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WATCH: Local company scans gold mines untouched for 100 years with flying and underwater drones
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Nir Pe'er, co-owner of Inspired Intelligence, uses an underwater drone to explore an untouched tunnel of the Consolidated Gold Mine in Dahlonega. Photo courtesy Inspired Intelligence

Through advanced technology, Nir and Amanda Pe’er, who co-own Inspired Intelligence in South Hall, have uncovered more than just a nugget about Dahlonega’s rich gold mining history and have helped a local business in the process. 

Spending months 200 feet underground in the city’s Consolidated Gold Mine, the company used special distance-measuring lasers to scan the mines, many of which have remained untouched for more than a century. They also explored the depths of the mines with underwater and flying drones. 

The space is run by the company Consolidated Gold Mine, which General Manager Dathan Harbert says uses one of its five mines to hold public tours. 

Harbert said Nir Pe’er and his family visited the Consolidated Gold Mine a couple times and later reached out to him about conducting a project in the mines. 

“When he approached us, we took it as, ‘This is going to be really cool, let’s give it a shot,’” Harbert recounted. “Then we realized that this is going to be an integral part of our expansion project.”  

The company had considered opening different portions of the underground property to the public. However, Harbert said they first needed to make sure certain sections were safe for visitors.   

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Using LiDAR scanning, Inspired Intelligence from South Hall, produced a 3D map of the Consolidated Gold Mine in Dahlonega. Photo courtesy Inspired Intelligence

Mapping the mines with technology 

Through LiDAR scanning, or measuring distances with lasers, the Pe’ers and their employees were able to produce a 3D map and model of the area, revealing untouched tunnels in the Dahlonega mines.  Nir Pe’er said the LiDAR device sends a powerful laser beam to a target area and measures the reflection with a sensor. The information gathered can then be used to provide a 3D representation of the space. 

“LiDAR scans are known for accuracy and speed,” he said. “Instead of having a crew there to measure each wall and each area, where they might take weeks or months, with LiDAR scanner, we did it in less than an hour.” 

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Nir Pe'er, co-owner of Inspired Intelligence in South Hall, operates a drone inside one of Dahlonega's gold mines. Photo courtesy Inspired Intelligence

Harbert said before Nir and Amanda Pe’er conducted their project, the only data about the property’s layout came from old journal entrees from mine engineers, which are kept in the Consolidated Gold Mine’s historical collection. 

“This is the first time it has been mapped,” he said. “Several of the documents say things like ‘There’s a shaft 300 feet from the corner of this building.’ But that building is no longer there. We had to guess and estimate.” 

Nir Pe’er said he started the project in June and ended in late August. Because of his team’s success, he said they were invited to return and uncover more untouched territory later this fall.  

“The entire purpose of (the) project was to document, record history and to give them the tools and data to come up with a future plan to accomplish what they want to do,” Nir Pe’er said. “Dathan and his guys were absolutely amazing. They supported everything and helped with everything.” 

Harbert and his staff guided the Inspired Intelligence group into the mines, taking them to areas inaccessible to the public. After a couple of scouting sessions, they were let loose to perform their work.  

Nir Pe’er said his day-to-day work mostly entails flying drones for customers and offering LiDAR scanning of building or properties, including historic sites. Until June, he said he had never tackled anything near the scale of the mine-mapping project. 

While underground, he said most of his work was conducted in complete darkness. He walked through parts of the mines blocked off to the public, sometimes perching on slippery boulders while manning his drones. 

"We were dealing with humidity, water that was dripping all over the mine and mud,” Nir Pe’er said. “We were in areas that nobody has visited for generations. This was an unusual environment to work with. We had to deal with limitations of the equipment.” 

He said the LiDAR scanner had to stay at a level position when operated, and on a few occasions, his team had to crawl on their knees to complete the scan. With the flying drones, he said some portions involved operating a machine without seeing it. Luckily, none of the equipment was harmed, but Nir Pe’er said he did have his fears. 

"We definitely took a big leap of faith to do the project in such an environment on such a large scale,” he said. “But we do what we love. We’re very passionate about this.” 

Uncovering gold 

By using an underwater drone, Harbert said a submerged tunnel he’d been curious about for years was finally visible. 

“Nobody has been in it,” he said. “It was a lot deeper and further into the mine than anticipated.” 

While looking at the video footage, Harbert said he also noticed some quartz veins left in the mine. Gold miners have historically used the quartz veins to lead them to gold, granting the veins the nickname “path to gold.”  

“We watched the video a couple of times and you can see some awesome quartz veins running through the rock in places we’ve never been able to get to,” he said. “There’s definitely plenty of gold.” 

Harbert estimates the mines have 4.5 miles of tunnels. However, he said Consolidated Gold Mine is “barely breaking the surface on what it really encompasses.” 

Through Inspired Intelligence’s help, Harbert said the Dahlonega company has already started the first phase of its expansion by cleaning up areas marked safe to the public.  

By summer or fall next year, he hopes to unveil the new space to visitors.  

“Next October we’re celebrating our 30th anniversary of the underground tours,” he said. “At the moment, we look to double the length of our current tour, which is very exciting.” 

The Consolidated Gold Mine, located at 185 Consolidated Gold Mine Road in Dahlonega, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. For more information about Inspired Intelligence, visit iidronesusa.com.  

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