Leading underground contract miner Redpath Australia is embracing the benefits of digital training by putting advanced Sandvik simulators to use, both at its head office in Brisbane and on site.
Wanting to explore the safety and productivity gains of virtual training methods, Redpath has been using simulators for Sandvik’s AutoMine® automation system, LH517i loader and DS422i cable bolter since July 2023 and a jumbo DD422i simulator from March 2023. The simulators, which have been provided for periods of between one and six weeks, will help Redpath to train new operators and upskill existing team members without disrupting production or entering the mine environment.
The use of the simulators follows Sandvik and Redpath signing a global framework agreement at the end of 2022 opening the way for increased cooperation and standardising of equipment.
Redpath Australia Managing Director Gavin Ramage says the company is always looking for ways to do training better. “We have used simulators in the past and we’re likely to be using them more often in the future,” he says. “We see the Sandvik simulators as a good tool for familiarising our operators with different kinds of gear. And we know that the more skilled that our operators are, the better the safety outcomes, the better the productivity, and the better the result for our clients.”
Redpath Australia’s current operations include providing full mining services at Glencore’s Lady Loretta Mine in northwest Queensland. The company’s fleet of jumbos, cable bolters and loaders are entirely Sandvik, as is roughly half of its truck fleet.
The simulators for Sandvik AutoMine® and the Sandvik LH517i loader have been used to train operators at Redpath Australia’s headquarters in Brisbane, a DD422i simulator is in use at Dugald River while the DS422i cable bolter simulator is being used at the company’s Olympic Dam operation in South Australia.
Sandvik Australia Key Account Manager Stuart Stolz facilitated training of Redpath operators on the equipment in Brisbane. He says the digital trainers will provide Redpath operators with a highly realistic training experience, allowing them to rapidly gain knowledge and confidence.
“Using a Sandvik simulator means there’s no need to pull a machine out of service – where it’s being productive – in order to conduct training,” he says. “They can be used in environments like offices, which allows new operators to become familiar with the equipment in a totally safe location before they enter the mine.”
Gavin Ramage concurs. “The two key benefits for us are that the operation isn’t affected while you’re training, and for new operators it’s a lot safer to do something on the simulator rather than in the field.”
The Sandvik LH517i digital trainer features a steering wheel, switches, and control system display like that in real Sandvik LH517i loaders. It can be used to teach operators to avoid breakdowns and unnecessary damage to the loader, reducing overall maintenance costs and increasing productivity. The Sandvik DS422i trainer provides a similar immersive training experience for Sandvik’s DS422i cable bolter.
The Sandvik AutoMine® Training Simulator allows operators to run AutoMine® for loaders and trucks without tying up a machine or production, saving money without sacrificing production time. The full-sized station version comes complete with an operator chair, while a portable version can be carried in two practical, light-weight trolley cases.
Gavin Ramage explains he expects the simulators to be used to upskill hundreds of operators during their time with Redpath. He says the staff reaction has been positive. “We believe strongly in training and investing in our people. And with simulators, they are able to clearly see that we are making that investment and working to improve their skills.”
Brock Merrion is an AutoMine® operator at Redpath Australia’s Lady Lorretta Mine. He was highly impressed by the AutoMine® simulator during a trial at Redpath’s Brisbane office. “The simulator helps people to get a little bit of confidence,” he says. “I sit people in the chair when I start training them out at Lady Loretta and they’re very nervous. But to use a simulator and know that they aren’t going to damage a machine is a step in the right direction. People get nervous, and when they’re nervous their brain doesn’t talk to their hands or feet. I think this will help overcome that.”
Redpath Australia is a leading underground contract miner and provides full mining services across Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. Some of their larger projects include Glencore’s Lady Loretta Mine, MMG’s Dugald River, BHP’s Olympic Dam, South32’s Cannington Mine and Aurelia’s Federation mine in central Western NSW.