This challenging situation is compounded by mining operations having to penetrate greater depths to extract metals with all the risks that this entails. However, the fatal accident rate has remained constant over the past four years, despite reducing accident rates, according to Sernageomin (National Geology and Mining Service), as a result of intense activity by the authorities and private companies.
The use of IoT (Internet of Things), Big Data and other technology tools can be critical change factors. An example are collision prevention systems for vehicles that use sensors within these vehicles and in personal equipment carried by employees that are wirelessly connected. Furthermore, large machinery and trucks are currently equipped with video, radar and infrared systems that notify operators of obstacles. Therefore, there are several uses for IoT systems that protect the safety and welfare of mining staff, as this technology can integrate staff location monitoring systems, communications, video surveillance and real time data analysis, to improve the efficiency of staff safety and welfare management, with an emphasis on preventing accidents.
Nevertheless, this technology has advanced so far that some companies have chosen to completely remove staff from front line operations, by implementing driverless trucks and other remotely controlled machinery.
The integrated nature of IoT solutions enables mining companies to take advantage of all the benefits of these technologies within one implementation, instead of implementing projects individually. Sensors can collect data from various systems, due to the scalable and integrated architecture currently used to design IoT solutions. Therefore, remotely operated machinery not only produces safety benefits, but also productivity benefits, as these machines can be operated for longer periods at lower costs due to predictive maintenance systems.
Cisco and its business partners have currently developed systems that can predict failures up to two months in advance, so that the corresponding preventive measures can be taken, resulting in reduced downtime, minimized disruption to mining operations, and improved safety standards for staff.