The Underutilization of GIS technologies - Q&A with Shane Barrett


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In this Q&A, Shane Barret, Manager Spatial Data Quality at BG Group opens up on GIS technologies in today’s environment. He discusses strategies, methodologies, key challenges and the current state of GIS in mining operations in the industry.

Shane is speaking at the GIS in Mining and Exploration 2011. For more information about this event, please visit or contact us via Twitter (@MiningIQ) or call us on +61 2 9229 1000. Or you can email

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The Underutilization of GIS technologies - Q&A with Shane Barrett

  1. 1. The Underutilization of GIS TechnologiesQ&A with Shane Barrett, Manager Spatial Data Quality at BG Group GIS in Mining and Exploration 2011 www. Twitter: @MiningIQWhat are the key challenges faced by GIS and exploration managers?I will focus on the data aspect of this question as this is where my current rolelies as Spatial Data Quality Manager. • Challenge 1: Receiving up-to-date data from various sources (Field Staff and Surveyors, 3rd Parties and Govt) and delivering it to the organisation with a quick turnaround. Solution: Developed Data Model and Data Dictionary with compulsory compliance for all staff and contractors engaged with our work, via strong contract management. • Challenge 2: Getting data out of Government bodies when we know it exists. Case: After no less than eight phone calls one morning and ending back up at the same department where we started we could not get information that was being displayed on their website via an interactive map. Also, dealing with Government bodies in other states when doing research on interstate new ventures, not knowing what the department is called and what data they have available, plus varying pricing structures. Solution: See a need for a national data broker. • Challenge 3: Controlling data storage and filing for effective retrieval. Solution: We have developed a scalable data dictionary and data model for all our non-reference data, that covers field capture via mobile devices and all the way through to compatible database design. We effectively maintain all previous locations of planned infrastructure in the same model for historic reasons. Reference data (Government data, GeoScience Australia data etc) is split out into the second part of the database as read-only. • Challenge 4: Easy access to data for users. Solution: Developed in- house search tool that searches across file names, file paths, metadata and actual data attributes for key words. Maintain metadata database. Maintain a “Also Known As” column in database for layman’s terms of engineering data and acronyms. 1
  2. 2. What are some ways you use GIS to assist in mine management andexpansion?This is used extensively by QGC throughout all processes and activities of thebusiness. • Stage 1: GIS used for exploration work. We have deployed GIS Staff assisting with Seismic Surveys, Bore and Core testing, as well as well planning. We have developed in-house a constraints tool that looks at over 200 datasets and with pre-determined rules and queries that analyses data falling inside a grid cell and returns a probability value of getting a well or other infrastructure approved inside that cell based on the accumulative total of those constraints. • Stage 2: E.I.S. Submissions: GIS is used to assist planners with Environmental Impact Studies required under legislation to get key projects approved by Government. A Recent EIS from QGC included over 300 maps to prove sustainability of a project. • Stage 3: Tenure Management: Authority to Prospect and Petroleum Licences can change shape and be released respectively during their lifecycle. GIS is used to manage these. • Stage 4: Land Access: GIS used to interact with land holders and used to produce maps for legal documents such as lease agreements. • Stage 5: Asset Management: Fairly straight forward typical use here. • Stage 6 : Land Rehabilitation: Using image libraries and environmental data to return the land to its original state once contraction has moved on.Would you agree that most companies utilising GIS systems do notutilise the system to its full extent? How so?General answer to this is “no”, but that is not always a bad thing. GIS can becompared to other applications such as MS Word and Excel, where userstypically do not use the full potential of the product, but they still act as asatisfactory business tool to store and manipulate data effectively for thatorganisation. Here are some ideas we have initiated to get more out of ourGIS • Suggestion 1: Promote the system. Generally, people outside of GIS think of GIS just as “maps” or a graphic product, or the younger brother of CAD. Make your peers aware of the database capabilities of your GIS by importing their MS Excel and Access stores into your system. Demonstrate the 3D visualisation of your assets with LiDAR or contour data and use this for planning, generate cross sections for engineers etc. Build custom interfaces and add-ons for your users so they are not scared away of collecting and editing data inside a GIS environment, all GIS support this. Change your organisations perceived ideas of GIS as most see it as something between CAD and Photoshop. Buy some 2
