Tag Archives: mine safety

Sibanye-Stillwater to roll out Newtrax OptiMine Collision Avoidance System at Stillwater mine

Sibanye-Stillwater is to invest $17 million in OptiMine® Collision Avoidance System (CAS) technology to reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities at its Stillwater PGM underground mining operations in Montana, USA, Newtrax says.

Newtrax and Sibanye-Stillwater have been working together since 2017 on various digitalisation projects to improve safety and productivity at Stillwater.

OptiMine increases safety and optimises underground mining operations, which align with Sibanye-Stillwater’s CARES values of commitment to safety, accountability, respect and sustainability, Newtrax says. These values support safe operations, allow growth, underpin business strategy and promote competitiveness and success.

This year marks the beginning of a new chapter with the mine-wide implementation of the new OptiMine Collision Avoidance System that links intelligent cap lamps to a warning system inside the cab of underground mobile equipment.

The system provides the vehicle operator with a virtual view of any pedestrians in the immediate area of the machine, along with an escalating warning system for both as the distance between them narrows.

This escalation transitions from a warning to vehicle intervention, where the vehicle automatically reduces speed and comes to a controlled stop should the system recognise the presence of any pedestrian wearing an intelligent cap lamp in the high-risk zone.

The same technology is also designed to improve the safety of vehicle-to-vehicle as well as vehicle-to-locomotive interactions and will be used as the digitalisation platform for real-time operations management, Newtrax, which is owned by Sandvik, said.

Jacques van Rensburg, Vice President and Group Head of Engineering, Sibanye-Stillwater, said: “Newtrax provides us with a safe, proactive and integrable solution to our operational needs. The OptiMine system integrates all the telemetry, tracking and proximity detection technology we need to run our operations safely, transparently and efficiently. And they are humble enough to leverage the global experience we’ve had with other collision avoidance systems globally, to make their system even better.”

Jean-Phillip Bouchard, Vice President – Americas, Newtrax, said: “Sibanye-Stillwater is a key customer for Newtrax. We are pleased to expand their current system and take on the challenge of developing and delivering OEM-agnostic intervention controllers to enable slow-to-stop control of all their equipment.”

Last year, Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, together with Newtrax, introduced what it said was the next generation of the OptiMine solution, which combines the Newtrax digitalisation offering with the existing Sandvik suite of digital process optimisation tools as one integrated OptiMine product.

Elastomers Australia develops fire retardant screen media panels for Rio Tinto Iron Ore

A three-year collaborative project between Rio Tinto Iron Ore (RTIO) and Elastomers Australia has delivered a major improvement in fire mitigation to enhance safety and protection of assets at the miner’s Western Australia iron ore sites, the mining services specialist said.

The project involved developing and rolling out Elastomers Australia’s Armalast fire retardant screen media panels in relevant RTIO-owned and operated processing facilities.

The development of the fire-retardant panels occurred following root cause analysis activities after a fire at RTIO’s Cape Lambert ore processing and port facility in early 2019. The analysis highlighted the flammable nature of various materials including screen media panels when exposed to elevated temperature conditions and ignition sources, Elastomers Australia said.

This incident is one of several similar fires that have caused issues for other miners and mineral processing operators in recent years, particularly in the iron ore sector, it added.

Within months of the fire, RTIO and Elastomers Australia had worked together to develop and commence testing a series of fire-retardant rubber screen media products.

Elastomers Australia General Manager Business Solutions, Pat Caputo, says due to the high occurrence of consumable rubber and other flammable materials in processing plants, the risk of fire is always present.

“Operators are always conscious of managing the risks of ignition, but with so many moving parts and the need for hot works to be carried out within close proximity to flammable components, there is always some degree of risk,” Caputo said.

“So, as part of Rio Tinto’s risk mitigation, the company approached Elastomers Australia to develop a screen media product that would inhibit the spread of flames.”

It is not the first time manufacturers have tried to develop fire retardant rubber, but a persistent issue for screen media, and particularly that used for hard-rock processing such as iron ore, has been the impact on wear life and screening efficiency.

The fire retardancy of the Elastomers Australia products was quickly established, but other criteria had to be evaluated prior to rollout, including verifying performance and ensuring that no new risks – such as increased manual handling requirements – were introduced, according to Elastomers Australia.

