CSIR unveils technologies to enhance mine safety

CSIR unveils technologies to enhance mine safetyMining Weekly

BY: NADINE JAMES
CREAMER MEDIA WRITER

“JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – It is unlikely that the mining industry will attain its goal of zero harm by 2020 and, as such, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has revealed some of the mine safety technologies it is developing and looking to commercialise.

Speaking at the Mandela Mining Precinct, on Tuesday, CSIR principal geophysicist Dr Michael van Schoor spoke about ground penetrating radar (GPR) and how it could be used to improve roof bolting applications, as well as detecting potential faults in the hanging wall.

He pointed out that 40% of all mine incidents resulted from fall of ground incidents.

With regard to general fault detection, he explained that GPR works similarly to speed traffic radar detection systems, as the GPR transmits a signal down into the ground and faults are mapped on a radargram based on the amplification and duration of the return signal.

Van Schoor added that the CSIR is developing the technology to produce three-dimensional maps which could be integrated, in real-time, to an existing mine plan.

Other technologies under development include an instrument called Rock Pulse, which is a device that can be attached to the rock to detect fracturing. Once the rock starts fracturing, the device alerts miners of a potential imminent collapse.

The device is meant to be used in close proximity to miners and should give miners at least 90 seconds to enable them to evacuate the area.

The device has been tested in coal mining applications, where rock fracturing is part of the mining process. It can, however, also be used for hard rock applications.

CSIR principal engineer Shaniel Davrajh added that the institution has also developed an enhanced pedestrian detection system which uses algorithms to predict whether a collision is imminent, thereby eliminating unnecessary vehicle stoppages.

Further, he noted that the CSIR has developed a robot platform equipped with safety inspection sensors to enter mines during safety periods. The robot, called Monster, aims to assess and identify risks for underground mines, using thermal imaging and audio sensors.

CSIR principal researcher Dr Dave Roberts explained that the thermal imaging sensor could be used to detect loose rocks, based on the knowledge that loose rocks cool faster than the hanging wall because of the increased ventilation.

Davrajh noted that the sensor could detect temperature differences as small as 0.1 °C, and that the Monster could mark areas as potentially hazardous. The audio sensor works similarly to ‘tapping a watermelon to determine whether it is ripe’, he added.

The CSIR Monster prototype has been trialed at the precinct’s stope simulation, which has a decline of around 30°.

The event was attended by various stakeholders, including the Minerals Council South Africa, the departments of Science and Technology and Mineral Resources and representatives from industry, besides others.”

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7 Steps to Safer, Healthier Mining EmployeesMining Safety

“You don’t need us to tell you that you have a tough job. But taking these seven steps can make your job easier and your workplace safer. You’re probably already doing most or all of these things, but just in case, here’s a quick review.

Ensure compliance with safety and health standards.
Make sure you’re complying in every detail with every standard that applies to your operations and your workplace. Also check state regulations, which if they’re stricter than federal standards, take precedence. And don’t forget about your own safety policies. Ensure compliance with those rules, too.

Keep employees informed about hazards.
Identify every hazard in every work area and in every job, and make sure employees who might be exposed to any hazards know:
What the hazards are
How they are dangerous
How to protect against them
What to do in the event of exposure to a particular hazard

Take appropriate steps to minimize risks.
This involves many things including:
Well-conceived and implemented workplace safety and health programs
Routine and thorough inspections and safety audits
Effective engineering, administrative, and work practice controls
Frequent and effective employee training
Appropriate PPE to protect employees from hazards when controls are not enough
Routine workplace maintenance

Teach employees to work safely.
Training is one of your most power accident-prevention tools. Teach the information, skills, techniques, and procedures employees need to know to be safe and healthy. Train frequently to keep workers up to date on workplace and regulatory changes and to keep them aware, alert, and prepared to work safely.

Monitor performance and provide feedback.
Don’t assume that workers will use what they learn in training or do what their supervisors tell them to do. For all kinds of reasons workers will decide to take risks or ignore warnings and instructions. Make sure your supervisors monitor safety performance and provide positive or corrective feedback to maintain safe and healthy behavior.

Pay attention to employees’ suggestions and complaints.
You may not be able to use all the suggestions or be thrilled about the complaints, but listening to employees is essential if you want to get them to be on board with your safety and health programs and to follow your safety rules. The big plus here is that employee participation leads to employee ownership, which leads to employee-driven safety and a safer workplace.

Move quickly to correct problems.
Foot-dragging over hazard abatement sends a bad message to employees. It says you don’t care about their safety. So take swift and effective action whenever a safety or health problem is brought to your attention.”

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