last pushback shouldn't wind up in the first period unless there is something very wrong. Even an underground mine wouldn't have made it to these blocks in the first year of the schedule.

Chronos CPLEX optimizer
Chronos CPLEX Optimizer running in the t-shell.
I tried everything I could think of but nothing worked.

Finally, I decided that I would have to re-build the workbook.

As I was attempting to exactly follow the steps I had used to create the first workbook I realized that I had sorted the Reserve sheet. Could this be the problem? I decided to find out.

I re-sorted the Reserve sheet and checked to see that the blocks were in their original location. Easy as pie. Then I unscheduled the workbook so that I could try out the precedences again. This went awry. As Chronos attempted to un-schedule the blocks different ones were updated. Now it was obvious that sorting the workbook was creating problems. It looks like Chronos has a record of where it thinks the blocks are and it expects the blocks to always be in that order.

I eventually got the original workbook unscheduled and then re-sorted but the problem didn't go away. I'm not totally sure that you can re-sort the Reserve sheet but I do know that I will never use the sort function here again.

Sort may not have been the only problem with my workbook but it certainly didn't help. After I finished re-building the unsorted workbook everything worked fine.


Creating a Block Model in Maptek Vulcan

Contrary to popular belief, creating a block model in the Maptek Vulcan software package is not overly difficult. Estimating grades for the block model can be as tedious and convoluted as you want it to be but creating the shell for that model to go in is an elementary exercise.

block model slice
Block Model slice showing air (blue), country rock (brown) and ore (red).
To start, create a new block definition file (*.bdf) by selecting Block > Construction > New Definition. By selecting this menu option you will enable the Block Model utility in Vulcan Workbench and open the Block Definition panel.

block model orientation
Block Model Orientation - defines origin and rotation.
The first decision we need to make in creating our block model is the origin and orientation of the model. The origin is the minimum x, y and z coordinate of the block model. Fill in the fields ‘X Coordinate:’, ‘Y Coordinate:’ and ‘Z Coordinate:’ with the appropriate values. These should usually be something farther east and south than the deposit we are modeling and at a lower elevation. Don’t get too carried away, we don’t want to model the entire country, just enough to contain a mine design.

Creating a Maptek Vulcan Colour Legend

In Maptek Vulcan there are several data sets that use (and sometimes require) a specific color legend. The Legend Editor module is the tool for creating and editing legends in Vulcan. This tutorial will cover creating a new Colour Legend for a drillhole, assay database.

To begin creating a Colour Legend select the menu option Analyse > Legend Edit > Legend Editor…

Maptek Vulcan Legend Editor

Selecting this option will automatically put you in the Legend Editor module and open the Legend Editor Panel. In this panel double click on the ‘[*] New Legend’ entry under the ‘DRILL’ sub folder. This will create a new legend called ‘untitled.’ Click on the untitled legend to select it.

On the right hand side of this panel a number of options will have just become available. Select ‘Numeric’ as the Scheme Type. The numeric legend has more options available than the ‘Alpha’ so you can just leave out the unnecessary steps when creating a name type legend.

Check the box ‘Use Database’ and select your isis database from the dropdown list or browse to it using the ‘Browse…’ button. This step is not strictly necessary but it will allow you to select table and record names from dropdown lists for the rest of this panel rather than typing in names. Anywhere that you have the option to select a field rather than type in a name choose the option to select. This is just one fewer place to make a mistake.

In the ‘Specify Record and Depth fields’ section select your ‘Record(Table)’ from the dropdown (in this case ‘ASSAY’). Also, select the Field Name (AG) and the To field (TO).

In the ‘Use From or Thickness’ section select the From field (as in this example) or Thickness field as appropriate.

Click the ‘Get range’ button to auto populate the Min and Max fields. If your drillhole database uses a negative number as the default for missing or other default data you may need to modify the Min field to be zero. Specify the interval so that you get more than one assay display interval but less than a million :).

Specify a ‘Range Mode’ for displaying the data. The Range Mode will define how to display data that is exactly on the boundary between your display intervals. The default mode is GELT which stands for Greater than or Equal to and Less Than. What this means is that if the assay interval to be displayed is greater than or equal to the lower boundary and is less than the upper boundary then the sample will be labeled with the color for this interval. The other acceptable Range Mode is GTLE (Greater Than and Less than or Equal to).  Both of these range modes are acceptable. There are, however, two Range Modes that I think are unacceptable. They are:
  • GTLT: Greater Than, Less Than. This would mean that a value exactly on the boundary between assay intervals wouldn't be displayed.
  • GELE: Greater than or Equal to, Less than or Equal to. What happens to values exactly between assay intervals is ambiguous. This mode should be avoided.

I don’t know why either of these two Range Methods are included in the Legend Editor. I suppose that Maptek included them just to cover all the possible options no matter how ridiculous.

Next, we want to setup your Colour Ranges. This usually starts with zero and goes up through the max assay value. The button ‘Build Color Ranges’ looks like it will do this for us. Ensure that your interval is not set to zero and press the button.

