Ground penetrating radar (GPR) has been used to help identify fault structures in underground mines since the mid-1980s. Through the proper and timely delineation of structures hidden inside the rock, often undetectable by the naked eye, GPR technology has the potential to vastly improve productivity and safety in underground mines. However, industry adoption has been slow, mostly due to the limitations of traditional GPR offerings. The Sub Surface Profiler (SSP) is a revolutionary new system developed by Reutech Mining in South Africa that re-imagines GPR in a completely new way. Relying on next-generation radar hardware and software, the SSP provides a convenient and cost-effective structure identification solution to underground mines. This paper will deal with the development journey of the SSP, and refer to real-world case studies to demonstrate why this product is set to make a dramatic contribution to the improvement of underground mining productivity and safety.
Ground penetrating radar (GPR) was first patented in the early 1900s, with one of the first publicized surveys performed in Austria in 1929 to determine the depth of a glacier. Further research in the field remained stagnant up until the 1970s, when the military took a keen interest in using GPR to locate landmines and underground tunnels. It was not until after the technology was commercialized by public utility companies in the 1980s that GPR became available on a large scale.
Today, the application of GPR in the fields of engineering, archaeology, and geological surveying is thoroughly proven and extremely effective at yielding meaningful results (Patterson and Cook, 1990). Use of the technology in the underground mining environment, with specific reference to the delineation of faults and orebodies within the South African context, is also documented (White et al., 1990). However, large-scale adoption and use of GPR in the underground mining environment has been slow; mostly due to the high barriers associated with mine-wide implementation.