GMG developing Open Mining Format (OMF) Version 2.0

By Francine Harris

The Global Mining Guidelines Group (GMG) is developing Version 2.0 of the Open Mining Format (OMF), an open-source file specification for 3D data interoperability. Mining requires a wide range of spatial data, and new technologies are adding to their complexity. While these changes create better representations of geological phenomena, moving complex data between proprietary software formats is time-consuming and prone to error.

This project is being developed by the Data Exchange for Mine Software subcommittee of the GMG Data Access and Usage Working Group, a group of software vendors and mining companies with a shared vision for a more open and interoperable path forward. Four major software companies ­­– Seequent, Dassault Systèmes, Deswik and Micromine – have publicly committed to OMF, and several others are also contributing.

What is OMF 2.0?

The first version of OMF, launched in 2017, supports basic structures including points, lines, surfaces, meshes and volumes. The second version is extending that support to block models, computer-generated representations of orebodies that contain valuable data about them. Block models are widely used and are “a central artifact in the mining value chain, acting as the bridge between geological interpretation and mine planning and other processes,” says Sam Bain, Partner Integration Manager at Seequent and project leader. It was therefore not surprising that users identified block models as a critical pain point in GMG’s August 2018 end-user survey.

Block models, however, are more complex than the basic structures of OMF 1.0. While OMF 2.0 will be a more mature format in the end, Gustavo Pilger, Technology Research and Development Director at Dassault Systèmes, says developing it “will require extra dedication and effort” from the project group.

The variety of historical types and methods for subdividing block models is one of the key challenges of moving block models between software packages. Developing clear definitions of these subtypes was thus one of the first work items completed at the kick-off workshop held in Toronto in February.

Passing block model data between different software packages “would reduce any data corruption risks associated with the transformation between different mining software formats, as well as save time on running the transformations,” says Adam White, Technical Director at Deswik. For mining companies, Bain adds that time “can be better used to understand and exploit their valuable data.”

Gabriela Brandao, Principal Resource Modeler at Teck, confirms the format’s value: in her company’s multidisciplinary environment, it will “[allow] stakeholders from across the organization to access and share the latest version of block models, thus creating opportunity to improve the overall business decision-making process.”

On its current schedule, OMF 2.0 will launch in Q4 2019. To date, the project group has done significant work on the Python implementation. Once that implementation is complete, it will be translated to C++ to make it accessible to more software companies. Other next steps include developing more extensive documentation, changing the file format to use a zip-based container and investigating supporting more parametric types.

For Ivan Zelina, Chief Technology Officer at Micromine, the value of the project is also in the example it sets for the industry: “Successful development of what is a relatively complex block model standard will show the industry that it is possible to develop useful standards.”

Why commit to OMF 2.0?

Interoperability and integration are common driving factors bringing traditional competitors together to develop this format.

“Micromine sees OMF 2.0 as an important step towards easier integration in mining,” says Zelina. “Widespread adoption of the standard by traditional vendors will encourage even more open-source experimentation with inputs and outputs facilitated through OMF.”

“At Dassault Systèmes,” Pilger says, “we see interoperability among systems and their heterogeneous information as a requirement for realizing the vision of the autonomous mine. As such, facilitating interoperability through a file format exchange makes a lot of sense to us.”

As users, mining companies have an essential role to play in the future of OMF 2.0, Pilger explains, and there needs to be “increased guidance from them to both help validate and prioritize the evolution of the format to ensure that it meets the objective of solving some critical pain points expressed in the industry.” Mining companies are also crucial to getting the word out about the format and getting their software vendors to support it.

Collaboration and community

“OMF is collaborative and extensible,” says Bain about the development process itself where improvements are driven by industry engagement through workshops, surveys and conference calls. “It can and will change with the industry as required.”

“The open nature of the format also leads to community development and extension,” Bain adds. This community is visible in “growing engagement with OMF on the GitHub platform. A great example of this is the development of an open-source