3-D virtual reality (VR) visualization has opened new opportunities for complex 3D (x, y, z), 4D (x, y, z, t) or even nD data interpretation. The integration of common earth models (3D geologic data), mine models (3D excavations and stress), extraction models (1D time sequencing or mine sequencing) and nD monitoring data (e.g., seismic event parameters) into a common mining process model provides a platform for experts in various fields to better design, evaluate, monitor and modify mine plans throughout a mine's life; from feasibility, through operation, to closure. Viewing seismic data in a stereoscopic VR environment within a mining process model offers data interpretation processes previously unavailable at lower dimensionality. MIRARCO has developed data analysis and viewing processes specifically designed to enhance microseismic and seismic data interpretation in a collaborative, immersive VR environment; bringing mine personnel and expert consultants together to evaluate data and make strategic decisions for cost effective and safe mining.
Seismic events and microseismicity cause hazards (rockbursts and rock mass degradation). The focus of this paper is on understanding seismicity from a mine planning and design point of view. Better understanding of the overall response of a mine to extraction also facilitates mine planning and design, assisting in reducing production Costs and thus in enhancing safety and profitability.
Making sense from huge amounts of complex data with unknown patterns and multiple interrelated parameters is a challenging task that requires tools to detect patterns and trends. Scientific visualization enables data to be presented in dynamic images in order to reveal intrinsic patterns and dependencies. The details of the evolution of scientific visualization is given in Kaiser et al. (2005). The medium for scientific visualization is a virtual reality (VR) environment. MlRARCO foresaw the numerous advantages reported (Polyakov, 1999; Norsk Hydro, 2003) in the O&G industries from the use of VR technology in the mining industry and embarked on a strategic R&D program to assist mining in the adoption of VR.
VR application to science and engineering offers many advantages and benefits:
Facilitates the use of visual perception, a capability that only humans master
Enhances ability to integrate complex and/or large volumes of data from different sources
Provides increased understanding of complex data sets and simplifies critical decision making
Encourages interdisciplinary team collaboration and brainstorming
Reduces time in data understanding and interpretation
Connects geographically remote experts (through linked VR centres) for problem solving at much reduced cost and with great time savings Provides a great strategic planning, negotiating and public relations tool based on the principle of "seeing is believing".
Management and investors are more easily convinced when they instantly see what they would have to read in lengthy reports, articles or papers.
Mines are complex environments and solving mining problems require an integrated approach. VR application offers the best opportunity for understanding complex, varied and large volumes of data in a central setting.