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Shane Watson is a Senior Mine Surveyor for Newmont Mining Corporation, based at Boddington Gold Mine in Western Australia.

The recent downturn across the Australian resources sector has resulted in many companies exploring the latest technology to improve efficiency and lower operating costs.

In response to a callout by Newmont to reduce operating costs across the mine, Mr Watson undertook a cost/benefit analysis of purchasing an unmanned survey boat to conduct bathymetric surveys and manage water usage across the site.

Mr Watson and his team are responsible for conducting monthly Residue Displacement Area (RDA) surveys, in addition to regular volumetric surveys of dams and water storage facilities throughout the mine site. The team monitors sediment build-up and is also conducting resurveys across all dams on site, due to inaccurate historic data.

“Previously, we contracted out our bathymetric survey work each month,” Mr Watson explained. “When I heard about the new remotely operated survey boats appearing on the market, I thought it would be worthwhile to explore our options to see if the technology could save us time and money.”

Mr Watson explained that local support was a key factor in the decision making process. “We narrowed it down to two systems, but chose the PosiCraft by Position Partners because they have an office in Perth and a team that would be able to assist us with training, support and any repairs when required,” he said.

Other key factors were safety and the ability to conduct one-man surveys. “The PosiCraft has a unique trailer launch system that allows the surveyor to stand at a safe distance from any hazardous water while launching the boat,” he added. “Also, it is a lot lighter than other systems on the market, enabling a one-man lift that reduces manual handling.”

The PosiCraft is a purpose-built remote control survey boat that has been designed for the survey and mining industries. It uses on-board GNSS positioning and/or a total station, combined with a survey-grade eco-sounder to create highly accurate models of the ground and volume of water. 

Return on investment has been excellent, Mr Watson said. “The payback period for the system was very short and the survey process is a lot more efficient with our own remote control boat.

“Using the system is very easy, I like the fact that the ground control station is an all-in-one unit so you don’t have to connect up a separate laptop, power source and radios,” he added. “It gives me the freedom to move around while conducting a survey, so I’m not restricted to a small area.”

The all-in-one ground control station enables Mr Watson to begin a survey in under 10 minutes. “I simply take the system out of the car, power it up and get ready to launch – the PosiCraft is extremely easy to setup and use,” he said.

“Once I’ve finished the survey, I return to the office and use the Hydromagic software to post process the data. I’ll have an exportable file ready within half an hour, so the workflow is very quick and efficient.”

Mr Watson explained that they had a few teething problems with the PosiCraft at first, but these were quickly resolved by the support team at Position Partners. “As with any new technology, we had a few problems initially before it worked perfectly, however the team at Position Partners came on site to troubleshoot and make sure we were up and running again in the shortest possible time.

“The handover and training process was great, we’re now using the PosiCraft regularly with no problems and it is a very simple all-round solution that fits our needs perfectly,” he added.

Having reduced a two-man operation with an external contractor down to a one-man, in-house operation, Mr Watson said they have saved both time and money, whilst increasing flexibility for conducting bathymetric surveys.

“Owning our own system enables us to conduct surveys at a moment’s notice, without being dependent on the weather or availability of a contractor. So far, the venture has been a resounding success,” he said.  

 

 

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