February 2012

3D data comes alive

Golder’s interactive centre located in Toronto’s financial district

By Krystyna Lagowski

Golder Associates’ Collaborative 3D Centre (C3D), housed in a specially designed conference room in their downtown Toronto office, seats 20 to 30. After visitors don 3D glasses, they can watch a variety of complex data, projected onto a large screen in 3D, offering a powerful level of detail and depth perception.

But what is new is not the visualization technology itself, but the people using it. Locating the C3D Centre in the heart of Toronto’s financial district was deliberate. “The mining companies are looking for investments for their properties and deposits, either by selling them or by raising capital to take them to the next stage where they turn them into mines,” says John Fairs, Spatial-IM Division manager at Golder.

One of these companies is Gowest Gold Ltd., a junior exploration company focused on its gold project near Timmins. “We’ve used it with our geology group and also for our annual meetings,” says Gowest president Greg Romain. “The C3D is a great marketing tool, especially for those who don’t quite understand geology and how it looks and what it means. I like it for the sheer size and scale, and the way it gives a better perspective.”

“For mining and metal analysts whose job is to minimize corporate risk for investors, they can come right here,” says Fairs. “Using the 3D technology will help them identify technical challenges or risks and, at the end of the day, they can be more confident whether or not it is a risk, and know how much money to invest.”

As many uses as there are disciplines

The philosophy with C3D is to facilitate a collaborative discussion between different disciplines. “For example, in an ore value evaluation, experts like geologists, seismologists and rock mechanics can study the 3D model here in our conference room while we change the view according to their different datasets,” explains Fairs.

Doug Morrison, former global mining sector leader at Golder and currently vice-president of the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation, was instrumental in helping to establish the C3D Centre at Golder. He was on the board of directors at MIRARCO, a mining research organization based in Sudbury with a similar 3D virtual reality laboratory. Morrison believed the 3D technology available in Sudbury would be a valuable tool in Toronto as well.

“Its true skill is to analyze data in real time, in 3D graphic terms,” he says. “It’s the difference between information and knowledge.”

“It’s really a data analysis tool with a very sophisticated presentation format,” Morrison explains. “You have lots of data, but you don’t know what’s important. You sift through it and remove all or a portion of a dataset, or add a piece, and eventually you hone in on the crucial pieces of information that can make the difference.”

“Clients come in with their data and project information, and we can display it in 3D to help them visualize it properly,” Fairs says. “As a result, they can make better decisions. For example, we start with the drill hole data and combine every piece of dataset possible to come up with a model that includes geophysics, seismic information, faults, etc., trying to reconstruct what the Earth might look like below the surface – and then estimate the potential of what resource or geotechnical challenge might be there.”

Datasets can be fed into a computer and displayed to interact with other data – providing clients are using compatible software. Fairs says the cost to use the centre can depend on whether clients need help to migrate data to compatible solutions, and how long the space needs to be reserved for.

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