Tag Archives: mine safety

Epiroc makes significant safety stride with RCS Collision Avoidance System interface

Epiroc says it recently launched an offering that aims to support safety in underground mining environments with the RCS based Collision Avoidance System (CAS) interface.

Proximity Detection System (PDS) suppliers, compliant to the ISO 21815-2 Draft (March 2018), are able to interface with Epiroc RCS Materials Handling TMM (Trackless Mobile Machinery) to enable functionality for slowing and stopping, in what the PDS perceives to be a hazardous or unwanted event, Epiroc explains.

The interface allows for third-party systems to communicate with Epiroc’s Rig Control System, RCS, in a completely new way, Epiroc claims. This enables a third-party PDS added to the vehicle, when needed, to take interventional control of the machine and prevent accidents.

The CAS Interface, when coupled with a PDS, helps to detect objects in the collision risk area, evaluate the collision risk level and take interventional actions to avoid the potential collision, the company says. The system works on the understanding that all machines and all personnel in the mine are equipped with tags or sensors.

“A CAS installation is intended to assist with operator perception of potential hazards around the machine and prevention of potential incidents where operators cannot respond in time, however the overall responsibility for safe operation of the machine remains with the operator,” Epiroc said.

Daniel Sandström, Global Product Manager-Minetruck, in Epiroc’s Underground division, said: “With safety first and always in mind, I am proud to see the release of the Collision Avoidance System interface. This improves safety underground in a ground-breaking way.”

The CAS interface, which is now available for the complete Epiroc RCS Loader fleet as well as for Minetruck MT42 and soon thereafter for the Minetruck MT65, has been tested by customers, who have been pleased with the performance and functionality, Epiroc said.

Kumeshan Naidu, Integration Manager M&A, at Epiroc’s Technology and Digital division, said: “The Epiroc RCS CAS interface performed as designed, demonstrating high consistency in the cases where the PDS provided reliable input signals.

“The CAS initiative is not a ‘plug and play’ solution and must be tailored, with the participation of all parties to suite a particular site. Change management and risk mitigation strategies on these sites are key when implementing the system.”

Moving forward, Naidu can see further potential: “Solutions like Mobilaris On-Board can augment a mine’s efforts to ensure safety, as well as create a more ‘natural’ state of awareness that underground TMM operators can respond to. With an interface that is more familiar to the operator, who typically drives commercial vehicles (GPS, Waze, Google Maps), their reflex is to naturally avoid a potential unwanted event from occurring. An operator or pedestrian that is equipped with real-time information about their surroundings, through systems like Mobilaris’ MMI, On-board and Pocket Mine, will be better suited to promote a safe working environment; one in which the CAS slow down and stop functionality is a last resort in preventing collision events.”

Epiroc is part of the ISO standard working group where new standards are being developed. It is also participating in the International Council for Mining and Metals (ICMM) initiative for Vehicle Interaction.

Epiroc intends to change the interface from supporting ISO 21815-2 Draft March 2018 to further supporting the final version of ISO 21815-2 within a year of ISO 21815-2 being released.

De Beers to boost southern Africa safety performance with advanced driver assistance systems

De Beers Group says it is rolling out the use of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) across its operations in southern African, following two phases that saw the technology installed on buses and any vehicles that carry four or more people.

The world’s leading diamond producer places “Putting Safety First Everywhere” as its number one value and has been fatality-free for the past two years, according to Dr Urishanie Govender, De Beers Group Head of Safety and Sustainable Development.

“The application of ADAS aligns with our culture of pioneering brilliance as we equip our operations for FutureSmart Mining,” Dr Govender says. “This exciting initiative has provided another valuable tool for our amazing people on site who are constantly looking for ways to improve our safety performance.”

She highlights that the intervention contributes to the De Beers Group’s critical control management, one of the areas for advancement identified at the company’s regular safety summits.

“Driven by the chief executive officers across the group, the specific focus areas are Competence, Culture, Connectedness, and Cultivating Care to enable everyone to be Ready to Respond to Risks,” she said.

