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Using Mobile GIS to Help Mineral and Energy Sector Regulation and Management

Mobile GIS is exciting. It offers a new ways for field based staff to get their work done more efficiently, and provide more accurate data.

Energy sector regulation and management have many challenges. Field surveys are often done in remote areas outside of mobile communication coverage. Data collection still relies on a disjointed combination of equipment. New mobile GIS technology offers potentially dramatic improvements in how Mineral Exploration Regulation Teams get their work done. We will discuss a new integrated approach in this article.

Mobile GIS and Energy Sector Regulation

Its worth providing some background on a typical scenario for mineral and energy activity regulation.

Mineral Exploration Regulation Teams

Much of the work done by mineral exploration regulation teams is centred on monitoring ground exploration activities. Comparing reported activity and impacts, against what is observed. Field inspections are typically ground based and often done in remote areas. Off-road 4WD vehicles and possibly air support may be needed depending on the activity, urgency of an inspection, the availability of staff and accessibility of sites. There are other dependencies on ground conditions such as weather, agricultural and cultural practices.

Exploration Regulation teams execute regular remote field sorties to inspect, monitor and ensure the risk based approach of regulation and legislative compliance is achieved. Personnel are required to carry a significant amount of detached equipment in the field. This allows both observation, recording and monitoring of site conditions in context to the stage of exploration activity under the conditions of approval. The equipment carried can include hand held GPS (Garmin), digital cameras, pen and paper, and laptops.

A typical workflow involves first finding the exploration locations that may be active, in hibernation, partially rehabilitated or fully rehabilitated. Exploration sites include access tracks, drill pads, laydown areas, field camps, fuels depots, and water points. Currently the identification of these localities and navigation to, is done using maps, GPS (Garmin units), field laptop, maps and diagrams.

Data Collection and Assessment

Field attributes that are assessed by exploration regulation teams include:

· Visual impact during and remaining post exploration.
· Lasting impact on the land surface, eg. erosion, scars, deformation.
· Impact on vegetation, fauna, soil, ground water, eg. destruction, pollution, diversion.
· Removal of foreign material, eg polypipe, stakes, temporary constructions, litter remaining as a consequence of exploration activity.

Assessment often involves comparing company photos and the compliance to licence conditions. The focus is on significant aspects that are critical in the particular area. On site photos are taken by inspectors, and GPS location noted. This data is manually added to a central compliance database upon return to the office