Caputo said while the rollout was impacted to some degree by COVID restrictions, it was aligned with regular shutdown cycles to prevent any undue impact on planned production.

He added that Elastomers Australia had developed Armalast fire-retardant screen media for use in other mineral processing applications including gold, copper, nickel, coal and lithium operations.

“We typically develop customised screening solutions based on the unique ore properties of materials being mined from one site to another, which means we can formulate fire-retardant solutions to suit most dry screening applications where fire may pose a risk,” he said.

Rossing Uranium puts safety first with HxGN MineProtect OAS-HV installation

Hexagon’s Mining division has completed what it says is a significant safety installation with Rossing Uranium Mine, in Namibia. This has seen primary mining vehicles at the mine equipped with HxGN MineProtect Operator Alertness System Heavy Vehicle (OAS-HV), two months ahead of schedule.

The customer’s commitment, engagement and willingness to adapt to COVID restrictions played a large part in the project’s success, according to Andrew Crose, Managing Director-EMEA, Hexagon’s Mining division.

“Hexagon shares Rossing’s commitment to safety and the core belief that people are a mine’s most precious asset,” Crose said. “The resourcefulness displayed by everyone involved was impressive. It ensured that we completed the project successfully and ahead of schedule.”

OAS-HV is an integrated fatigue and distraction detection, alerting and reporting solution that helps operators maintain the level of attention necessary for long shifts. Integrated with HxGN MineProtect Collision Avoidance System, OAS-HV uses sophisticated computer vision technology to provide a real-time fatigue and distraction risk status and traffic awareness to operators via unobtrusive, operator-friendly displays, according to the company.

Included with Rossing’s deployment is Hexagon’s 24/7 Remote Monitoring Service, ensuring impartial monitoring without imposing on the customer’s IT & Server infrastructure.

A successful trial among operators of OAS-HV in the December quarter of 2020 led to full deployment, George Murasiki, former Principal Advisor: Pit Operations and current Principal Advisor: Long Term Planning, said, with the system fully adopted by the operators.

“We noticed an increase in the productivity of operators and machinery, which improved our production,” he said. “Good communication between all parties ensured we achieved the efficiencies needed to reach targets early.”

Located in the Namib Desert, 70 km from the coastal town of Swakopmund, Rossing Uranium Mine is one of the largest open-pit uranium mines in the world.

Nerospec SK digital mine survey highlights industry opportunities and skills gaps

The concept of ‘the digital mine’ has been around for several years, however a recent survey conducted by Nerospec SK indicates the underground mining sector is much closer to the beginning of its digitalisation journey than the end.

The ‘How Digital Is Your Mine?’ survey from Nerospec SK, a company focused on a suite of digital and automation solutions for the sector, focused on six key themes and messages in its report, which was based on replies from 43 participants from across the global mining sector.

The first theme indicated that digitalisation was continuing to grow, with more than 70% of participants expecting increased investments in projects going forward.

This expected growth was influenced by the second theme: ‘digitalisation pays off’. The survey highlighted three quarters of the projects pursued to digitalise operations had been deemed successful, and 70% of them had come with a return on investment of less than three years.

To this point, mine safety has been the biggest beneficiary, according to the survey, with some 64% of participants agreeing that digitalisation projects had positively impacted operational safety. This has been seen with the likes of proximity detection, collision avoidance and vehicle intervention systems underground, preventing collisions between people, machinery and mine infrastructure.

The added transparency that comes with these digitalisation endeavours was expected to translate into productivity gains down the line, according to survey participants.

“Knowing what the machines have been doing during their shifts and, with that, identifying systematic improvement opportunities is the real game changer, enabling the sector to unleash the next frontier of operations improvements,” Nerospec SK said.

One of the biggest hurdles to achieving these gains is the availability of data communication networks, more than half of survey participants pointed out. “As regular wireless communication equipment is not effective underground, this is still a hurdle that many mines have not tackled,” Nerospec SK said, explaining that new solutions such as LTE and the like were only just becoming available.

At the same time, survey participants (68%) highlighted that the “simplicity of digital solutions” as well as the “technology readiness” for underground mining applications were major challenges associated with leveraging more digitalisation projects. “This indicates that the industry is not yet convinced of the availability of robust underground mining proven solutions that can be installed and maintained with the available mining personnel,” Nerospec SK said.