Type in your From and To values or:
  • Hint, when setting the from and to values there is no need to type both values in. These fields work with standard copy and paste operations so you can type in all the from values then copy and paste them one row up and have all but one of the to values.

Finally, we need to assign a color to each assay range. To do this you can click on the color cell to the right of each interval and select a color or you can right click on the header of the column and select Colour Range. Selecting Colour Range will auto fill the colors starting with the colour you select and going sequentially until there are no more intervals that need a colour. This method is quick and easy but not as controllable as assigning individual colours.

Give this legend a name by right clicking on the ‘untitled’ legend in the tree structure on the left. Save your Color Legend by clicking the save icon or selecting File > Save from the menu.

Congratulations. This legend is a required tool for loading drillholes in Envisage. You can now see your data in true 3D.

Save $12.6 Billion by Giving 'Renewable' Energy Permanent Tax Breaks

I get tired of listening to all the bleeding heart liberals and hopped up hippies talk about how all the government subsidies going to fossil fuels make the playing field unfair for 'renewable' energy. This, they say, is the reason that 'renewable' energy isn't profitable and why we aren't powering our homes with back yard windmills or rooftop solar panels. The super-green shout loudly about this disparity but never cough up facts about what government spending is so out of balance or which subsidies are unfair.

I recently found a brief put out by the Congressional Budget Office that tells where all this government money goes. The article, Federal Financial Support for the Development and Production of Fuels and Energy Technologies, can be found here. This report sums up how the Department of Energy divided its $24 billion budget in 2011. Of that $24 billion, $20.5 billion was spent on tax preferences (subsidies) and the remaining $3.5 billion went to funding research (things like Solyndra).

Table 2 in that report (seen below) shows how the $20.5 billion in government subsidies was split up among the major energy producers. The renewable energy and energy efficiency (tax breaks for energy efficient windows or water heaters) categories receive 78% of the money between the two and fossil fuels and nuclear energy get 19%. I guess that the hippie liberals were right, it is unfair. It's just unfair in their favor.

Federal Financial Support for the Development and Production of Fuels and Energy Technologies

How can one industry receive nearly four times the funding as another and still complain that they aren't getting enough funding? It really sounds like they are more similar to Solyndra than we would like to believe: they are failing because their entire industry is insolvent but they have found out that if they complain loudly enough they can get more government funding to bail themselves out.

The hippie rebuttal to these clear facts is all too predictable. They shout it almost as loudly as they complain about not having enough funding. Unfortunately, this one is a little closer to the truth. They complain that: 'None of the permanent government subsidies are for renewable energy.'

This is true. There are four permanent tax preferences for the energy sector. Three for fossil fuels and one for nuclear energy. I, personally, would be in favor of removing all tax credits for energy production. Renewable energy supporters do not share this view. They know that, without government funding, the entire renewable energy industry would be bankrupt. Fine, I'll concede to some government subsidies. 

My solution, then, would be to give the renewable energy and energy efficiency categories as much in permanent tax preferences as the fossil fuels industry gets right now: roughly $3.4 billion per year (down from their current, but temporary $16 billion per year). This would save the American tax payer almost $12.6 billion per year. 

You're welcome. I just saved the country $12.6 billion per year. Please stop finding ways to throw my money away. Fossil fuels and nuclear energy are safe and clean. They are also something we have in abundance in America. We need to be happy with what we have instead of throwing good money after bad. 

Creating an Isis Drillhole Database in Maptek Vulcan

The foundation of any mine model is the drillhole data. In Maptek Vulcan, creating the drillhole database is a prerequisite to creating downhole composites for use in block model grade estimation.  As with other tools in Vulcan, there are a number of ways to create the drillhole database but, all the methods require collar location and assay data.

Drillhole data can be imported from Microsoft Access or referenced from an Acquire database but the most common method of creating a drillhole database is from comma separated values (csv) files. Vulcan anticipates separate files for collar location, assay data and survey information (optional, non-surveyed holes are assumed to be vertical).

Maptek Vulcan uses a module called ‘Isis’ to maintain drillhole databases. Access the Isis module by clicking on the ‘Start’ icon in the bottom right corner of the Vulcan Workbench and select Isis from the menu.

Vulcan start icon, Start Isis

When the ‘Open Database’ panel pops up click the ‘Cancel’ button.

Open Database panel

This seems like an unconventional method to create a drillhole database. I think that Maptek assumes that the majority of times that the end user opens Isis, they will want to edit a database instead of create a new one. The important part here is that we have initiated the Isis module. Notice that the menus at the top of the screen have changed and the toolbars have all become grayed out. There is also a new icon in the bottom right corner of the screen. This Isis icon is shown as a depressed button. We can toggle between Envisage and Isis by clicking on the appropriate button.

Next, we want to create a design (*.dsf) file for our new database. To do this click File > New Design.

New Database Design panel

In the New Database Design panel give your file a three character name and click 'OK'. Common names are ‘dhd’ for drillhole database and ‘ddh’ for diamond drillhole. The three character limit is an data limitation that may or may not be completely removed as newer versions of the software come out. I find that it is best to stick to the old naming limitations as much as possible. I don’t want to be the one to find out that longer names don’t work in the batch plotting (or similar) tool in Vulcan even if Maptek tech support tells me that they will.

