Emerging technology can play a key role in mitigating workplace safety risks.
By Mark S. Kuhar
Australia’s resources and energy workforce could potentially exceed 300,000 as early as next year, and it is forecast to continue growing, meaning workplace safety is more important now than ever.
According to the Australian Resources & Energy Employer Association (AREEA), the Australian resources and energy industry directly employed roughly 295,200 people as of May 2022, the highest level of employment ever recorded by the industry.
AREEA revealed in its recent Resources and Energy Workforce Forecast that an additional 24,000 employees could be needed by the industry between 2022 and 2027.
More workers mean an increasing risk for accidents to occur, but technology can play a key role in mitigating some of those risks.
Here are some emerging solutions for a future high-tech safety environment.
GEOMOBY’S TECHNOLOGY HELPS MONITOR RISK
Wearable devices can help provide data to manage fatigue, which is the single greatest cause of accidents across a number of industries and is a continued concern in the resources and energy industry.
Monitoring key health metrics through wearable devices and incorporating fall detection sensors can also alert the closest medical response teams in the event of a medical emergency. This is of particular importance to the resources and energy industry, that can have personnel working alone in remote locations.
Wearable devices, combined with geofencing technology, can help alert workers if they are about to enter prohibited or hazardous areas. It can also alert employers of team members potentially straying into prohibited zones.
Additionally, this technology can be used to locate and alert at risk team members during an emergency. Triggering the right safety measures and processes early can help reduce risks in situations where every minute counts.
Real-time location and network solutions are vital in enhancing mining and underground workplace safety.
GeoMoby’s technology allows operators to visualise their complex mine site operations, detect emergency situations and act immediately.
Utilising technology to visualise their workforce, operators can stay informed and in control from anywhere, and at any time, to guarantee the safety of their workforce underground, above ground or indoors.
The key benefits of GeoMoby’s technology include:
- Accurate, real-time location and communication network to guarantee the safety of your people indoors, outdoors and underground.
- Generate customised analytics so you can learn how to manage your workforce in the most secure, efficient and productive way.
- Combine output with dynamic scheduling tools to enable agile operations.
O-ZONE TOOLS A SAFER OPTION FOR REMOVING WORN LINERS
When helping customers optimise their mineral processing operations, Russell Mineral Equipment determined to find the best method to safely and quickly lift and remove worn mill liners.
Other lifting techniques rely on crowbars or slings made of a variety of materials. These significantly increase the risk of crush injuries. So the company developed a safer system, a range known as the O-ZONE Liner Lifting Tools that can be used with the RUSSELL Mill Relining Machine (MRM) and also the three-axis MILLMAST Liner Handler.
“When worn liners land on the mill floor or charge, they are difficult to sling underneath and safely remove them. The O-ZONE Tools form a systematic process to handle them with reduced manual lifting and mill downtime. We created different sized sets with maximum lifting ratings from 1,500 kg to 8,000 kg. They are also coloured to match the THUNDERBOLT Moil Axis Guide (T-MAG) and THUNDERBOLT Moil colour coding and ensure that the right tools are used,” the company stated.
These tools eliminate dangerous practices like slinging and reduce handling times of liner muck outs. In actual relines of a 300 liner Ball Mill, Russell found that using O-ZONE Tools reduced downtime and simultaneously improved crew safety.
The range consists of three main components:
O-ZONE Scissors. O-ZONE Scissors engage worn liners that fall face down without retained liner bolts. O-ZONE Scissors are closed, inserted and expanded within the worn liner bolt hole. They provide an essential lifting point for worn liner removal. Further, when liners have one retained bolt and one free bolt hole, the O-ZONE Scissors and O-ZONE Grips can be used together.
O-ZONE Grips. O-ZONE Grips attach to liner bolts that have stayed in the liner. They are designed to engage worn liners that fall face down with retained liner bolts. O-ZONE Grips simply slide over the exposed bolt thread. With a thread cut into the bottom, the O-ZONE Grips are used against the liner bolt thread to ensure that the O-ZONE Grips are matching pitch with the liner bolts.
