December 15, 2017

Health and Safety in Mines


The best defence

Mine closures in terms of Section 54 and 55 of the Health and Safety Act are mostly controversial with emotions running understandably high among parties concerned.

Increasingly, the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) is enforcing compliance with health and safety regulations and in some instances will shut down mines until compliance with all the required legislation is achieved. Simultaneously, claims of victimisation have been levelled against inspectors by aggrieved mine owners claiming that the Section 54 act is being used as a bullying tactic for other reasons to threaten mines that do in fact comply with legislation.

Amidst these allegations the Aggregate and Sand Producers Association of Southern Africa (Aspasa) is using its influence among its many members and the excellent relationship it maintains with the DME to calm the situation and find logical solutions. Director, Nico Pienaar, says sand and aggregate mines make up a relatively small percentage of the overall mining industry but are in a position to lead the way in terms of compliance to health and safety.

Everyone wins

“We believe that the only foolproof way of avoiding problems in future is for mines to ensure full compliance with the legislation. That is why we encourage members to pay careful attention to health and safety requirements and to seek full compliance with all aspects of the relevant legislation. Some time ago, Aspasa implemented compulsory annual health and safety audits to help measure compliance and make the necessary adjustments within member operations to fully comply with legislation. 

“With the threat of closures it is now more than ever important for operations to understand that in the event of citations, it is always better if they can demonstrate the operations compliance with the Act, Regulations and best practices,” says Nico. He adds that Aspasa audits are carried out by independent auditors that work within the framework of the current legislation. They are therefore able to make qualified recommendations based on deemed shortcomings of operations.

FlowCentric-powered Rokman

Changing the way mines drive productivity and manage healthy and safety compliance

FlowCentric Business Process Management (BPM) technology, innovatively packaged into a complete, ground-breaking solution for the mining industry by Ability Solutions (Pty) Ltd, is changing the way in which mining companies manage compliance with SHEQ, guide workflow and enhance productivity.

The solution, “Rokman” leverages the robust mobile engine Mobiflow from Flux on the sharp-end, with tightly integrated FlowCentric BPM at the back end.

“Initial responses from the mines that have seen the system are excellent. Rokman has tremendous potential to support mines in reducing accidents, managing health and safety risks, driving operational efficiencies, achieving production targets and ensuring legal compliance”. “We believe that the solution has a promising future in an industry that faces a complex compliance environment, hundreds of accidents on a weekly basis, and an excess of 160 deaths per year,” says Jacques Wessels, the CEO at FlowCentric Technologies which develops value-adding, highly-customisable, and agile BPM solutions for companies in Africa.

“Rokman” is a FlowCentric Processware-enabled end-to end-solution that can be tailored to automate a mine’s specific processes, enforce compliance and authorisations, and ensure that information is where it needs to be. The solution is delivered on rugged mobile, handheld devices that are designed to withstand hostile environments.

Shift Supervisors sign on via drop down boxes on the screen after collection of equipment from the lamp room. The system automatically loads predefined tasks for that shift according to the mine’s operational procedures.

Tasks are managed by icon-driven responses, and depending on the response, the operator is automatically routed to the next appropriate action while all the time the system is monitoring the progress of tasks against a planned schedule.

Depending on levels of communication infrastructure available, be it in the cross-cut, rest area, bottom of the shaft or in the base of an opencast mine, the required data is captured and transmitted, as soon as practical, to the appropriate structures for action. Each transaction is supported by user, date and time stamped audit trails.

“Rokman’s” icon-driven mobile screens make customisation, or the adding of functionality, simple and quick, while the underlying BPM engine routes notifications and assignments to the correct people, supported by full escalation, according to the mine’s operational rules.

Seamlessly integrated into Microsoft Outlook, management can access a Master Console to analyse the KPI for their area of responsibility, see which pre-scheduled tasks have been actioned, or are now overdue, respond to requests, and schedule new tasks on the fly to the appropriate people or departments. To support the legal process, electronic signatures or fingerprint images can be captured in terms of declarations etc.

Mine Rescue and Refuges

Following an underground mine cave-in, fire, explosion or flood it is often difficult to determine the location of the miners that are still underground. Rescue teams may attempt to contact miners by drilling bore holes and dropping down a telecommunication line, but unless the workers are in the immediate vicinity these attempts can prove futile.

