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From CAD User AEC Magazine Vol 18 No 05 - MAY/JUNE 2005
A different slant will be given to ‘Nature Walks’ following the completion of the Shotton Surface Mining Project – submitted for an Excellence Award at the Bentley User Conference.
A surface Mining Project in the North of England has been submitted for an
Award of Excellence at the Bentley User Conference in 2005. Yes, you did read
that correctly! Gone are the days when towering slag heaps blighted the grey
landscapes of the country’s ‘Industrial North’. In our current enlightened and
environmentally aware climate, no one can set about hacking open large areas of
the countryside without proving to the local populace their intention to replace
and even improve on the one they are removing.
Such is the case, therefore, for the Shotton Surface Mining Project in Northumberland, under the management of H J Banks and Company, that will provide much needed fuel, in the form of high quality, low sulphur coal, to power a local major industry – Alcan. The ten year project will also provide fireclay and shale for local brickmakers as a by-product of the extraction of the coal.
The third object of the project, though, is the one that caught the Bentley judge’s eyes, short-listing the project for the award. From day one of the extraction process work will begin on restoration of the site, providing public access to a unique landscape encompassing natural and historic aspects of the region, and, to the South of the area, creating a landscaped park designed by world renowned architect and designer, Charles Jencks, featuring a massive reclining female figure lying alongside a series of lakes reflecting the local landscape.
Besides creating an outstanding area of interest, the restoration will assist in screening the project’s mining operations from all key viewpoints.
At the moment, the project has been submitted for planning approval to Northumberland County Council. If approved, the 845 acre site will supply 5million tonnes of coal, 3M tonnes of shale and 1m tonnes of fireclay – minerals assessed at a value of £200million –and the project will employ about 50 people on-site –plus, of course, all those involved in the local transport and other local amenities who will feel the benefit of the improved site. Whilst the obvious focus of the project must be to provide fuel for Alcan whilst producing an acceptable return on invested capital, a project of this type and magnitude must also be undertaken with the full co-operation of the local communities, and must meet stringent environmental standards for noise, dust, visibility and effluence.
The Shotton Surface Mining Project brings together a wide range of professional disciplines – geologists, mining engineers, civil engineers, acoustic engineers, landscape architects, graphic designers, land surveyors and environmental scientists. All must have access to the same data as each other throughout the life of the project, and as the data is constantly being modified by one team or another, it has to be switched between the disciplines many times. It was essential, therefore, that all disciplines worked to a common data format – i.e., applications specific to mining, surveying, design and modelling all had to have a common core – Bentley’s .DGN.
Before Bentley was installed as the standard software for the project. Data was constantly being digitised or translated for use on other systems, a slow and tedious process that increased the possibility of errors creeping in each time the data was digitised for another professional discipline.
Now, the above ground assessment is carried out using map data provided in DGN, geologists used scanned geological maps and mining records in DGN and then use a Bentley third party software programme Prorok to model the coal reserves. Surveyors use GEOPAK data collection modules on-site and create a survey model in GEOPAK Site. This DGN model then goes to the mine design engineers and landscape architects in DGN – all contributing to an efficient workflow right through to the production of the final documents – enhanced by the introduction in Bentley 2004 of the PDF creation tool to produce professional looking electronic documents.
Surface Mining Projects are truly 3D! It’s the only way to visualise complex geological formations hidden under the ground, and brought to light by the geological surveyors. The surveyors can create a 3D model ads soon as they process their survey data – and spot immediately if there are errors in the data.
Mining design engineers are constantly developing and assessing complex mining profiles above and below ground. The ability to quickly create 3D models, particularly using a simple renderer, enables them to check that the design of each stage has no anomalies. And, not only will a 3D model of the reserves show how they lie in relation to the surrounding landscape – in a way that no 2D representation could ever do – but they provide a far more effective means of planning the extraction process. Mining engineers can use the 3D models to check out each stage of the extraction process – the siting of internal haulage roads and the steepness of material batter angles.
Major beneficiaries of Bentley’s 3D modelling capabilities, though, are the landscape architects, who will be responsible for creative modelling of the site during the mining operation and for maintaining it in perpetuity upon completion. It is the landscape architect who has to present the project to the public, planning officers and other interested parties during the consultation period.
Using Bentley Software they have been able to create photorealistic photo montage images using aerial photographs draped over the contour model and incorporating the new land forms – in this particular case the symbolic figure of the ‘Lady of the Lake’.
As images can be produced quickly and cheaply, many images can be taken around the site, producing realistic and believable views from virtually any location, which was not always the case with artistic impressions, and sufficient to satisfy any demanding inquisitors at local planning meetings. Bentley’s Explorer can be used to create a 3D world from the 3D model created by MicroStation and GEOPAK, and the tool can then be used to demonstrate to the Public and Planners what the project will look like from any point instantaneously and then move around the site, inside and outside of its boundaries, in real time. Confidence is, therefore, built amongst the interested parties because images have been created for all of the vital viewpoints, not just one or two.
Landscape architects can also create animations that follow predetermined paths to show the visual impact of the Project from footpaths and highways on the perimeter of the site. These are then run at the Public exhibitions during the consultation stages.
Ensuring that the site meets the most stringent environmental standards, the 3D model can be given to the Environmental scientists to enable them to determine the noise, dust and effluent strategies for the Project.
The range of Bentley software used for the Project includes, of course, Microstation 2004 edtion, GEOPAK Site, GEOPAK Survey, GEOPAK Data Collection Module, Decscartes, Bentley Explorer. HJ Banks is currently exploring the possibility of using Bentley’s ProjectWise to manage the project – as there is ‘a need to understand and measure the existing processes’ and assess the performance of a managed environment.
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