Mining guide: collision avoidance in mines

Thousands of coal miners in Ukraine have been protesting against unpaid wages again. As millions of dollars of arrears are building up, so are fears for the country’s coal industry and the people it supports. Molly Lempriere reports

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The US Mine Safety and Health Administration reports that of the 24 fatalities recorded at the country’s mines this year, seven have involved a collision between a worker and vehicle or piece of machinery.

While 2018 is on track to have the lowest number of mining fatalities on record, collisions still pose a significant threat to the safety of US mines, and proximity-monitoring solutions can significantly limit these risks.

As the scale of mining operations continues to increase, with Anglo American investing over $5bn into a new copper mine in Peru earlier this year, eliminating collision-based accidents is critical to ensuring safe mining.

Tracking systems

The basis of most collision avoidance solutions is an effective tracking system, which can monitor the positions of workers and pieces of equipment to ensure they don’t come into contact with one another. This can take the form of tags, worn by workers and attached to machinery and vehicles, which feed information into a control centre, ensuring a human operator can see the relative position of everything within a mine, either a surface or underground operation.

These systems also include alarms and alerts that trigger when two tags are moved too close to one another, providing an early warning system to prevent collisions from taking place. These proximity detection functions can also be customised, enabling larger or smaller safe zones to be established for individuals and machines of different sizes, creating a system where alarms are tailored to the scale and function of individual operations.

Carroll Technologies adds an additional layer of control to the system, with different levels of warning, from yellow to red, to cover a range of threats to worker safety.

Carroll’s MSHA-approved solutions for miner safety include the Miner and Equipment Tracking System (METS) from Matrix Design Group which provides tracking, text pager communications and atmospheric monitoring all over a single cable.

Carroll supplies PBE’s PAS-C Proximity Alert System which utilises electromagnetic sensors and GPS.

It detects light vehicles, heavy vehicles, obstacles and personnel, as well as user-defined geofences.

Throughout Ukraine, the mining industry’s general debt is estimated to be $18.7m

Ukraine’s miners have protested for years against lack of funds for investment. Credit: LongJon/Shutterstock.

During the first ten months of 2017, Ukraine spent $2.15bn on coal imports

Ensuring visibility

Visibility is a key aspect of avoiding collisions, and mine safety in general, as a miner aware of their surroundings is less likely to be involved in a crash; tracking systems help provide visibility beyond that which human workers can see with their eyes, improving safety across whole operations. The presence of automatic monitoring and alerts also enables additional visibility without distracting workers, which could compromise operations or put them in more dangerous situations.

“To help minimise those risks, visuals are important [in] a collision-avoidance system, because you can’t always have visuals on where everything is,” said Carroll engineering president Allen Haywood.

“Let’s say you have a large loader that is moving forward and backward all the time, or loading trucks, a crusher or a loading facility, there’s no way that the operator can see what’s behind him, that is in close proximity.”

The dash-mounted PAS-Z Proximity Alert System alerts drivers to the presence of personnel, vehicles and obstacles. It helps manage vehicle interactions by reporting reliable information on the proximity of the closest objects.

More than half of the country’s coal mines are managed by pro-Russian separatist militia. Credit: DmyTo/Shutterstock.

Satellite technology

The same principle of proximity monitoring in order to create safe work zones around people and machinery can be scaled up to use satellite technology, to provide a top-down view of surface mining operations. While satellite solutions require companies to have access to this level of technology, they can save on operational costs and minimise equipment usage in the long-term, as satellite tracking removes the need for individual people and objects to be tagged.

For large-scale, established operations in particular, the use of satellite tracking systems could be a significant and welcome technological upgrade that incorporates several systems into a single operation. Holistic services are increasingly popular in the mining industry, with companies such as Carroll offering tracking and communication services using the same technological base, and could significantly reduce the likelihood of collisions.

It is essential to pay wage arrears in full [and] stamp out corruption in the industry

Contact information

Carroll Technologies Group

Office: +1 (606) 573-1000

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