Vale was created by the Brazilian Government in 1942 and was privatised in 1997, when it began to diversify. It is now a global company headquartered in Brazil, but operating in 38 countries on five continents, employing more than 126,000 people, as well as another 50,000 working on ongoing projects.
Vale produces iron ore, pellets, nickel, fertilisers, copper, coal, cobalt, manganese and ferroalloys, as well as platinum group metals and precious metals. Any mineral extraction process involves copious amounts of geological research and geoscientists around the world have been increasingly following the British Geological Survey’s (BGS) trailblazing lead in using Virtalis’ GeoVisionary software to aid the visualisation of their complex data. Vale is now the world’s second largest mining company.
WHY VALE CHOSE GEOVISIONARY AND ACTIVEWORKS
Prior to Vale’s senior management visiting BGS’s ActiveWall and also Northampton University’s ActiveCube and seeing GeoVisionary running in an immersive stereoscopic 3D Virtual Reality (VR) environment, Vale used a conventional GIS platform across its projects. This gave them a small level of 3D capability, but it did not allow them to understand fully and interact with their data.
Henry Galbiatti, Vale’s general manager for iron ore exploration, closed mines and manganese planning, explained: “When I experienced GeoVisionary, I could see it was exactly what we were looking for. From our offices in Belo Horizonte, we constantly have new projects in the pipeline aimed at helping Vale to increase production, retain market share and maintain ore quality, so, naturally, long-term planning is crucial if we are to successfully bring our plans to fruition. The nature of our business is such that visualisation of information is vital to help us understand it, to discuss plans and to make the right decisions.”
GeoVisionary was developed by Virtalis, in collaboration with BGS, as specialist software for the high-resolution visualisation of elevation and photography data overlaid with a wide range of geospatial data. The initial design goal was to ensure that data sets for large regions, national to sub-continental, could be loaded simultaneously and at full resolution, while allowing real-time interaction with the data. One of the major advantages GeoVisionary offers over other visualisation software (3 & 4D GIS) is its ability to integrate very large volumes of data from multiple sources, allowing a greater understanding, analysis and interpretation of diverse spatial datasets.
THE VIRTALIS ACTIVEWORKS SUITE
Virtalis ActiveWorks systems are market-leading, mature VR systems that boast the best in class components. Vale chose an ActiveWall, an ActiveMove and some ActiveWorks Desktop systems.
The Virtalis ActiveWall is an installed, immersive, interactive 3D visualisation system and probably the best-selling VR system in the world. Vale’s ActiveWall draws on active stereo technology and features a custom rear-projection screen, specialist computer, Virtalis custom software and a powerful projector. Movements within the ActiveWall environment are tracked using a tracking system.
This added functionality alters the perspective of the visuals according to the user’s position and orientation within the scene to give a natural and accurate sense of relationship and scale. The hand-held controller allows the immersive experience to be enhanced further. The user can navigate through the virtual world, pick and manipulate component parts in real-time and make decisions on the fly.
ActiveMove can’t be beaten for those users looking for a cost effective and transportable solution that can be quickly assembled for department presentations, marketing seminars, trade shows, training workshops or research programmes.
The Virtalis ActiveMove chosen by Vale is an entry-level version and comprises an active stereoscopic projector with a projection screen, coupled with a laptop, eyewear, sound system, 3D SpaceMouse, installation and support. ActiveMove is transported in a single robust Peli case specifically designed for local and international shipping, making it easy to share between locations.
Vale’s multi-screen Desktop VR systems enable stereoscopic vision, but do not support tracking.
THE INSTALLATION IN BRAZIL
Vale’s ActiveWall is situated inside a dedicated room within the Long Term Planning Department (DIPF). The facility is managed by Marco Braga. He commented: “The installation of an ActiveWall has been a successful initiative and everybody is looking for opportunities to deploy it within their projects. The Virtalis installation was fast and the staff were very knowledgeable and helpful, so our first steps were easy.”
HOW GEOVISIONARY IS BEING USED BY VALE
As Vale becomes more experienced in GeoVisionary, its staff are providing Virtalis with valuable feedback for the creation of a specific mining module, as well as deciding what unique further tailoring is required for Vale. The Company is using GeoVisionary not just for exploration and mine management, but also as an environment for staff training.
Galbiatti concluded: “GeoVisionary is currently being used on two important projects and then we hope to use the software on all our pipeline projects to help with mining, engineering and environmental matters.
Already, we are finding that being able to see more data and having it in 3D we can visualise issues and strengths within our projects much more easily and then act to make corrections faster. Once GeoVisionary is being routinely used, we’ll look to expand our hardware facilities too, so we are considering adding extra ActiveWorks systems, but we are moving one step at a time”.