Of the most promising digital technologies available to the underground mining sector, automation of machinery was highlighted, being named the biggest single game-changing technology innovation with the greatest business value contribution by 38% of participants. This surprised the survey analyst team given electrification, ventilation on demand and connectivity have been highlighted as transformative in other similar industry polls.

The last theme centred on digital training and the industry-wide need for obtaining local mine and service crews with updated knowledge on new digital technologies. Around 35% of survey participants highlighted the digital readiness of service and maintenance personnel when asked the question: ‘What skills developments are required to become ready for the digital mine?’

“Finally, in terms of people qualification the survey participants are not so worried about the underlying fundamental software development, data analytics, or automation capabilities of developers,” Nerospec SK said. “The greatest need is seen in getting the local mine and service crews ready to work with the new digital technologies.”

Matrix Design Group leverages AI and machine learning in lastest collision avoidance platform

Matrix Design Group has introduced its new OmniPro® collision avoidance system for surface mines, which uses Visual Artificial Intelligence (Visual AI) and machine learning to enable line-of travel, crosswalk and blind-spot pedestrian and vehicle alerting for mobile equipment.

Consisting of up-to-three 120° field-of-view cameras, the OmniPro system works without personal wearable devices or tags. OmniPro not only “sees” and identifies people and hazards, alerting with visual and/or audible alerts, it also photographs and reports zone breaches, according to Matrix. OmniPro is an application of the Matrix technology that received the 2020 NIOSH Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Award, which was presented in September at MINExpo 2021.

“Operations recognise that prevention is the most effective strategy for combatting mining accidents,” Brian Jones, Vice President of Business Development, said. “Those with safety initiatives will see OmniPro’s Visual AI system as an indispensable tool in helping protect workers and equipment.”

Through its Visual AI object recognition technology, OmniPro has been taught to identify and report on a library of “objects” including people, vehicles, equipment, stop signs and pedestrian signs.

The user can select what objects will be included, whether to integrate with the machine or operate as alert-only, and whether the alert will be visual, audible or tactile. Additionally, depending on the mine’s needs, OmniPro’s wireless solution can trigger a stop sign, pedestrian light, voice alert or crossing arm. All incidents are recorded and reviewed to provide insights for additional safety training as needed.

OmniPro’s cost-effective and customisable solution can be adapted to match any operating environment through its programmable field-of-view zone grid configuration tool, which enables it to meet the safety requirements of different mines, it said.

“OmniPro is effective on many levels,” Jones said. “Our customers have told us it brings awareness to workers and helps them feel the operation is investing in their safety.”

GroundProbe reflects on geohazard monitoring developments on 20th anniversary

GroundProbe says it is immensely proud to be celebrating 20 years of operation and 20 years of keeping people and communities safe.

Over the last two decades, the company has expanded from a home-grown start-up to become a global innovation powerhouse and the trusted partner of companies around the world, it said.

GroundProbe calls itself a global leader in real-time geohazard monitoring technologies that help manage risk, ensure safety and increase productivity across mining and civil projects. Evolving from a PhD project at the University of Queensland, Australia, in 1993, by 2001, GroundProbe’s founders commercialised the world’s first patented Slope Stability Radar (SSR), which is now widely used to monitor mine walls and warn before collapses occur.

GroundProbe CEO and founder, David Noon, said that the success of GroundProbe’s business and its continual year-on-year growth is built on a culture of innovation and customer intimacy that permeates through every level of the company.

“GroundProbe has now deployed more than 700 systems and support services to customers in more than 35 countries,” he said. “To get to that level, we have proudly built long-term, trusted relationships with the top 20 mining and resources companies, globally.

“Across all of those deployed radars and customers, and in our entire 20-year history, I am most proud to say that we have fulfilled our ultimate goal by making mining safer. Our technology has never failed to detect a collapse, ultimately saving numerous lives.”

Anglo American’s Head of Geotechnical – T&S Group Mining, Lesley Munsamy, recently stated that the company is honoured to have played a part in GroundProbe’s history. The miner celebrated a number of “firsts” with GroundProbe, with the capturing of the first ever slope deformation data, the detection of the first ever slope failure and the first international radar deployment at Anglo American mine sites, GroundProbe said.