O-ZONE Hooks. These are required to lock the O-ZONE Scissors. The unique hook handle protects fingers away from where the hook and tool meet. RME’s O-ZONE Hooks and Rigging Chains adapt between the RUSSELL Mill Liner Handler (MLH) or RUSSELL MRM lifting hooks and O-ZONE Liner Lifting Tools.
To determine which O-ZONE Tools are suitable for each individual mill, always consider the liner mass, liner bolt size and thread pitch.
The O-ZONE suite of tools delivers three key benefits.
- The first is safety, which is integrated into the product design and manufacturing to minimise crew injuries. O-ZONE tools are expertly engineered to safely remove worn liners, so no manual lifting is required to get slings around liners.
- The second one relates to compatibility. O-ZONE Liner Lifting Tools can be used with your existing RUSSELL MRM and RUSSELL MLH.
- Finally, a smart design enables efficiency. These tools have been developed specifically for the removal of heavy used liners, thereby increasing reline productivity and mill availability.
Each tool has been type tested to ensure compliance to lifting standards AS4991 and AS3776. And when used correctly, can be used repeatedly unlike fabric slings that have much shorter lifespans and greater risks.
Russell Mineral Equipment, www.rmeglobal.com
RESOLVE, INSIGHT TERRA FORM ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL RISK MANAGEMENT PARTNERSHIP
RESOLVE, a Washington, D.C.-based international non-governmental organization, and Insight Terra, a London-based start-up, have formed a strategic partnership to deliver an end-to-end environmental and social risk management solution for the mining industry. The solution combines satellite and earth observation coupled with ground sensors to independently monitor the highest risk tailings dams, public or privately owned.
The innovation integrates Insight Terra’s leading mine product, Tailings Insight with RESOLVE’s TrailGuard AI to create a sustainable monitoring, management and mitigation solution for mining operations of all types and sizes.
Tailings Insight is built on Insight Terra’s award-winning Insight Platform and is now deployed with a number of global mining companies to monitor risks posed by tailings dams. The platform includes a cloud-based IoT data management system, satellite connectivity, and earth observation data.
A unique, new feature is RESOLVE’s TrailGuard AI, an embedded AI, cryptic, camera-alert system customised for mining operations. This monitoring technology has proven effective for detecting poaching and intruders and now serves other environmental needs by running detectors on-the-edge to prevent illegal logging and human-wildlife conflict.
TrailGuard AI is a product of WildTech, a conservation technology start-up launched by RESOLVE.
The partnership addresses the urgent call by the Church of England (COE) and others for better monitoring of risks from tailings dams and solutions to prevent environmental hazards.
“Our combined solution is aligned with the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management promulgated in 2020 by the International Council on Mining and Metals, the United Nations Environmental Program and Principles for Responsible Investment,” RESOLVE stated. “The GISTM requires mines with high-risk tailings facilities, both active and closed, to comply by August 2023, less than a year away. This solution meets that timeline.”
RESOLVE’s new start-up, Regeneration – a social purpose enterprise that uses the re-mining and processing of waste from legacy mine sites to restore natural environments and help communities realize better closure results – will support this effort by partnering with industry and government to test this solution at re-mined sites and de-risk closed sites.
The leadership of both organisations recognises that the path to a clean energy transition requires more minerals, and the partnership is designed to help bring them to market safely and sustainably. They will collaborate to scale additional innovative technologies aligned with this objective.
RESOLVE and Insight Terra partner with global mobile satellite communications provider Inmarsat in its ELEVATE global IoT ecosystem.