Head of Asset Strategy and Reliability at De Beers Group, Meshal Ruplal, says the first phase of the ADAS initiative saw the technology being installed on buses and any vehicles that carry five or more people. In a second phase, vehicles with four passengers were fitted with the equipment. The technology comprises a range of functionality, including cameras to monitor “harsh and distracted driving”, the company said.

“The camera software can also check on the driver’s eyelid movements and other indicators of drowsiness, and can transmit short video clips to a control room for improved monitoring,” Ruplal says. “It can register infringements like changing lanes without indicating, or crossing a solid barrier line.”

The technology – which has been proven in the trucking industry abroad – assists the driver by checking if there is a safe distance to the vehicle in front, recognising speed limit signs and detecting whether the seat belt is being worn.

“ADAS makes an important contribution to our coaching and training activities, as the data we gather is fed back to drivers to continuously improve their performance,” Ruplal says. “Used as a proactive warning system, the technology has generally received good support from drivers and their trade unions.”

He notes that De Beers Group’s contractors – who assume much of the company’s staff transportation function – have been quick to come on board and align with the ever more stringent safety standards.

From compliance to commitment: a key opportunity for the global mining industry

In the lead up to the AusIMM Underground Operators Conference in March, Roy Slack, immediate past President of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) and Underground Operators keynote speaker, has shared his insights on the future of underground mining and the positive impact technology can have on safety.

With 35 years of global experience in mine construction, design and development, Slack is passionate about securing the mining industry’s place as a global leader for change.

“Our industry is on a journey from compliance to commitment,” he said. “From a state where we strive to just meet regulatory requirements, to a place where we meet and far surpass those requirements – not because we are legally required to do so, but because it is a moral imperative.”

Slack discusses how young professionals have an exciting opportunity to build the future of underground mining.

“Today’s youth are entering the industry, or have the opportunity to enter our industry, at a time of great change,” he said. “Change in technology, change in how we deal with people, change in the overall business model that is mining.”

As the mining industry rapidly transforms with new technologies and exciting innovations, Slack believes the whole sector needs to get on board with a fresh way of thinking.

“We need people that thrive on change, that embrace and know what to do with it.”

After such a challenging year, Slack is confident in the resiliency of the mining industry.

“What we continue to see during this pandemic is our industry recognised as an essential service, and mining companies taking the lead when it comes to establishing protocols to protect their people from the virus,” he said.

The industry’s reaction to COVID-19 displayed its agility in adjusting to circumstances, Slack says.

“Productivity did not suffer, and employees were able to better deal with work and home needs.”

Slack has been active in numerous safety initiatives over the years, as well as being appointed to the Province of Ontario’s first Prevention Council, advising the government on workplace safety. He also chairs the CIM Safety Committee.

He says new technologies will create a real sense of support and safety in the workplace for all professionals.

“I am excited about the huge potential of emerging technologies to make our workplaces not just safer, but safe,” he said. “Technology has always been an important part of safety, but the more recent applications of the technology available to us add a whole new perspective on our journey to zero injuries.”

Slack looks forward to the positive and safer benefits technology can create for on-site workers, with the pandemic in some cases speeding up the implementation of automation, remote operations and more.

Ultimately, Slack sees best practice in safety as a three-part equation: “Process, culture and technology; together protecting our people and ultimately achieving a safe workplace,” he said.

AusIMM’s Underground Operators Conference will be held from March 15-17, 2021, via a hybrid format, which offers an opportunity for delegates to attend face-to-face in Perth, Australia or online.

Find out more at https://www.ausimm.com/conferences-and-events/underground-operators

International Mining is a media sponsor of the event

Impairment Science launches new impairment monitoring tool

Impairment Science Inc has released a new tool that could help mining companies test whether employees are unimpaired and, therefore, fit for duty.

Druid Enterprise embeds the Druid impairment app into a cloud-based management portal for business managers to monitor and analyse employees’ Druid tests and flag individuals who may be impaired.

ISI’s goal is to help employers create a ‘culture of safety’ in the workplace, particularly in the construction, manufacturing, mining, and transportation industries, it said.

“Druid assesses performance impairment due to any cause, including marijuana, opioids, prescription medicines, illicit drugs, alcohol, fatigue, illness, chronic health conditions, or injury, such as concussion,” the company said. “Grounded in neuroscience research on impairment, the app requires users to perform four game-like tasks that measure reaction time, decision-making accuracy, hand-eye coordination, time estimation, balance, and the ability to perform divided-attention tasks.”

All four tasks can be completed in under three minutes, with the app collecting and integrating hundreds of measurements during that time to produce an overall impairment score.

“Through Druid Enterprise, employees’ impairment scores can be viewed individually or collectively by score range, age range, gender, or workgroup (production, distribution, sales, administration, etc), either for a specific date or over a period of time (by week, month, days of the week, etc),” the company said. “Graphical displays draw attention to higher scores or a pattern of scores that may indicate impairment and thus warrant further examination.”

Dr Michael Milburn, Druid’s inventor and ISI’s founder, said: “Researchers at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the University of Colorado and Washington State University have confirmed Druid’s accuracy and sensitivity. Druid is the only impairment measurement tool that is quick, portable, objective, accurate, sensitive, and inexpensive, and that’s why it’s now being used by several other high-profile researchers who study impairment.”

The first Druid Enterprise pilot was conducted at a large Canadian underground mine, according to CEO Rob Schiller.

“This collaboration allowed us to finetune the app’s enterprise capabilities to deliver the kinds of data presentations that management could use in real time to protect their workers’ safety on the job,” he said.

The mine subsequently licensed Druid Enterprise, and that set the stage for ISI to initiate several other pilot programs in mining and manufacturing companies.

Alongside the Druid Enterprise launch, Impairment Science also released a new version of the Druid impairment app for personal use to improve user experience. This update improves accuracy, clarifies instructions, and provides additional ways for users to interpret their performance scores, according to the company.

Murray & Roberts Cementation achieves major safety milestone

The year has started strongly for mining services specialist Murray & Roberts Cementation, with a safety achievement of five million fatality-free shifts.

According to Mike Wells, Managing Director of Murray & Roberts Cementation, this landmark has been reached as part of a concerted corporate journey towards Zero Harm.

“This exciting milestone, which we reached in early January 2021, is the result of years of commitment by every member of the company – through multiple initiatives and programs,” Wells said. “This has included our unrelenting focus on the Major Accident Prevention program, as well as stringent risk assessments and the verification of critical controls in the field.”

Perhaps the greatest outcome of these efforts, he highlighted, is that the company’s safety leadership has succeeded in motivating and inspiring all employees in fully internalising safety principles. This has entrenched the belief that Zero Harm can indeed be achieved, with each employee returning home safely every day.

“We have seen a vital attitudinal change over the years, where success has bred more success and all our people take ownership of their safe work practices – both personally and collectively,” Wells said. “This builds a resilient safety culture, which has included a crucial commitment to doing work right the first time.”

Underpinning much of the success in safe working practices has been the increased investment in effective training strategies at the Murray & Roberts Training Academy at Bentley Park near Carletonville, South Africa. Here, the latest technologies and methods – supported by realistic mock-ups of mining environments – ensure workers are fully prepared for all working conditions.

“Our mining customers today regard the commitment to fatality-free operations as a given – not only for themselves but for their service providers,” Wells said. “We are proud to be able to demonstrate our success as part of the broader progress in this field by the whole mining sector.”

Over the years during which the five million fatality-free shifts have been achieved, Murray & Roberts Cementation has conducted a diverse range of projects across sub-Saharan Africa, including large shaft sinking contracts. Employee numbers over this time have averaged about 4,000, Wells said.

Caterpillar and Guardhat collaborate to improve surface mining safety

Caterpillar says it is collaborating with Guardhat to offer its proven safety solutions to surface mining operations through Cat® dealers.

The two companies are also developing a new system, Cat Connected Worker, which will use wearables to provide added protection for people. The new system will also deliver event-based monitoring and mapping to aid analysis and enhancement of the mining environment, Cat says.

