Andrew Jeffrey, technical visualization specialist and proprietor of Paraminerals Consulting, feels that a certain aspect of the mine development process hasn’t been getting its fair share of attention.
“These exploration companies, their efforts to create new mines are very, very real,” he points out. “They expend incredible amounts of time and resources into acquiring land, doing countless seasons of field work, taking endless samples. If, against all odds, they actually do find something, they spend more years and tens or hundreds of millions of dollars on building a reputable deposit. And then, after all that, all they have is usually just a little black and white [P.E.A. conceptual mine site] line diagram to show everyone what the project will look like!”
“I want to bridge that reality gap and put way more focus on the end product. Let’s actually see the mine site, the open pits, all the haul trucks. The idea is to make the project far more tangible and relatable by bringing the future to life and giving people a proper look into what it’ll evolve into.”
Jeffrey describes an inevitable turning point in his pursuit of project visualization, “I realized one day that no matter how good computer graphics get, and even if I somehow became the best digital graphics artist in the world, real-life video footage and actual photographs of the landscape are always going to be better than what I can do. You can’t beat reality. So that’s where the drones come in.”
“It’s come to the point that RPASes [Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems] are part of almost all the visualization products that I do now. Whether it’s a detailed 3D map of a key area of interest, or a 360-degree panoramic image, or some interesting airborne video, it’s sometimes really difficult not to recommend using one for the task.”
The increasing importance of this technology is evident to Jeffrey, who has been flying ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’ since 2015 and is a Transport Canada-certified RPAS pilot. After working with a number of different operators, he eventually elected to take matters into his own hands.
“These days, I prefer to do my own flights so that I can get the exact footage that I need for the end- product,” he explains. “It’s one thing to pre-plan the shots back at my desk, but that exact same view often looks quite different when you’re actually there. And same goes for the 3D terrain models; I like to fly the surveys myself just so that I know for sure that the quality and accuracy is up to par and that it’ll work nicely in the overall project workspace.”
And are people taking notice of this merging of real-world video with digital animation?
“I’m starting to hear from clients that some people weren’t sure if parts of the video productions are real, or digital, or from a drone, or what. And that’s exciting for me. It means I’m starting to blur that line between reality and visualization, and that’s exactly where I want to be.”
Andrew Jeffrey, B.Sc. (Geology) [Queen’s University, ’98] has worked extensively on Canadian and international mineral exploration projects for over 20 years. He travelled across the Arctic in the original historic search for northern diamonds with Kennecott Canada and DiamondEx Resources and was a core member of the award-winning Fission Uranium technical consulting team from 2008 to 2017, participating in the discoveries of the Waterbury Lake and PLS uranium deposits in northern Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin. Jeffrey founded Paraminerals Consulting in 2006.