August 2012 | Mining University

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.

Reno Tahoe Open - Silver Bar

Reno Tahoe Open Silver Bar

The Reno Tahoe Open golf tournament this last weekend was sponsored, in part, by Allied Nevada. Part of the prize for winning the tournament was five silver bars weighing 100 troy ounces each. The photo above shows me holding one of the bars.

It is always amazing at how much such a small bar can weigh. The commemorative bar is about an inch thick and equates to about 7 pounds of metal. I'm not sure how tournament winner J.J. Henry plans to get all five bars back home but if he doesn't want all 35 pounds of silver I know where he can leave some of them. 

Why I love the iPhone


I love talking to people who hate the iPhone. Actually, this applies to anyone who hates Apple products in general, but the phone people are loudest. They are always so proud of their Samsung or Motorola or LG phone, you would have thought that they won the lottery. These people will tell anyone who will listen about the newest feature on their phone:

“The screen is slightly larger than the iPhone.”
“It has an old style, physical keyboard.”
“This one says ‘Droid’ when I get a text message.”

They don’t care if you like the iPhone or not as long as you are willing to listen to them brag about how much better their phone is than the iPhone.

When I ask these people what they love most about their phone they always say the same thing, “It’s not an iPhone” they say. This seems to be the defining characteristic to these people. The other features about their phone are all excuses they use to try to justify their love of their phone (really their hate of the iPhone).

I don't know why they hate the iPhone. I have had an iPhone for three years now and I love it. I love that it is user friendly, I love that it has a huge app store, I love that it fits in my pocket and plays music and video and games. Oh yeah, it also gets phone calls.

I love my iPhone for all these reasons and more, but last week my neighbor gave me a whole new reason to love the iPhone.

On the street between our two houses is a storm drain. The picture below is of the storm grate. You can see that the openings are just big enough for a phone to fit through. As she was walking around her car and talking on the phone she dropped the phone and it slid right down into the storm drain. 

Storm Grate

Below the grate there is a sump that is about five feet deep. Half way down this sump is a large drainage pipe and below the pipe is about two feet of the nastiest, dirtiest, smelliest water you could imagine. For the next twenty minutes we dredged the bottom of the storm drain with a garden hoe until my wife finally located the phone and pulled it out. It was so gross. We rinsed it off (more water couldn’t hurt now) and put it in a bag of rice to dry out.

Today my neighbor is still using her iPhone. She didn’t replace it or repair it, it just spent the night in a bag of rice. I LOVE that the iPhone is such a sturdy little machine. Beat that Samsung/Motorola/LG.

Poeville, Nevada

I spent most of the last year living in the Stead neighborhood of Reno. For those of you who are not intimately familiar with Reno, Stead is in the extreme north end of Reno. Several times over the last year I have had to convince people that it is actually in Reno.

One day I was looking into the mining history of the north Reno area and found a report from the University of Reno: Earth Science Week 2001 Field Trip #1. This paper was intended as a kind of do-it-yourself field trip for Earth Science Week 2001 to see several geology and mining locations on Peavine Mountain. Last week I drug my family along with me as I took this trip up Peavine Mountain and past the location of the historic mining town: Poeville.

Poeville (Wikipedia entry: Poeville, Nevada) was founded by John Poe in 1864. John was allegedly related to poet Edgar Allen Poe. Poeville supported gold and silver mining in the area until about 1880. Today there are small mining operations at the old location.

Based on the instructions from the University of Reno, these pictures are of the area where Poeville used to be. This is to the right (south) of the road where Peavine Road has its first switchback. The Poeville post office was located a little farther up the mountain on Hopi Lane. As far as I can tell, there is nothing remaining of the town or post office today.


Poeville 01

Poeville 02