Underground communication networks based on a wired backbone will not work in many post-accident scenarios because cables will have been cut. Even when tentatively redundant closed-loop wired networks backbones are initially deployed, the operational complexity of continuously extending the networks as the mine expands can lead to the use of open-ended extensions for coverage in many active areas of the mine. Since fixing broken cables underground from the surface via a borehole is not realistic, an alternative solution is required for reliable and cost-effective post-accident backhaul communications to surface.

Through-the-earth (TTE) technology has its merits as a post-accident backhaul link to surface technology and can be used as an alternative to leaky feeder, fibre optic or twisted-pair for backhaul links to maximize the probability of at least one link surviving the accident. Post-Accident Network Probe (PANP) is an alternative to TTE technology and provides post-accident two-way backhaul communications from an isolated area underground to surface.

What is RFID?

Put simply, RFID uses radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data from an RFID microchip to an RFID reader. Using its embedded antenna and drawing electromagnetic power from the RFID readers around it, the RFID chip can transmit significant quantities of information that can be read from several metres away, even from within a pocket or bag. This makes it ideal for tracking people, products, but also equally valuable when it comes to tracking underground miners. You can now uniquely identify each miner, especially when working underground miners can be tracked as they move through the mine. RFID readers can read hundreds of RFID badges simultaneously, giving you a global view of anything at any moment.

Rock Fall Protection

Highly flexible catch fences and high performance drape mesh systems for rockfall protection in open pit operations 

How do miners deal with rock fall hazards in steep open pit walls, more especially areas with high damage potential such as decline portals or haulage ramps situations, effectively?

Geobrugg South Africa, a globally respected supplier of high-tensile rockfall protection systems, has devised highly flexible protection systems which are created from high-tensile steel chain link mesh called TECCO. The diamond shaped mesh is made of high-tensile wire with a diameter of 4 mm and a tensile strength of 1770 MPa, with an excellent shear resistance. It can be manufactured in rolls in widths up to 4 m and in tailor-made lengths.

Besides, expertly engineered and field tested to determine the energy absorption, the mesh is renowned for its adaptability: designed for static applications such as slope stabilization as well as for dynamic rockfall protection catch fences or for use as drape mesh in open pit mines.

For dynamic rockfall protection

A feasible and designable measure to protect people and infrastructure from the hazard of falling rocks, Geobrugg’s engineered catch fences are appropriate where standard draping is not strong enough, too costly and time consuming to install. Rockfall barriers have the advantage that, if a stable foundation can be achieved, it is possible to effectively protect the area below the fence without the need to access onto the berm and without enlarging berms.

Furthermore, in underground mining, rockfall catch fences can be used to protect portals from rocks falling out of the face or crest above as well as for protection of escape ways, exhausts or adits. 

As drape mesh

While it has proved helpful in holding small rocks back, the use of standard mild steel chain-link mesh is not always strong enough to withstand the pressure. However, TECCO has proved more effective.

Tailored for each mine’s unique needs

Geobrugg produces specific solutions to suit each mine’s unique challenges. The rock fall simulation software enables to design catch fences with high-tensile mesh for rockfall energies from 20 to 1000 kJ and rockfall barriers with ring nets for energies from 2000 to 8000 kJ.

Enormous traction

The TECCO flexible rockfall protection barriers and high performance drape mesh systems have gained enormous traction in open pit mines worldwide, which proves their credibility. They are universally praised for easy installation and availability in times of need.

Las Zirh Tyre Protection Chains (Pty) Ltd. opens  sales outlet in South Africa

The Leading tyre protection chain manufacturer Las Zirh from Turkey has launched a sales, service, maintenance and repair facility in the Republic of South Africa  and is located at Bitflow Business Park, Nigel, Gauteng.

Las Zirh Tyre Chains Africa (Pty) Ltd. is capable of renewing, repairing and maintaining all sizes and models of tyre protection chains in its facility now. In the near future, Las Zirh planns to invest for the establishment of complete production facilities.

Fatih Sedele, General Manager of Las Zirh saysSouthern Africa is one of the most important markets of Las Zirh since 2005 and they have decided to invest there in order to give better service and provide faster solutions to it clients.

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