African Gold Mine Search And Rescue Operation

Project details


West Africa



In May 2021, a critical incident at an African gold mine saw the managing director urgently seeking external assistance with a search and rescue operation.

One of the largest and oldest gold mines in the world had recently begun re-mining. With establishment phases complete, the mine was fully productive when suspected pillar failure caused a ground collapse in one of the smaller mining stopes.

When the crisis hit, rescue teams sprang into action, conducting exhaustive searches of the accessible areas over a period of days. As they advanced, increasingly difficult conditions underground meant that the standard search procedures were proving fruitless. With uncertainty about the stability of the search area heightening the risk to rescue teams, and with one contractor missing, the company sought a technological solution.

The chief surveyor and managing director immediately reached out to the two major drone operators in the region. The mine in question had previously been introduced to Rocketmine’s capabilities during a road show and were hopeful that the company’s assets and expertise could assist and augment the human search and rescue operation.

Rocketmine received the first of a long line of outreach calls from the mine’s chief surveyor and managing director.

After learning that the closest drone was in the U.S. and potentially weeks away from availability, the surveyor made clear the critical nature of the scenario and the complexity of the mine’s environment, which runs to a depth of 1500m and has shafts and a single access decline with interlevel development of between 15 and 30 metres.

Rocketmine Immediately Set The Wheels In Motion To Expedite Bringing The Technology To The Mine’s Aid.

Coordinating the logistics of dealing with numerous stakeholders – land and air transport, courier pick-ups and delivery – thirty-six hours later, both the Rocketmine operator and drone were in-situ and ready to begin flying into inaccessible areas.

A second underground mapping operator engaged by the mine arrived on site but was unable to configure their drone and provide support.

Thus, over the next two weeks, it was up to Rocketmine to scrutinize the site, identify safe zones for flying and pick up where the search and rescue crews had left off.

Rocketmine flew their drone every day using intelligent LiDAR laser collision avoidance technology to provide eyes on the problem within the no-go zone and GPS denied environment.

This radical AI technology provided crucial detail to surface crews; helping to assess the impact of the collapse without further risk to life. Additionally, the speed and clarity of their image and data gathering meant the mine’s survey and geotechnical departments were fully informed at each step of the operation.

Upon Conclusion Of The Operation, The Mine Noted The Professional And Efficient Action Of Rocketmine; In Particular, The Success Of Both Operator And Technology In Delivering Outcomes.

While it is a given that mining remains a high-risk working environment, technology now exists to dramatically improve the safety of employees and operations. This case study illustrates the power of drone technology, not only in increasing safety, but also in diminishing the huge impact of losses, and potentially weeks or even months of lost productivity, in the wake of critical incidents.

Historically, the mining industry has made enormous advances in risk reduction and promoting safety awareness; most recently by investing heavily in autonomous machinery and computerised equipment. Rapid response protocols and procedures are vital in supporting any human activity on mine sites and it is crucial that mine owners keep abreast of the technology which can support this. However, simply purchasing expensive equipment is not the silver bullet.

As demonstrated by Rocketmine in this scenario, the AI technology is valuable and accessible. With mine sites expanding and more re-working of older mines, automated mapping and monitoring areas of concern is critical.

Rocketmine’s Use Of Drones Equipped With Lidar Laser Technology Allows Underground Scanning Capacity, Which Delivers Rapid, Accurate Information To Geotechnical And Survey Departments.

Using underground mapping technology to safely capture data and footage from inaccessible areas can enable quick, actionable responses to save lives and mitigate the impact of prolonged, expensive closures.

Achieving this winning formula
relies on engaging a team whose
knowledge of the drone technology,
combined with professional expertise,
maximises outcomes and helps
anticipate and avoid
costly problems.


If you are a mining professional and looking for a company to
develop a system for you, please get in touch with
our Rocketmine team today.

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