Monthly Flyover: Mining Companies Are Conducting Safe, Quick Explorations with Drone Mapping

mining Nevada

How exactly is drone mapping helping the mining industry?

We were able to unpack and explore this topic a little more with Dana Bennett, president of the Nevada Mining Association (NVMA). The NVMA is a trade association that conducts education and advocacy on behalf of mining and other related companies. After spending her career working in the industry, she shares her insight on how drone mapping is benefitting mining efforts.

Keep reading to learn more about the Nevada Mining Association and how drone mapping helps surveying, exploration, and safety of mines.

Q: As the president of the Nevada Mining Association, can you tell us how you were able to get there and also give us a background on your experience with mining?

A: I have a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and a Ph.D. all in History. Between my Master’s and Ph.D., I spent about 20 years working in the public policy arena here in Nevada.

One of my first positions was with the Nevada Committee on Public Lands, which is a legislative committee overseeing the regulatory apparatus of public lands. Of course, mining is a big piece of that– I became familiar with the industry through a policy perspective and when I had my lobbying business. One of my early clients was a new mine, and I also worked as a contractor to the Association, doing special projects over the years. Then three years ago when this position opened up, I was asked to bring my policy expertise to the association.

Q: Talk about the goals and the purpose of the NVMA

A: At the Nevada Mining Association our tagline is: “We champion Nevada’s 21st Century mining industry.”

On a day-to-day basis, we represent this industry to the public here in Nevada, around the world, and to policymakers. When someone who’s not in mining has a question about the industry, we are the first entity they call. We spend a lot of time doing public outreach. Even though Nevada is a mining state and a rural state, it’s also an urban state. We provide information to folks who live in the major urban centers about the industry and the impact that mining has on their daily lives.

Q: Explain your role at the Nevada Mining Association

A: The Nevada Mining Association has a membership of about 420-member companies including mines, vendors, exploration companies, and engineering companies. It runs the gamut of the industry, so part of my job is to make sure our members are getting value out their dues and that we are appropriately representing the good work they do here in Nevada.

Another part of my job is representing the industry in specific places—As we speak, I’m on my way to a university meeting on the UNR campus to represent the industry. I’m also the face of the industry at many community activities.

Q: How has Nevada mining supported the American economy?

A: Currently, Nevada produces 20 metals and minerals essential for the devices we all use every day. If Nevada were a country, we would be number four in the world in the production of gold. We are also a major producer of copper and silver, which are essential to electric vehicles and solar panels.

Q: Share your opinion of the use of drone mapping for mining applications and what you’ve seen from it to help the mining industry?

A:  As drones become more familiar, people are becoming more aware of their capabilities for mining. An obvious application is for mapping and surveying– a mining company needs to understand where they’re currently working, what project they’ll be working on next, and the future of their project. Drones can certainly help them make those decisions. In the past, a couple of employees would be sent out in trucks, so drones certainly have provided a huge change in that aspect.

Q: Out of those applications, what do you see as the most valuable?

A: Exploration companies can spend a lot of time figuring out where to go next because of the vastness of the state. Mapping on the ground can be nearly impossible and very time-consuming. Sending the drone into places where there aren’t roads, the terrain is difficult and dangerous, provides many opportunities that didn’t exist before.

Q: What would you say drone mapping has done for safety on the job site?

A: Nevada is a basin and range state with about 160 mountain ranges. If you’re crossing a large section, there may be all sorts of physical barriers in your way—the ability send a drone rather than a person is very beneficial. It’s not unheard of to use horses in Nevada, but that’s terribly inefficient and not necessarily economical. Using a drone removes some of those barriers.

Q: What are other technologies you’ve seen emerging from the mining industry? How have those helped with efficiency/productivity?

A: There’s been a discussion about being able to help mines in terms of rescue operations, particularly underground. There is a lab here on campus that is exploring the use of autonomous devices operating in areas where there may not be GPS—where they would be flying blind. Drones offer a lot of promise for this, but this particular application hasn’t actually come to fruition. Being able to simply send the drone down into an underground mine that might be compromised would be a game changer.

Q: What, in your opinion, separates a good mining company from a great one?

A: The members of the Nevada Mining Association are very proud of their community engagement. I think that is what distinguishes a great mining company–engaging in the town in which their workers live and making it a better place.

Interested in hearing more from experts and thought leaders in drone mapping? Check out the last installment in the Monthly Flyover series here about selling your drone mapping services, and the preceding installment here about using drone data for engineering. 

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