Welcome to our Meet the Experts Series

 

As part of our ongoing Meet the Experts series we will be profiling our diverse team of science and industry experts to provide insight into their industry backgrounds, the focus of their current research projects and product development, as well as their perspective on upcoming advancements in their respective fields.

 

 

Jean-Philippe Mercier

For our inaugural post, we are speaking to Jean-Phillipe Mercier who leads the development and delivery of seismic monitoring solutions that address the unique challenges of mining operations. In addition to a Ph.D. in Seismology, Jean-Phillipe also has extensive global experience in the mining industry, leading the development and implementation of monitoring solutions to identify and mitigate geotechnical risk. 
 

In this months’ discussion Jean-Phillipe shares his experience addressing the monitoring challenges faced by the mining industry as well as future opportunities to improve monitoring insights presented by under-utilized and emerging technologies.
 

 

CAN YOU TELL US WHAT DREW YOU TO YOUR ROLE AS THE HEAD OF MINING SOLUTIONS AT NANOMETRICS?

Yes, I was excited by the opportunity to help expand and enhance Nanometrics’ services offerings for the Mining market. The idea that event monitoring and data processing aren’t the endpoints of what a client needs; what a client really needs are insights, information, and intelligence from that data.

 

I’m passionate about working with clients and partners to find creative solutions to solve complex problems. Nanometrics' enterprise culture is dynamic and composed of highly skilled individuals collaborating with each other. The company has developed a solid foundation on which we are building a single robust solutions framework that will help mines meet and surpass their monitoring goals.

Oyu Tolgoi mine

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE MAIN CHALLENGES ARE FOR MICROSEISMIC MONITORING IN THE MINING INDUSTRY?

Microseismic monitoring is an important tool for mining operators, they have to ensure the safety of the workers underground and understand how the rock responds to mining. As the mines get bigger and deeper, understanding appropriately and quickly responding to how the rock mass behaves is becoming increasingly important. When mining in a high-stress environment of a block caving mine or a mine operating at 2000m or even 3000m, it is essential to have quick and reliable feedback on how the rock responds to mining. 

 

During my time as the Geotechnical Monitoring Superintendent at Oyu Tolgoi, we built a comprehensive geotechnical and seismic monitoring system comprising 1000s of sensors. It was challenging to find the right tools to manage and turn our data into actionable information. 

 

FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF MINING SEISMOLOGY HOLD?

The main purpose of mine seismology is to ensure the safety of the workforce underground. Seismic monitoring has proven its value over and over. I believe there is a need to better transform the data collected by in-mine microseismic monitoring systems into actionable information. To do so, improvements in imaging technologies, automatic processing capabilities, and the broader integration of artificial intelligence will be key. Seismic imaging and artificial intelligence are currently under-utilized and not well integrated with the current tool set. Improvements can be made all along the chain including more sensitive event detection, better event classification, impeccable and reliable real-time processing of the data, routine stress imaging and proper integration with complementary geotechnical data and observation to name only those.  

 

This is where I see a perfect match with Nanometrics’ strengths and research program.  My exploration of how deep learning can be applied to mining seismology to solve some fundamental and difficult problems aligns well with Nanometrics’ established machine learning program. Specifically, we are exploring how these tools could be used to perform event classification without requiring human intervention. 
 

My objective is to gain a solid understanding of the unique context of our client’s mines to develop a solution that best meets their unique needs.

ARE THERE OTHER TECHNOLOGIES YOU FEEL CAN BE APPLIED TO IMPROVIE THE INSIGHTS OF MINE MONITORING? 

Passive and ambient seismic noise imaging could also be better leveraged to provide near real-time 3D images of the rock mass in a mine. We can analyze how the seismic waves from two different events—such as noise from a crusher or a blast— travel through the rock and intersect along their paths. By pinpointing these interactions, we can collect some important information about the surrounding rock. This information is currently underutilized.

 

I am interested in how to apply this approach not just to transient, point sources of seismic activity, but to the ambient seismic noise that is always in the background. If you record that noise and how it scatters, reflects, and interacts with the rock, you can potentially build a much more detailed picture of what is happening inside the rock mass. We already do this to a certain extent in a static way, but I want to provide this type of information in real-time, on a continuous basis.

 

I believe that real-time imaging using ambient noise would be a game-changer as another component of a more holistic solution available to the industry. It would be an important part of the evolution of the current state of services to the next level of dynamic services for mining customers at Nanometrics and beyond.

 

WHAT CAN YOUR CLIENTS IN THE MINING SECTOR EXPECT?

I cannot emphasize enough that the primary objective of geotechnical monitoring is health and safety. The second priority then is production. Our clients are looking for data and analysis that will aid in the operation of the mine. More specifically, they need to understand the rock mass’s response to mining, the feedback, the rate at which they are mining, and whether they are mining in the right place. 

 

The challenge for every client is to design and deliver a system that will provide the right amount of data and necessary insights. My objective is to gain a solid understanding of the unique context of our client’s mines to develop a solution that best meets their unique needs. We also take a client-first approach to every problem and pride ourselves on elevating the level of service that our clients receive, not only from a technical perspective but with regards to response time and issue mitigation. Having an established service model from Nanometrics experience in other time-sensitive industrial applications, we have the right setup for ensuring quick and efficient delivery of information as well as helping clients with troubleshooting when unexpected occurrences change the monitoring landscape.

 

Get in touch with JP using the link below and stay tuned for the next installment in our Meet the Expert series.

 

Contact Jean-Philippe

 

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