Monitoring Underground Mine Displacement Using Photogrammetry and Laser Scanning

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Virginia Tech


Photogrammetry and laser scanning are remote sensing technologies with the potential to monitor movements of rock masses and their support systems in underground mine environments. Displacements underground are traditionally measured through point measurement devices, such as extensometers. These are generally restricted to measuring one dimension, may change behavior with installation, may obstruct mining operations, and are restricted to monitoring the behavior of a small area. Photogrammetry and laser scanning offer the ability to monitor rock mass movements at millions of points in a local area, both accurately and quickly. An improved, or augmented, method for measuring displacements underground in a practical, cost-effective manner will lead to an improved understanding of rock mass behavior.

Several experiments were performed that demonstrate the applicability of these remote sensing techniques to monitoring rock mass changes. An underground mining environment presents unique challenges to using these tools for monitoring rock movements, such as: poor lighting, dust, fog, and unfavorable geometries. It is important, therefore, to demonstrate that these tools which have applications in other industries, can also be adapted to the conditions of an underground mine. The study sites chosen include two different underground limestone mines, two different underground coal mines, and the Mine Roof Simulator (MRS) at the Pittsburgh Office of Mine Safety and Health Research.

Both photogrammetry and laser scanning were tested at different limestone mines to detect scaling and spalling on ribs that occurred over several weeks. Both methods were successfully used to reconstruct three-dimensional models of the limestone ribs and detect areas of rock change between visits. By comparing the reconstructed point clouds, and the triangulated meshes created from them, volumes of rock change could be quantified. The laser scanned limestone mine showed a volume of 2.3 m3 and 2.6 m3 being displaced across two ribs between visits. The photogrammetry study involved seven different pillars and at least one rib face modeled on each, with volume changes of 0.29 to 4.03 m3 detected between visits. The rock displaced from the ribs could not be measured independently of the remote sensing, but a uniform absence of rock movement across large areas of the mine validates the accuracy of the point clouds. A similar test was performed using laser scanning in an underground coal mine, where the displacement was induced by removing material by hand from the ribs. Volume changes as small as 57 cm3, or slightly larger than a golf ball, and as large as 57,549 cm3, were detectable in this environment, despite the change in rib surface reflectance and mine geometry.

In addition to the rib displacement, photogrammetry was selected as a tool for monitoring standing supports in underground coal mines. The additional regulatory restrictions of underground coal may preclude the use of laser scanning in these mines where deformation is most likely to occur. The camera used for photogrammetry is ATEX certified as explosion proof and is indicative of the specifications that could be expected in an MSHA approved camera. Three different experiments were performed with this camera, including a laboratory controlled standing support deformation at the MRS and an in-mine time-lapse experiment measuring the response of a wooden crib and steel support to abutment loading. The experiment reconstructing a standing support in the MRS showed a cumulative convergence of 30.93 cm through photogrammetry and 30.48 cm as measured by the system. The standing support monitoring in the underground coal mine environment showed a steel support cumulative convergence of 1.10 cm, a wooden crib cumulative convergence of 0.62 cm, and a measured cumulative convergence on the wooden crib of 0.62 cm.

These techniques explored in this report are not intended to supplant, but rather supplement, existing measurement technologies. Both laser scanning and photogrammetry have physical and regulatory limitations in their application to measuring underground mine deformations, however, their ability to provide time-lapse three-dimensional measurements of entire mine sections is a strength difficult to emulate with traditional point measurement techniques. A fast, cost-effective, and practical application of remote sensing to monitoring mine displacements will improve awareness and understanding of rock mass behavior.



photogrammetry, laser scanning, underground mines, longwall mining, monitoring