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Fortescue has gone Google

Mining giant Fortescue Metals has rolled out Google Earth to help create and relay three-dimensional maps of the Pilbara in Western Australia to staff and consultants.

The customised version has been used by 300 staff at the mining company since June last year to identify and categorise plants and animals, as well as manoeuvre around heritage commitments on the more than 85,000 square kilometre area it covers.

The company overlays information it collects using plane pass-overs and other satellite images, along with ground surveys, to create a detailed recreation of the land.

A geographic information systems administrator at the company, Adam Roestenburg, said the company wanted to extend the capabilities to allow on-site viewing of the maps on tablet computers.

It would enable users to monitor construction progress on Fortescue’s newer mine sites, he said.

“Initially we really didn’t think we’d reach that broad an audience – we had 100 [users] in mind,” he said. “Now we’ve hit 300, we’re quite excited about what the next six months will bring and how others in the business can start seeing ‘Fortescue Earth’.

“People in the business are getting a great picture of how vast FMG’s tenure holding is and where some of our key projects and targets are. Most people in the consumer market are familiar with Google on a phone, so we want to recreate that experience using Fortescue Earth or Google Earth on a phone.”

The software is relatively cheap compared with high-end geographic software. Google charges $US399 per licence for the professional version of its maps product and offers volume discounts but Mr Roestenburg said he hoped to take advantage of new satellite imagery to get a more detailed view of the land than currently afforded by the search giant.

“We’ve usually done blanket environmental surveys but now it’s more strategic in how much time the environmental surveyors are spending on the ground because we can point them in directions where we have confidence they’ll be finding species,” he said.

“The great thing about using consumer technology is that the strike rate we’re getting with people’s awareness has gone up exponentially. People are realising we do have a footprint to remain in, we do have a disturbance allocation, we do need to monitor where our heritage sites are, whereas before the map paper trail, we weren’t getting as much an audience or as large an awareness.”

See how Australian based iron ore miner FMG uses Google Earth to make important business decisions about their mine site.

Originally posted on The Australian Financial Review:

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