“Our mutually-beneficial partnership is based on GroundProbe’s impeccable safety track record and continuous innovation of its hardware and software tools,” Munsamy said. “The precise and valuable data that GroundProbe provides our sites has had an impact on our safety and productivity by enhancing our risk-management practices.

“GroundProbe redefined the slope risk management practices across the world. The availability of reliable real-time monitoring has had a significant impact on safety, a contribution that cannot be underestimated.”

Axora survey reveals mining sector moves towards digital transformation

Axora, the digital solutions marketplace for industrial innovators, has published a new report into digital trends and key growth drivers in the global metals and mining industry, with digital transformation and innovation highlighted as crucial elements to meeting the rising demand from the energy transition.

The ‘Axora 2021 Innovation Forecast: Metals and Mining’ is based on a survey of 150 senior decision makers worldwide, as well as interviews with small and large operators alike. The findings indicate that the metals and mining sector is driving forward with digital transformation but there is still more to be done ahead of the energy transition, Axora says.

“There’s been a dramatic shift in how metals and mining companies perceive digital transformation,” Ritz Steytler, CEO, Axora, says. “As the sector emerges after a period of uncertainty, firms are realising the need for a more coordinated and strategic approach to ensure they deploy the right technologies, in the right places, at the right time.”

The key highlights of the research include the opinion that digital transformation and innovation are seen as crucial to meeting the rising demand from the energy transition:

  • Ninety-nine percent of decision makers now believe technology and innovation are critical to their organisation’s survival;
  • Ninety-four percent of respondents said their deployments were advanced or intermediate;
  • Those in North America, the UK and South America saw themselves as most advanced, whereas South Africa saw itself as least advanced; and
  • The biggest barriers to executing digital transformation were cybersecurity concerns (42% of respondents) and lack of IT infrastructure to handle data from digital solutions (38%).

Achieving more with less and improving working environments were popular reasons for deploying digital solutions, according to the survey, which highlighted that:

  • There’s more focus on using technology to boost direct productivity, foster a better working environment and improve return on investment than to prevent downtime;
  • Companies are taking a longer-term view when it comes to cost savings from digital transformation. In the next two years, 24% of respondents anticipate saving 1-5% from digital technology. Within five years, just 3% of respondents anticipate that level of savings, with most predicting 11-15%; and
  • More than three-quarters of respondents prioritised the value of digital technology over its cost.

Tech-wise, companies have focused on analytics and semi-autonomous equipment, with:

  • Seventy-three percent of respondents saying these had been deployed to some extent; and
  • Semi-autonomous equipment was most likely to be 100% deployed across the organisation.

Application-wise, there’s been emphasis on remote operations and automation, according to the survey, with:

  • Seventy-three percent of organisations having deployed remote operations technology;
  • Driver fatigue monitoring was the application most likely to have been deployed across 100% of the organisation; and
  • Seventy-two percent of respondents said their company had implemented a Remote Operations Centre, with a further 15% saying they’re planning to do so in the next year.

There are clear regional trends for technologies, Axora says, with, Russia and Kazakhstand expected to focus extensively on robotics in the next year. Over this same timeframe, Australia will focus on artificial intelligence (AI), with the UK-based companies focused on cloud-based platforms. North America, like Australia, is also focused on machine learning.

In the next five years, Russia is expected to gain a major focus on robotics as well as advanced analytics and sensors, North America on IIoT and the UK-based firms on autonomous haulage technology.

The survey uncovered that AI is seen as the main growth driver, with 57% of decision makers saying their organisation had deployed AI to some extent and 59% of respondents ranking it first for growth potential in the next year (followed by robotics with 45%).

“The focus on AI is particularly marked in Australia and the UK,” Axora says. “Although Russia and Kazakhstan are least likely to see it as a growth driver in the next 12 months, they predict a major push in the next three to five years.”

In contrast to popular opinion, the top drive for digital transformation is not safety, according to the survey, with respondents citing people safety as the third highest business priority over the next five years.

In the next two years, mid-sized companies are most likely to see people safety as a key business priority. In the next five years, small companies have the greatest focus on it, according to the survey responses.

