Mining3 demonstrates a new dimension in data handling

Imagine being able to control a drone inside a mineshaft from anywhere in the world without fear of it crashing or being able to track the metal material in a car chassis from ore to a finished product. Such things are fast becoming possible using a new 3D-based internet platform known as VoxelNET developed at Mining3.

“VoxelNET is all about a more efficient way of storing, analysing, sharing and visualising spatially-based information,” says Dr Charlotte Sennersten, a 3D system researcher and Technology Leader. “While it is ideal for the mining and minerals industries, it has application in all spatially-based enterprises, aviation and fisheries, for example.”

The internet system we currently use to store, analyse, transmit and display information was built for handling 2D text and documents. It has to be modified with software plug-ins to work and display information in 3D. VoxelNET does this directly.

It can be used to generate a virtual mine and simulate its operation, to store remote-sensing information on the fly, or to track or control equipment or material remotely, all in 3D and able to be shared and accessed by several different devices simultaneously.

At present, VoxelNET is only available in consultation with researchers at Mining3. But next year, a single-point version will be released as a commercial product. And Mining3 is looking for resources to assist with its further development into a multiple-user cloud-based distributed platform. “My vision is that VoxelNET should be as universally accessible as the internet,” Sennersten says.

VoxelNET establishes virtual volumes comprised of voxels, 3D equivalents of 2D pixels on a screen. Voxels are cubes, the size of which can be defined to fit the task at hand. Each voxel in VoxelNET can be located precisely by means of an inbuilt addressing system, known as voxel protocol.

The voxels can hold information, such as density, ore grade or rock hardness. They can be programmed to store, integrate and cross-correlate data from many different sources. They can also act autonomously to find and process data, and to interact with each other in precise ways.

Voxels come in several different varieties. Spatial Voxels, for instance, are linked directly with a precisely defined one-metre by one-metre grid of the Earth’s surface from five kilometres underground to 20 kilometres above ground. So they can be used to simulate reality. The matter within Material Voxels can be labelled and traced wherever it moves.

The voxels and the data they contain can be subject to different defined layers of security. Broad access can be allowed to public information or simulations, while access to more confidential information can be restricted. And data can be spatially tagged or completely anonymised.


  • Storage, integration and processing of all data pertaining to a region of space
  • Sharing of 3D information
  • Time stamping of information to allow tracking of changes in a region of space
  • Remote control, including collision avoidance, of underground or aerial drones or other autonomous vehicles beyond line-of-sight from anywhere in the world
  • Regulation and inspection of autonomous equipment
  • 3D virtualisation of mine or production-sites for planning purposes
  • 3D simulation of mining or production processes, including blasting
  • Tracking of localised ore through the mining and production cycle
  • Integration and tracking of production with financial transactions and accounting managed using blockchain technology
  • More efficient storage and greater accessibility and availability of 3D information, such as in film and media industry videos.

The platform already allows input of such information as drill hole data, real-time vehicle data, remote-sensing data and 2D and 3D maps. Users can share data managed by the VoxelNET Cloud and can interact in real time when needed via the VoxelNET clients.  So far, the applications supported include simulation, remote vehicle control, and interactive visualisation. MineMIO, a 3D mine site monitoring and intelligent optimisation platform that can be used with VoxelNET, is also available.

By the end of 2017, the research team plans to demonstrate the VoxelNET cloud platform in a form which will support networked integration and sharing of high volume data input by multiple clients. The team is working to release a fully commercial environment by 2019 that incorporates several different layers of security, is distributed among multiple servers, supports data input by multiple clients and can be accessed and used for multiple outputs.