  3. 3. donuts, send out an invitation and hold lunch time demos to show some cool aspects of GIS (2cm imagery, 3D fly throughs and cross sections, as well as stored attribute data and connections to other corporate systems). Also, grab a regular spot in your organisations’ corporate newsletter to promote what’s new and what’s coming. Demonstrate that your GIS can be used a major component of project management. • Suggestion 2: Get a “GIS Health Check-up”. Best to use a non- vendor specific expert to cast a fresh set of eyes over your systems as their suggestions if implemented can make a huge difference if they have relevant industry experience. • Suggestion 3: Use a “best of breed” approach. Don’t be afraid to use software from various vendors, mix and match for the best fit as most software support open standards and translation tools like FME can produce scripts to effortlessly migrate data. We use a mix of ArcGIS, Silverlight & .Net as well as other mobile mapping solutions. • Suggestion 4: Consider software as a Service (S.A.A.S.). In the very near future it will be commonplace to outsource cartographic jobs to anyone in the world to pick up excess short term work on a moment’s notice by just giving them your Cloud account name and subset of data, particularly I see mark up work being completed offshore. • Suggestion 5: Set GIS up as the central hub with the best interface in your organisation. Link to or even replicate data from non-spatial systems (including document management systems) and the organisation staff will prefer to use the simple GIS interface rather than learn six other corporate systems (and remember passwords). Make GIS a Mission Critical application. Also, don’t be bothered by exporting GIS data to corporate other systems as the major cost to your organisation is not in GIS software licence fees but rather the cost of acquiring quality data.What do you see as the range of strategies that a company could adoptto successfully manage the integrity of data?Follow these steps that I’ve implemented as it will assist with maintaining theintegrity of your data. 1) Establish a dedicated data team (that performs no cartographic functions, purely data) to manage the flow of data for your organisation at around 1/3 to ½ the size of your team. Set up local knowledge experts that specialise in certain areas. 2) Corporate network storage and structure. Our GIS data is split into several areas a) QA’d and published Corporate collected data from the field and office staff b) Data purchased by the Company stored as reference data and c) users “scratch” areas to store work in progress and “not ready for publication” 3) Limited Write access to the areas above for published and reference data. We have a ratio of 5 to 30 corporate GIS users with write 3
  4. 4. permissions to those with read permissions and then a further 90 users outside corporate GIS with read access also. Not everyone needs publishing permissions to corporate areas. 4) Introduce a scalable corporate data model for published data to keep it under control, use existing models such as P.O.D.s as a starting place. Maintain a history of previous revisions of planned asset locations in the database for reference. 5) ArcGIS users can set up Domain values on certain attributes and these can be directly imported as drop-down menu items on hand held field data capture devices so they only need to be set up once. 6) Apply QA checks at every stage of data’s lifecycle. Enforce mandatory fields on capture devices, use pull down menus, have one data model for everything from the data capture devices to master database, use FME to check topology when transferring data, do daily checks on data stored in the database.Shane is speaking at the GIS in Mining and Exploration event in March2011. For more information about this event, please or call 02 9229 1000. Or you can’t forget to follow us on Twitter via @MiningIQOverview of QGC & QGC GIS • QGC, about 10 years old, now about 3000 employees and contract staff (staff numbers have been doubling every year for the last few years). • Currently building Qld’s biggest infrastructure project ever with QCLNG • We have 30 professionals in our corporate GIS Team • We have 900 unique users for GIS products including ArcGIS installed on 100 machines 4
  5. 5. Company details here: 5