Aspire Mining achieved cost and time savings using Pléiades 3D for rail infrastructure planning

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

Whilst Aspire Mining operates across Mongolia, its focus was the development of the business’ flagship ‘Ovoot Coking Coal Project’ in northern 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.

Pléiades 3D for rail infrastructure planning – case study with Aspire Mining


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 LLC, to deliver detailed maps and elevation data for specific areas of interest in the northern part of the country. 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, very high-resolution product  50 cm), with a worldwide daily revisit capability and the ability to acquire stereo and tristereo elevation solutions.

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 wintertime 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.

Pléiades 3D for rail infrastructure planning – case study with Aspire Mining