One of the last findings to come out of the survey was companies need support to succeed with digital transformation, with:

  • Eighty-two percent of respondents saying a partner had the biggest influence on their digital technology adoption, with the preference being for generic rather than industry-specific ones;
  • Mid-sized companies, those in North America and senior site managers most likely suffering from digitalisation information overload; and
  • Ninety-nine percent saying they would benefit from a digital transformation community where they could learn from peers’ experiences with different technologies and applications.

Joe Carr, Industry Innovation Director, Metals and Mining, Axora, concluded: “The metals and mining sector has made huge progress and is forging ahead with digital transformation with clear regional trends in place. However, there are still opportunities to benefit further through partnerships and by looking more closely at the safety side for opportunities to revolutionise standard ways of working and accelerate the move towards zero harm.”

GMG tackles mine automation safety in latest whitepaper

The Global Mining Guidelines Group (GMG) has published the System Safety for Autonomous Mining white paper as it looks to provide a comprehensive view of the need for a “system safety approach” for mining companies deploying and using autonomous systems.

It also aims to increase awareness of the system safety and its benefits by providing education and context on safety management and the system safety lifecycle, the purpose and typical contents of a safety case, the significance of human-systems integration, and factors that influence software safety management, GMG says.

The white paper intends to addresses the use of autonomous systems within the mining industry, both surface and underground. It applies to all autonomous machines and to the integration of autonomous and semi-autonomous machines with manually-operated machines, as well as to complex integrated systems of systems across the mining industry. While it was developed with a focus on autonomous systems, most of the information is general and is also relevant to manual operations, GMG says.

Explaining the paper, GMG said: “System safety is a view of safety that extends beyond the machines to consider the complete system (ie machines, human factors, and environment, and the interfaces between these). The goal of system safety is to reduce risks associated with hazards to safety. It is a planned, disciplined and systematic approach to identifying, analysing, eliminating, and controlling hazards by analysis, design and management procedures throughout a system’s lifecycle. System safety activities start in the earliest concept development stages of a project and continue through design, development, testing, operational use and disposal.”

Chirag Sathe, Project Co-Leader and Principal Mining Systems at BHP, says: “With an ever-increasing use of technology in mining, particularly in surface mining equipment, it is important to understand the overall impact of systems implementation on safety. I hope the white paper helps to increase the awareness of this important emerging topic in mine safety, not only within mining companies but also for OEMs, technology developers and implementors.”

On the role of industry collaboration both in the development and intended use of this white paper, Project Co-Leader, Gareth Topham, says: “The white paper demonstrates that the mining community continues to see the benefit in collaborating to ensure the introduction and the ongoing operation of autonomous mobile equipment is done in a safe environment. It will enable discussions between all parties to pursue opportunities to improve the level of risk to safety by addressing the topics that are contained in the paper and improving on the communication that delivers a more holistic understanding of these systems. “

On the importance of this topic from an OEM perspective, Michael Lewis, Technical Director at Komatsu, says: “The adoption of autonomous systems in mining has been growing rapidly since the first Komatsu autonomous trucks entered into production in 2008 and it’s been exciting to support our customers as they expand use of autonomous systems. Safety has always been the top priority for our industry, and as the use of autonomy grows to cover more of the mining value chain it’s important that we look at the whole system it impacts.

“I applaud the truly collaborative work between mine operators, OEMs and other GMG members in the creation of this white paper,” Lewis adds.

As only an introduction to the topic, there will likely be future work to provide more complete guidance on applying system safety to autonomous systems in mining.

Andrew Scott, GMG Vice-Chair Working Groups and National Cluster Development Manager at METS Ignited, says: “GMG, as an industry-led organisation, is proud to have had the opportunity to facilitate this work with the global mining community. I look forward to the discussion this white paper will spark as well as further collaboration on the topic.

“I would like to thank all who provided their input and support.”

Dropsafe boosts dropped object prevention protection with updated Net

Dropsafe has launched a new upgraded version of its steel wire mesh Net, adding an enhanced layer of security and traceability to this piece of safety equipment, it says.

The new range of Nets is a game changer for operators in industries such as oil and gas, power generation and mining, enabling them to further reduce the risk of human error, according to the company.

