urveying technology has delivered improved produc-
tion and efficiency in many applications, and the 
mining industry is one of the largest beneficiaries. Min-

ing companies use surveying systems throughout the mine 
lifecycle: in planning and construction; operations; produc-
tion; monitoring; and reclamation. The advanced positioning 
and information technologies play key roles both in open-pit 
and underground operations.  

3D laser scanning has found a welcome niche in mining. 
When combined with conventional positioning and new 
technologies for data management and visualization, 3D 
scanning systems provide the backbone information for the 
emerging technology known as the “digital mine.” Digital 
mines combine the visualization and spatial data manage-
ment of a GIS with the operational and decision capability of 
an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. The objectives 
include increased safety and efficiency, improved yield man-
agement and optimized utilization of personnel, equipment 
and natural resources. 

In eastern China, Shandong Province is home to the country’s 
key gold deposits. The region’s largest-producing mine is op-
erated by the Shandong Gold Group (SGG), a state-owned 
enterprise of the Shandong provincial government. Shan-
dong Gold has played a pioneering role in the application 

of digital mining in China, including digitizing existing maps 
and diagrams to establish the geological database for the 
mine. SGG recognized the need for improving underground 
data collection to produce a unified database for the mine’s 
spatial data. Mine teams determined that 3D laser scanning 
could provide the needed accuracy and data density while 
reducing the time needed for the underground measure-
ments in mine tunnels. But simply gathering large amounts 
of data would not satisfy the requirements. To make the data 
useful, SGG needed to develop processes to manage, model 
and utilize the 3D information. 

A team led by Wang Jian, Li Lei and Jiang Yan of the Shandong 
University of Science and Technology (SDUST) examined 
data collected using a Trimble FX 3D scanner. Working 650 m 
(2,100 ft) below the surface, the team established procedures 
for working in the hot, humid tunnels. Speed was critical, as 
mine production could not stand still for the measuring pro-
cess. Using an array of mounting methods including tripods, 
brackets and attachment to structures, the surveyors could 
set up the scanner in a matter of minutes. Each scan required 
less than five minutes, and could be completed without 
leveling the Trimble scanner. 

The SDUST team loaded the field data into Trimble RealWorks 
software, where they combined the scans and converted 

China’s First Digital Mine

A Team of Engineers Uses 3D Scanning to Increase Safety and

Efficiency in China’s Largest Gold Mine.