Mining Contract: Application testing of thermal imaging cameras for the detection of rockfall events and conditions in open pit mines

Contract # 75D30120C09871
Start Date 9/15/2020
Research Concept

Rockfall events are frequent hazards in open pit mine environments and present a major risk for fatalities and injury to mining personnel. Using thermal imaging cameras is a proven technology that has been in service for a wide variety of uses - from detecting mechanical or structural faults to identifying footprints of humans in a burning building. Thermal sensors can detect small differences in heat, down to as little as 0.01°C, and can operate in both lighted and dark conditions. This technology has been evaluated for geotechnical purposes in studies that have shown thermal imaging cameras can detect rockfall events and recognize hazards; however, there have been no studies that have focused on testing different models and placements of these cameras for systematically detecting rockfall in open pit mining operations. The objective of the research project is to test the effectiveness of thermal imaging cameras to detect and record rockfall events and rockfall hazards in surface mining operations as a method to protect mine workers from the risks of rockfalls.

Contract Status & Impact

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In order to best mitigate risk to workers and operations, an ideal automated rockfall monitoring system would not only report the rockfall when it occurs, but also alert workers to potential rockfall hazards before they occur. This ideal system would also provide coverage in all weather and temperature ranges regardless of lighting conditions.  Our proposal evaluates the capability and limitations of several thermal surveillance cameras in detecting rockfall hazards and events for open pit mines. We propose evaluating these cameras in a variety of settings and conditions to enable the creation of better tools for monitoring and mitigating risk of rockfall to mining personnel.

The current state of thermal imaging cameras is mature and robust for a wide variety of government and industry applications. However, the application of this technology for detecting rockfall events and hazards in the mining industry is still in the early stages despite the apparent interest from industry. Possible reasons why this technology hasn’t been adopted would be the low resolution of earlier sensors, durability, and price. Presently, it is evident that this technology has expanded beyond military and experimental research applications.

This study will focus on acquiring equipment and developing the mobile monitoring platform. Data collection at five different mines in all weather conditions and seasons will be conducted. There is also potential to assess different geological conditions at these sites. An area of interest that has a high probability for rockfall will be determined for each site. In-depth analysis of the data, presentations, and reports will be created to determine the capabilities and limitations of the thermal imaging data.

Page last reviewed: 6/23/2021 Page last updated: 6/23/2021