“Safety securing” is a vital aspect of dropped object prevention programs on industrial facilities globally, Dropsafe says.

“At these sites, fixtures such as lights and cameras may loosen due to corrosion or impacts, then fall and strike personnel or equipment,” the company said.

Drops prevention nets enclose and tether objects at height to a secure attachment point, mitigating these drops risks and the threats they pose to personnel, equipment, finances and reputation.

Dropsafe Nets have been supplied to over 300 leading energy businesses worldwide and, the company says, have now become the accepted best practice method for secondary securing in diverse industrial sectors. Feedback from these users directly informed the new Net design. This retains all the core features – including stainless-steel construction, a wide range of sizes and tool-free installation – while building in an extra level of security.

A particular focus of the R&D program was the carabiner, a standard component accepted as a matter of course in many industries. Dropsafe found room for improvement, however, particularly as standard carabiners may not be specifically designed for the unique technical and usability requirements of drops prevention or use in harsh operational environments.

This critical approach resulted in the design of the Trisafe™ Carabiner, a reimagined carabiner that, Dropsafe says, provides extra security with its “triple action” mechanism to prevent accidental opening.

Restricted dexterity is another key challenge Dropsafe confronted with the update. To support personnel in the installation of secondary securing solutions, the Trisafe Carabiner incorporates an auto-locking spring to enable easy one-handed use and significantly reduce human error, even in cold, wet and windy conditions.

Best practice drops prevention increasingly makes extensive use of data-based safety management systems to track and authenticate solutions. To future proof operators’ investments, the new Dropsafe Net includes an updated Choke Plate with an embedded RFID chip. This digital integration provides safety teams with increased visibility of their Nets, enabling installations and inspections to be logged and verified digitally.

Mike Rice, Dropsafe Commercial Director, said: “At Dropsafe, our culture is to look critically at accepted best practice, as this can lead to game-changing innovations with wide-ranging applications. At the same time, we recognised the need to retain the quality and long-term cost-effectiveness which made the Dropsafe Net an industry leading solution.

“By reimagining the carabiner for harsh industrial environments, we were able to build in extra safety and useability at no additional cost to the customer. With the RFID tag, we are giving users the means to make significant efficiency gains in the deployment and maintenance of their essential safety assets.”

HARD-LINE readies Auto RockBreaker, TeleOp Assist and Brow Alert for MINExpo crowd

HARD-LINE plans to unveil a diverse line-up of new mining products geared towards automation and safety at MINExpo 2021 next month.

The company’s Auto RockBreaker, TeleOp Assist and Brow Alert will be just some of the company’s booth highlights from September 13-15, in Las Vegas.

HARD-LINE’s Auto Rockbreaker is going to “disrupt” the mining industry, according to the company.

“For the first time ever, operators will have the ability to automate many rockbreaking tasks” HARD-LINE said. “With Auto Rockbreaker, mining companies will be able to reduce maintenance and operator training costs, decrease wear and tear while extending the life of all rockbreakers.”

The system has many functions, including auto deploy and auto park, as well as other features making the operator experience that much more intuitive with its 3D User Interface, it said.

TeleOp Assist is the latest addition to the company’s TeleOp suite, which equips the base TeleOp system with intelligent steering assistance and collision detection to keep machines off walls while driving.

Using real-time 3D LiDAR scans, Assist will automatically steer to handle the articulation adjustments required to keep the machine as centred as possible within the drift, the company said.

“With Assist’s adaptive technology, a pre-scan of the drift is not required – providing significant cost savings,” HARD-LINE said. “The system does not require any training when moving from one level to another.”

Brow Alert, meanwhile, is an added level of protection for underground mining operations.

It serves as an add-on system designed to deter an operator from manually driving a vehicle past the brow line of a stope by using sensors and modules.

The system is easy to install, reduces risk of workplace injuries and fatalities, encourages accountability and keeps operators a safe distance from the brow, the company says.

Auto RockBreaker, TeleOp Assist and Brow Alert will be joined by the likes of RRC (Radio Remote Control), TeleOp system, vehicle conversion kits (drive-by-wire), and HARD-LINE’s low-profile loader series (LP401 and LP301) on the company’s MINExpo booth.