Bill Dears, Cat MineStar™ Solutions Marketing Manager, said: “Leveraging Guardhat technology, proven in challenging industrial settings, will speed development of a comprehensive, digital solution sought by mining customers. As a component of Cat MineStar Detect safety capabilities, Connected Worker will provide insight that will enable managers to create safer operations ‒ and to respond quickly if an incident does occur.”

Indranil Roychoudhury, Chief Operating Officer, Guardhat, said: “We are pleased to work with Caterpillar to deliver ‘smart’ technology to enhance miners’ safety. Our safety monitoring and data analysis system is a multi-product, feature-packed intelligent safety and productivity system that integrates cutting-edge wearable technology and advanced proprietary software. It is equipped to detect, alert and help prevent industrial work-related incidents, and it is designed to collect and analyse data to support and improve worker safety and productivity programs.”

When developed, Cat Connected Worker will provide precise location of all workers to the mine monitoring system, and it will allow communication between individuals, teams and sites, according to the company. Data will enable monitoring personnel to understand the environment workers are facing in near real time, which will facilitate decision making.

As part of Cat MineStar, Connected Worker will be supported by Cat dealers worldwide. The same Cat dealers are equipped to supply current Guardhat technology to surface mining operations of all types.

Connected devices in the Guardhat line include hard hats, personnel tags, asset tags and smartphones using Guardhat applications. The system is Wi-Fi and cellular compatible for communications with the Safety Control Center.

Safety-rated lockout system wins plaudits at IMII innovation awards

Sudbury-based SafeBox has won the International Mineral Innovation Institute (IMII) Innovation Award for Best Safety Innovation Product.

This award, presented on behalf of IMII and the Saskatchewan Mining Supply Chain Forum, follows a nomination by EECOL Electric.

Gabriel Janakaraj, Business Development Manager for SafeBox, said: “We at SafeBox and Ionic are excited to receive this award.

“As a new initiative, this is an incredible milestone and one that will motivate us to continue innovating in the mining industry and beyond. This is a great example of how something that seems simple on paper can not only increase production performance but spark a revolution in how we approach occupational safety.”

Andre Dumais, President of Ionic Mechatronics, added: “It’s an honour to receive this award. We want to provide organisations with a safer and more efficient way to complete energy isolation procedures. Safety and innovation are at the core of SafeBox, and this award highlights that we are on the right track.”

SafeBox is a safety-rated lockout system that mechanically isolates various energy sources from a single location. This system provides an innovative approach for a safer, more efficient, and effective lockout and tagout process, according to the company.

SafeBox is manufactured in Canada, and its development is supported by Ionic Mechatronics.

UP’s Vehicle Dynamics Group to boost UG mine safety with new testing facility

An engineering team at the University of Pretoria (UP) has pioneered an underground procedure which tests the performance of collision avoidance systems (CAS) in an effort to improve the safety of workers on mines through reducing unwanted interaction between vehicles and pedestrians.

The Vehicle Dynamics Group (VDG) is a research unit at UP’s Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering that is actively involved in the South Africa and international mining industry.

It saw a need to develop such a system based on the continued number of fatalities that have occurred as a result of interaction with mining machines and to be in step with subsequent changes (yet to be promulgated) in Chapter 8 of South Africa’s Mine Health and Safety Act (1996) that requires trackless mobile machines to warn the operator if a significant risk of collision exists. If the operator fails to heed the warning, the machine must automatically slow down and stop safely.

“Mining machines are becoming smarter by the day, with smart, connected vehicles promising to be the mining method of the future,” Professor Schalk Els, VDG Researcher, said. “Smart mining machines are now utilising technology such as high-precision GPS and automotive radars to prevent unwanted interaction with other machines, pedestrians and infrastructure.”

Dr Herman Hamersma, also a VDG Researcher, added: “This development is a stepping stone to full autonomy – not only on mines but in urban and highway environments too. Mining machines typically perform repetitive tasks with well-defined mission profiles, which allows for the automation of many of their operations.”