Insight Terra co-founder and CEO Alastair Bovim said, “The need for reliable, real-time monitoring of mine tailings storage facilities could not be greater in light of yet another catastrophic and deadly failure in South Africa in September this year. Protecting people, and the planet, is our mission at Insight Terra. In partnership with RESOLVE, we will work closely with mine operators, investors, and regulators to advance this comprehensive mine monitoring solution. The powerful combination of satellite connectivity, earth observation data, real-time IoT, and valuable ground truth sensors and data, goes far toward achieving this collective goal.”
RESOLVE President and Regeneration Founder and CEO Stephen D’Esposito said, “The tailings challenge is daunting and requires a range of engineering, social and environmental solutions. We’ve identified two innovations that can help: re-mining tailings to restore sites and innovative, AI-enabled monitoring. With Regeneration’s re-mining solution, tailings waste is turned into a resource. By coupling Tailings Insight with TrailGuard AI we achieve safer, more sustainable closure outcomes. This is a double win for the climate and communities.”
WildTech’s CEO Eric Dinerstein added, “Using our technology, AI-enabled monitoring becomes a force multiplier – whether the issue is tailings, poaching, illegal logging, or illegal fishing the challenge is the same, how to get trained “eyes” on the problem at scale and within budget. We can train our solution to see and interpret. The partnership with Insight Terra extends our reach and impact.”
LIFESAVING INVENTION RECOGNISED AT THE AUSTRALIAN MINING PROSPECT AWARDS
The Australian made SafetySpear has taken the award for the prestigious Innovative Mining Solution category at the Australian Mining Prospect Awards just 18 months after it was introduced to the market.
From more than 20 nominations in the Innovative Mining Solution Category, the Safety Spear was the only physical, real-world product among the three finalists, the others being data based.
Designed and manufactured by Rattlejack, the SafetySpear works to protect underground mining personnel and equipment from free falling overhead hazards by plugging drill holes quickly and inexpensively with a lightweight, high-impact absorbing polymer system.
First introduced in May 2021, the spears’ market potential is being expanded by Murray Engineering, a Perth-based company with an international footprint.
The SafetySpear addresses shortcomings of other practices in widespread global use including corrosion prone steel systems and traditional grouting and plating over where weaknesses can result in serious mine site injury and death.
It has been purpose built to activate on impact with any downward force; its unique two stage design decelerates the impact by blocking the hole with its flexible upper section, conforming to the shape and size of the available space.
This effectively stops the falling hazard with minimal backward movement, a method never seen in underground mining prior.
Installation is achieved with standard production drilling equipment enabling the hazard to be minimised without delay.
With its lightweight design, the SafetySpear also has minimal risk of manual handling injuries, and includes easy to follow pictorial instructions for a simple installation process for operators of all experience levels.
NEW WORKPLACE RELATIONS A HANDBRAKE ON INVESTMENT, JOB OPPORTUNITIES, WAGES
The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022 passed by parliament will be a handbrake on investment, job opportunities and wage growth, according to Tania Constable, chief executive officer of the Minerals Council of Australia.
“The reintroduction of multi-employer bargaining into the Australian workplace relations regime will have negative consequences on investment, productivity, economic growth, job security and wages for small or larger businesses across Australia.
“The Government’s amendments, which confine multi-employer agreements to ‘reasonably comparable’ businesses, carve-out civil construction, allow more time to conclude enterprise agreements, and stop parties from unreasonably preventing workplace votes, do partially address industry concerns.
“However, these amendments do not change the fundamental problems the bill will create in reducing flexibility and productivity, increasing risk for investors, and making it harder for mining companies to create jobs.
“There is no case for extending multi-employer bargaining, particularly for sectors such as mining, where current arrangements are delivering high paying jobs.
“Mining is Australia’s largest export industry, generating a record $413 billion in exports in 2021-22. The industry paid $43.2 billion in tax and royalty payments in 2022-21 and accounted for 30 per cent of all company tax paid that year,” Constable concluded.
The MCA will continue to work hard for the mining industry and its workers, the regional communities and thousands of small businesses that support the sector.