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Every year, a group of University of Queensland mining engineering students gets have the opportunity to work with the latest mine surveying technology through a unique arrangement with positioning systems and machine control supplier Position Partners.

For the past three years, Position Partners has hosted a practical field survey course for University of Queensland (UQ) second year mining engineering students at the former Wattle Glen Extended open cut mine near Ipswich in western Brisbane.

As part of their degrees, UQ mining engineering students are required to complete a module on mine site surveying, designed to give them a basic understanding of surveying practice and technology.

Up to 100 students participate in the field course, gaining hands-on experience with technology including Topcon TS robotic total stations, Topcon HiPer SR GNSS receivers and ASC-TEC Falcon 8 multi-rotor unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The most recent of these was in October last year, when 70 students were hosted by Position Partners’ survey specialists and technical staff, who provided on-the-spot training in these latest systems, and then helped them work through a series of practical exercises.

Course co-ordinator Dr Basil Beamish – who also runs his own mining services company, B3 Mining Services – said that in the past, the practical side of the survey module had essentially consisted of taking the students to measure a coal stockpile at the Jeebropilly Mine with tapes and handheld GPS  units.

He worked with registered surveyor Hugh Taylor of Taylor Mining Services – who is also a course lecturer – and together they engaged the involvement of Position Partners.

“This is a major step forward for these courses, where our students can use the latest technology and see it in operation,” said Mr Taylor.

“Surveying is not a large part of the mining engineering degree course, but these young engineers need a basic understanding of surveying and surveying practice and technology.

“It’s really important that graduate engineers have a reasonable understanding of surveying – which is so important to the mining process,” he said.

“I think it is vital for the university to continue with this program.”

Course co-ordinator “Now having them on a site with all this latest equipment means we were able to run them through various formative surveying exercises, get them familiar with the technology and interact with Position Partner’s technical people,” he said.

Beamish said the practical field survey course worked well for a number of reasons.

“For many of these students, this is actually their first time on a mine site,” he said.

“And having them on a site with all this latest equipment means we were able to run them through various formative surveying exercises, get them familiar with the technology and interact with Position Partner’s technical people,” he said.

“The major development with our latest course was that they were exposed to UAV technology, which is a whole new way things are moving for the mining industry,” he said.

“From my point of view, it makes my teaching very relevant; they are seeing the next wave of technology as it’s being introduced to the industry.

“By the time they graduate, they will be very much aware of all these changes taking place in the industry,” Dr Beamish said.

Alan Fetherstonhaugh, Position Partners’ Northern Region Business Manager for Survey, GPS & UAVs, said the company was only too happy to be involved in such teaching courses.

“They enable tomorrow’s generation of mining engineers to become familiar with the very latest equipment, technology and trends – which are usually not readily available within universities.”

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