The VDG has aided in the formulation of industry guidelines to analyse and improve the readiness level of collision avoidance offerings on the market, according to UP, and has developed a standard testing procedure to evaluate both surface and underground collision management systems based on guidelines set out by the Minerals Council South Africa.

CAS assessments were previously limited to above-ground testing, with UP saying its involvement has brought about change in the CAS space, having contributed significantly to the increasing maturity of commercial offerings.

“With the VDG’s recent development of an underground testing system, it is anticipated that the technology readiness of current underground CAS offerings will be even more improved,” it said.

The performance of CAS is tested by way of a stage-gate approach. The first stage gate is a lab-scale test conducted on light vehicles in a controlled environment. The CAS is installed on the light vehicles exactly as would be in a mining environment.

Dr Hamersma said: “These vehicles are equipped with brake robots that control the stopping distance and can be controlled to represent minimum brake specifications, while high-precision GPS accurately measures the speeds and positions of the vehicles. An advanced data capturing and control system is used to control the brake robot and to record the GPS data, and the decisions communicated to the test vehicle by the CAS.”

If the CAS passes the lab-scale test, it can proceed to the next stage-gate, where the system is subjected to a single interaction test conducted in an environment that is more representative of a mine. To date, testing has been limited to surface tests due to the reliance on high-precision GPS as the ground truth measurement. However, the VDG team’s recent development of an underground system makes use of LiDAR (which uses laser light to calculate distances), cameras and automotive radar to measure the distance between objects and their speeds.

The system has been tested at a training facility at one of South Africa’s underground mines, and the first live underground single interaction test is in the pipeline. The system will be used to validate the lab-scale results of underground CAS solutions in their intended underground environment where line of sight, dust and uneven, slippery road surfaces are serious concerns.

The international community has noticed the activity in this space in South Africa, and this has led to collaborations with international CAS vendors and industry bodies such as the International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM), the ISO working group leading the development of the collision avoidance standard and a project in collaboration with Mining3, a research institute based in Australia that was funded by the Australian Coal Association Research Programme (ACARP).

CEA-Leti and Davey Bickford Enaex extend electronic initiation system collaboration

CEA-Leti and Davey Bickford Enaex, a worldwide leader in blasting solutions, have extended their joint laboratory project for another three years to, they say, “continue development of innovative radio-frequency communication systems that remotely control networks of high-tech wireless electronic detonators”.

The common lab will build on the partners’ recent success in developing an electronic initiation system without using surface wire that offers increased safety, flexibility and productivity to the blasting market. Like the earlier partnership, the ongoing work will take place in the frame of IRT Nanoelec, a Grenoble-based consortium focused on R&D in the field of semiconductor devices and ICT technologies.

The recently developed system consists of DaveyTronic® electronic detonators with bi-directional radio modules placed on the surface of an open-pit mine. The wireless network communicates with a digital blasting system located a few kilometers away from the blasting zone and is controlled by a wireless communication protocol specifically developed and optimised to ensure safe, reliable and synchronised operation of hundreds of detonating elements in open-pit mines. A key innovation of the new blasting solution is the wireless activation of the detonators, the companies say.

“Most mining operators around the world are striving to cope with the challenges of always guaranteeing the safety of their personnel during blasting operations and always searching for ways to increase productivity,” they said. “One of the ways to do that is limiting the time spent on the bench while priming the blast.”

The main safety benefit of a wired electronic initiation system is offering bi-directional communication between the detonators and the blasting equipment. The challenge for CEA-Leti and Davey Bickford Enaex was to remove the surface wire, generating a significant reduction of the operations on the bench (connecting, troubleshooting), while keeping this two-way communication.

“This new system, called DaveyTronic Edge, is paving the way to teleoperated/ automated priming operations,” the companies said.

Nicolas Besnard, Technologies and Systems Director of Davey Bickford Enaex, said: “As a global leader in blasting solutions, our company is committed to developing innovative pyrotechnic-initiation systems for mining and blasting companies around the world.