Convert Maptek Vulcan Triangulation to Grid: Model_Triangle Surface_Grid Mesh

In Maptek Vulcan, triangulations and grids are used interchangeably for many tools. They are both used to represent 3D surfaces but converting from one to the other is often a confusing task. Due to the number of menu options that do almost the same thing, it is hard to find the right tool to convert surfaces efficiently. I know that I forget which menu option to use almost every time. This post shows the steps to convert a triangulation to a grid using the menu option: Model > Triangle Surface > Grid Mesh.

grid topography

To convert a surface triangulation to a grid select the tool Menu > Triangle Surface > Grid Mesh. Fill out the ‘Grid Parameters’ panel, keeping the following in mind.
  1. X Mesh Size and Y Mesh Size refer to how big the cells in the resulting grid are. Smaller cell size will give more resolution but eat up more memory. Unless your topo is truly gigantic start with the default size of 25.0 for each mesh.
  2. The 'Use Default Window' checkbox will use the default extents of the primary window as the grid extents. Leave this checkbox unchecked. I will show you a trick a little later in this post to set the grid lines at regular intervals (100.000 instead of 100.051 for example). The default window often has an origin that is not a whole number.
  3. Grid Model Name – give your grid a unique name. To this name will be added the project prefix and the extension .sfg (surface grid).
  4. Display X Mesh Lines and Display Y Mesh Lines. Make sure that these boxes are checked. If these boxes are left unchecked, your grid won’t display in the primary window after creation.

Grid parameters panel

Once you click ‘OK’ in the Grid Parameters panel, Vulcan will prompt you to ‘Indicate model origin point.’ Make sure that you are in plan view at this point. I like to specify a point that is farther east and south than the triangulation I am converting (0,0 for example). To do this click on the ‘Key in point data…’ icon in the ‘Digitise’ toolbar at the bottom of your screen. It looks like this:

 Type in your X and Y coordinates and then click the ‘Create Point’ button. Next, you will be prompted to ‘Indicate model extent.’ Click a point farther west and north than your triangulation. This second point is not as critical as the origin point. Grid lines will be counted from the origin point but the extents point is just signaling the end of the grid data.

That’s it. Your grid will now be saved in the working directory with all the rest of your files. You can find this grid in the Vulcan Explorer under the 'Grids' virtual folder.

Komatsu 930E

Komatsu 930E

The mid axle height of the Komatsu 930E haul truck is six feet off the ground. I'm standing a little above the bottom of the parking ditch so I look especially tall in this photo.

One of the things I like most about working for a mine is the proximity to large equipment. With a payload of 320 tons this truck definitely counts as 'large.'

Executable trirelimit.exe an alternative to Model_Triangle Surface_Relimit by Polygon

Today I was trying to relimit a triangulation to a polygon when I got the error:

"Triangulation Buffers Exceeded or Polygon self crossing"

Anybody who knows me, knows that I have the dynamic memory settings in Maptek Vulcan turned up way past the larger setting and into truly enormous custom levels (my personal, custom settings can be found at this link). Anything less than that and this triangulation wouldn't load (hence the desire to relimit it). I also knew that the polygon didn't have problems because it was a simple rectangle that I had just made. Luckily for me, there is an external executable in Vulcan that makes relimiting large triangulations possible.

The executable trirelimit.exe will relimit triangulations to a given, closed polygon in your database and return the portion of the original triangulation that is either internal or external to the polygon. To use the trirelimit.exe tool, open the Maptek Vulcan t-shell by clicking on the Vulcan start icon in the bottom right corner of the workbench and selecting: TC Shell (tcsh).

Type 'trirelimit' at the command prompt and hit enter. Fill out the prompts, pressing enter between each entry. Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Enter Database: This is the database name where the limiting polygon is found. Vulcan requires the project prefix to be specified by the user. The extension (dgd.isis) is optional.
  • Enter Layer Name: This is the layer name containing the limiting polygon. Vulcan now accepts longer layer names so your layer can have more than ten characters but still needs to be 40 characters or less.
  • Enter Object Name: This is the name (or object name) of the limiting polygon. This is an old executable and will require an object name that is ten characters or less. The polygon being referenced should be a closed polygon.
  • (I)nclusive or (E)xclusive: Type the letter 'i' to retain the portion of the triangulation inside the polygon or 'e' to retain the portion of the triangulation outside the polygon.
  • Enter Input Triangulation Name: The name of the original triangulation. This name must not have any spaces in it if you are using the one line input method (see below). The input triangulation will not be modified.
  • Enter Output Triangulation Name: The name of the resulting triangulation.  The output triangulation name may not have any spaces in it if you are using the one line input method (see below) .

Press enter after the last entry and the executable will get to work. Alternatively, you may enter all the input data in one line with a space between entries.

That's it. The resulting triangulation will appear in the working directory and should be smaller than the original. Let me know how this works for you.