Modern mining is all about streamlining activities and maximising operator safety through the use of flexible, sophisticated and robust technologies.
Wireless equipment allows operatives to move freely throughout the mine and conduct operations, while even static equipment is much more technologically advanced in being able to report changes of environment in real time, ensuring maximum safety at all times.
However, while the equipment used in mining has become more technical, the environments in which operatives work in have remained just as harsh and hazardous as they have always been, and the question needs to be asked, can new digital equipment handle the dusty, humid and difficult conditions in which they are needed.
Keeping operatives safe whilst ensuring maximum efficiency
During the last two decades mining has evolved considerably, with the application of sophisticated mining technology, it is now entirely possible to maximise productivity whilst ensuring operator safety. Mine monitoring systems, for example, provide complete, real-time monitoring of every aspect of the mine and devices can be hooked up to the system to deliver continuous information across the operation.
Similarly, dust detection systems and sensors can be connected to the mine monitoring network to provide mine-wide dust analysis, suppression and removal. If permitted exposure levels (PELs) are exceeded, the dust detection systems will immediately notify the mine’s ventilation network to remove dust and cleanse the environment.
With this system in place, hazardous dust particles are regularly removed from the environment and operatives and machinery are protected from dangerous levels of it – the result is that operations continue uninterrupted, maximising productivity whilst ensuring safety.
And this doesn’t apply to just dust. Mine monitoring systems, when interlinked with the right solutions, can monitor gases, the mine’s structural integrity, personnel health, operational performance, machinery, ventilation systems, water levels, pump controls and communications, to name a few things.
Risks and hazards that arise from equipment failure
Equipment in mining operations across the world are exposed to a variety of elements, from dust and corrosive liquids, to damage from rock fall and general degradation. As the health of mining equipment and tools correlate directly with operator health and productivity (a defective or damaged device can lead to injury and downtime) it’s vital that equipment is monitored in real-time and repaired routinely.
If a monitoring/detection system were to fail in the midst of a dust check or gas leak check, for example, the operative could be exposed to dangerous levels of dust or gas before they even realised. With this considered, equipment monitoring – on a daily basis – is absolutely essential.
Monitoring equipment, preventing failure and ensuring it is in optimal condition
The fact is that, at some point, equipment will fail but knowing when can be incredibly beneficial in reducing downtime and maximising productivity. Operatives unknowingly working with damaged or compromised equipment is a tremendous health and safety risk and equipment failure can be catastrophic.
However, with real-time machine monitoring solutions – designed to assess and monitor the health and performance of critical machinery – mine managers can identify when maintenance is required, flag equipment degradation and replace equipment before problems occur.
Also, with machine monitoring working in tandem with environment monitoring, hazardous elements – such as dust – in the environment can be identified and mine managers can take the appropriate steps to protect equipment before it suffers environmental damage. It also enables mine managers to understand how resilient equipment is and whether or not it will survive in the mine environment.
Machine monitoring solutions lay the foundation for more data-driven, predictive maintenance that can reduce operational downtime by solving machine issues well in advance. The result is that maintenance becomes more consistent and operatives can work in confidence as they know that their equipment is in optimal condition.
New mining technology might offer mining operations with the means to maximise productivity, but can that technology withstand the conditions they operate in? With so many solutions slowly being deployed into the mine environment, having a mine monitoring and machine monitoring solution in place will ensure that equipment is in optimal condition and employees can work with confidence.
Find out how the latest technology innovations such as Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and connected technologies can be used to improve worker safety in industrial environments in our latest eBook: