Case Studies

Aspire Mining Achieved Cost and Time Savings Using Pléiades 3D for Rail Infrastructure Planning

Pleiades 3D rail infrastructure planning

Pleiades 3D rail infrastructure planning

Company / Organisation(s) involved

Aspire Mining Limited is a partnership of Mongolian/Australian interests, focused on the development of world-class premium coal deposits in Mongolia.

Whilst Aspire operates across Mongolia, a current focus is the development of the business’ flagship ‘Ovoot Coking Coal Project’ in northern Mongolia. The Ovoot Project currently has a probable JORC Compliant Coal Reserve of 255 Mt of coking coal and is classed as the second largest coking coal reserve in Mongolia.

The success of the Ovoot Project is dependent on the development of essential rail infrastructure to connect it to the Trans-Mongolian Railway at Erdenet in northern Mongolia. This aspect of the project is being driven by Aspire’s Mongolian infrastructure subsidiary, Northern Railways LLC.



With mineral resources regularly being discovered in some of the world’s most remote, inaccessible locations, a common challenge for those involved in exploration is identifying new transportation routes and likely challenges related to bringing the products to market.

This was precisely the challenge faced by Aspire Mining’s Mongolian rail infrastructure subsidiary, Northern Railways LLC. It was responsible for connecting Erdenet to the remote exploration location Ovoot. However, before ground could be broken, extensive pre-feasibility studies were necessary for governmental approval and to cost-effectively identify the infrastructure required.

Solution & Results

Airbus Defence and Space was contacted by Aspire Mining through its local distributor Geomaster to deliver detailed maps and elevation data for specific areas of interest in Northern part of Mongolia. The purpose of the request was to facilitate the effective planning and engineering of the essential rail infrastructure required to connect the Ovoot project with Erdenet.

Using its extensive expertise and state of the art satellite technology, Airbus Defence and Space provided the required high-resolution stereo imagery from its Pléiades satellite constellation.  The optical Pléiades satellite constellation provides premium, high-resolution imagery (50 cm), with a worldwide daily revisit capability in record time and the capacity to deliver stereo and tristereo maps.

Aspire Mining local partner, Geomaster LLC, then used the delivered images to establish control points on the ground before Airbus Defence and Space’s team were able to develop the 3D vector map. This exclusive data set provided information on terrain features, such as elevation, buildings and roads, as well as cultural landmarks and potential obstacles and became the core tool for Aspire Mining’s desktop engineering project, used to identify the most direct infrastructure route and conduct all pre-feasibility studies.


Following delivery of the desktop engineering project, Aspire Mining was able to progress regulatory approvals from the Mongolian Government for its pre- feasibility study. However, the biggest benefit was a much shorter and more direct route between Ovoot and Erdenet being discovered, positioning the rail line further south than originally planned.

The area was fully acquired from the beginning of October to the beginning of December 2013 within 2 months, just before the winter. And the processing of 1:5000 scale topographic map was generated during the winter time within 4 months which helped Aspire to start engineering studies much earlier than expected.

Furthermore, the new, shorter rail path is also expected to achieve a substantial reduction in operating costs. This highlights the significant financial and risk-minimising potential of satellite imagery based desktop engineering projects, which don’t only help to identify the shortest transportation route, but also include other critical terrain characteristics and cultural landmarks, giving engineers the chance to take all factors for successful infrastructure planning into account.

“With the use of the Pléiades mapping and other technologies under licence we were able to achieve cost and time reductions. This is critical in the early planning stages of major capital project development.”

Matthew Crompton, director of Infrastructure Developement
Aspire Mining Limited


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