New technology can help cut mine fatalities, VIST Robotics CTO says

Anton Potapov, Chief Technology Officer at VIST Robotics, thinks technology has a key role to play in reducing the number of fatalities experienced in the mining industry.

Potapov said some 77% of all mining accidents resulting in a fatality are tied to human interaction with equipment. With more than 2,500 deaths in 2018 alone, according to the International Mining Fatality Review, that is a lot of avoidable fatalities.

“The design of fit for purpose equipment is a very important aspect to be analysed and focusing on this area is an important way to reduce fatalities,” he said.

“Now we have technology that allows us to reduce human involvement in a dangerous process. Artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things and robotisation, combined, could turn into what is to be called the ‘intelligent mine’,” he said.

VIST Group, a subsidiary of Zyfra Group after a recent $30 million takeover, has some experience in applying this technology. It is a leader in the field of development and implementation of IT and AI in the mining and metallurgical industries, and is involved in the automation of industrial vehicles.

“In end-to-end smart mining, you remove all personnel from autonomous operating zone and leave robots to themselves. If you need a person or vehicle in there, you equip them with trackers and every autonomous truck watches them carefully.”

This could lead to fatalities dropping to zero, he said.

“Moreover, the economic and ecological impact are respectively positive: as the use of self-driving vehicles and smart machines allows to reduce costs, it also allows to cut emissions,” he said.

He concluded: “The industrial sector is conservative but, as the benefit is obvious, it is not only about the industry but about the society as we shall support any innovation that can help us to save lives and the environment.”