GIS and Underground Mining

Mark Altaweel


Among areas where GIS has grown to be an effective monitoring and planning tool is in underground mining of mineral resources. In particular, mines can be dangerous places where unexpected gas pockets or collapse could lead to major safety issues.

GIS has been utilized to monitor tunnels and areas explored, as it provides both 3D visualization and abilities to integrate various sets of data for visual and quantitative analysis. Mining safety tools, such as ZigBee, which provide sensor data such as temperature, humidity, and gas concentrations, are provided in real time.

Such tools are now integrated with GIS applications, including open source and commercial products such as ArcGIS, where specific tunnels and locations can be continuously monitored for abnormal changes in conditions.[1]

GIS has also been used not only for monitoring but also emergency planning in evacuating mines, where different scenarios are tested and various levels or areas within mines are planned for their most effective escape routes.[2] These data can be integrated with monitoring data, such as dust accumulation, to show, plan, and forecast what could happen if given spaces were not accessible or became dangerous for humans to occupy.

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Another area of use is in how mines may affect safety in surrounding regions above ground. For instance, subsidence is one major hazard from old mines.

Forecasting where subsidence may occur requires the use of multiple datasets, such as underlying geology, elevation, groundwater, and permeability, which are all applied in multivariate regression models that forecast if given areas are likely to have more subsidence and possible development of sinkholes. The analytical and spatial mapping allows these forecasts to foresee potential areas where hazards could occur in the future, allowing planning to mitigate these threats.[3]

A thematic map of an underground mine and ZigBee node positions in ArcGIS. Source: Moridi et al, 2015.
A thematic map of an underground mine and ZigBee node positions in ArcGIS. Source: Moridi et al, 2015.


[1] For more information on how ZigBee and GIS are utilized in mining, see:  Moridi, Mohammad Ali, Youhei Kawamura, Mostafa Sharifzadeh, Emmanuel Knox Chanda, Markus Wagner, Hyongdoo Jang, and Hirokazu Okawa. 2015. “Development of Underground Mine Monitoring and Communication System Integrated ZigBee and GIS.” International Journal of Mining Science and Technology 25 (5): 811–18.

[2] For information on using GIS for monitoring, planning, and escape routes, see:  Şalap, Seda, Mahmut Onur Karslıoğlu, and Nuray Demirel. 2009. “Development of a GIS-Based Monitoring and Management System for Underground Coal Mining Safety.” International Journal of Coal Geology 80 (2): 105–12.

[3] For more information on forecasting subsidence and development of sinkholes using GIS, see:  Kim, Ki-Dong, Saro Lee, Hyun-Joo Oh, Jong-Kuk Choi, and Joong-Sun Won. 2006. “Assessment of Ground Subsidence Hazard near an Abandoned Underground Coal Mine Using GIS.” Environmental Geology 50 (8): 1183–91.

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About the author
Mark Altaweel
Mark Altaweel is a Reader in Near Eastern Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, having held previous appointments and joint appointments at the University of Chicago, University of Alaska, and Argonne National Laboratory. Mark has an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Masters and PhD degrees from the University of Chicago’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.