“Our collaboration with CEA-Leti has been a strong, two-way partnership that has helped Davey Bickford maintain its position in the blasting industry, and this extended common lab will help ensure we continue to offer our customers the latest in productive, safe and reliable systems in the digital era.”

Swan Gerome, Business Development Manager at CEA-Leti, said: “CEA-Leti’s expertise in radio technologies for industry, including radio-frequency system characterisation and channel-sounding tools, is a good match for Davey Bickford’s vision of providing digital technologies to the mining and blasting industries.

“This extension will open the way for us to continue innovating to bring new solutions to those markets.”

Ausdrill gets hands on with hands-off-steel diamond drilling tech

With Ausdrill having recently added a Boart Longyear LF160 drill rig and FL262 FREEDOM™ LOADER combination to its diamond drilling fleet in Australia, IM caught up with Eric Gobbert, Senior Operations Manager, Exploration, to find out more about the company’s ‘hands-off-steel’ initiatives.

The newest coring rig – capable of pulling a 4.5 m sample – comes with a tilting top drive head to simplify rod handling, a foot clamp and braking device, and visible wireline. This is the second LF160 in Ausdrill’s portfolio, and a third rig is on the way. Meanwhile, the company is actively exploring a similar system capable of offering 6 m samples.

One rig is currently active at a Queensland coal operation, with the second at a nickel operation in the Goldfields of Western Australia. The third is expected to go to the Pilbara iron ore sector.

It is the combination of the LF160 with the FL262 FREEDOM LOADER that is bringing safety benefits to Ausdrill and its customers.

With totally hands-free rod handling, the combined rig and loader require no intervention from the driller’s assistant to trip in and align the rods or connect to the top drive head – thus offering greater freedom to drill by reducing the risk of hand and back injuries while handling rods. This freedom of movement comes as a result of the FREEDOM LOADER’s remote-control panel, which allows drillers to move to – and work from – a safer location away from the risks of moving rods.

“It’s a good innovation and has enabled us to provide a much-needed solution,” Gobbert said.

Ausdrill, a Perenti company, was encouraged to adopt this new diamond drilling technology as part of its own commitment to developing the mines of the future in partnership with clients. “Most companies have technology roadmaps with a strong safety vision. These roadmaps outline the future expectations for increased safety of exploration drill rigs,” Gobbert told IM.

Exploration drilling is an obvious place for Tier 1 miners to look to for safety improvements. A manual and repetitive job, traditional diamond drilling comes with many injuries as a result of drillers and offsiders removing and inserting heavy drill rods into the rigs. While automating part of the exploration drilling process may not provide the same financial payback as automating haul trucks or blasthole rigs, it does significantly reduce risk to personnel.

Gobbert agrees: “If you look at the drill inserts and the ongoing safety risks associated with being a driller’s offsider, or drilling in general, reducing the whole hands-on steel process and going down the automated or autonomous path makes sense.”

It is improving safety that is the real aim of leveraging such technology, according to Gobbert.

“De-risking the manual handling component is the real winning aspect of this,” he said. “We all want to achieve our business aims, but more importantly ensure our staff and our client’s staff are safe in the process.”

And, by reducing these risks, companies are ensuring continuity of operations, with personnel less likely to obtain the injuries that so often come with diamond drilling.

“Safety has always been at the centre of our technological drive – we understand that a safe project is a successful project,” Gobbert said.

This is not Ausdrill’s first foray into hands-off-steel diamond drilling. Drill Rigs Australia, an Ausdrill subsidiary up until July, previously engineered a similar style rod presenting system on one of its rigs at a Tier 1 client’s operation. Gobbert says the rig is still successfully operating – a full five years on.

“Ausdrill has a 30+ year history of designing and customising fleet to suit the needs of our clients and the swiftly-evolving market,” Gobbert says. “Today, we work in partnership with our clients, OEMs and third-party tech service providers to bring a bespoke combination of fleet and equipment, geared specifically to the needs of each project. Our project success and notable safety records showcase just how well we are delivering on our intentions, and tracking along our roadmap.”