September 2012 | Mining University

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.