Recently, South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources amended Chapter 8 of the country’s Mine Health & Safety Act. The amendments officially take effect on 27 May, 2015 and have significant implications for mining operations throughout the country.
|Trackless Mobile Machine:
Any self propelled mobile machine that is used for the purpose of performing mining, transport or associated operations at a mine.
Of particular significance are new collision avoidance standards for trackless mobile machines.
These provisions are quite far-reaching in scope and complexity for South African mining operations.
Summary of Amendments
The amendments require all mining operations to take “reasonably practicable measures” to prevent accidents involving mobile machinery within their operations. Accidents are defined as being between
- Trackless vehicles and people (pedestrians)
- Trackless vehicles and other trackless vehicles
- Trackless vehicles and rail-bound vehicles
While “reasonably practicable measures” is not specifically defined in Chapter 8 itself, the amendments are very clear when detailing the solutions required. Specifically, a compliant solution requires three components:
- A proximity detection device identifying the existence of people or other vehicles in the vicinity
- A mechanism to alert the machine operator and the nearby people / vehicles of each other’s presence
- An automated system to slow the vehicle to a safe speed without human intervention if no corrective action is taken
Implications for Mining Organizations
Proximity detection and collision avoidance systems are not new to the mining industry and African mining operations have been exploring technology solutions for some time now. Implementation of such systems is not necessarily trivial, however, and the majority of African mines are far from meeting the new requirements outlined by these amendments.
As a result, most South African mining organisations will need to source aftermarket technologies from experienced technology partners to fill the gaps in their current systems.
Sourcing and implementing the technologies is certain to be a frustrating and time consuming process for operations where time and resources are in short supply.
However, the message is clear. Mines must comply or risk consequences.
What Is Required in a Compliant Solution
By necessity, a practical end-to-end solution will require the synthesis of three key features.
The first requirement is that the technology must identify where all mobile machinery and people are in relation to one another. There is no specific requirement in the Act to track the exact location of a person or vehicle within the mine – only knowledge of whether two entities are sharing the same space.
The amendments require that both the vehicle operator and the nearby individual / machine be alerted when they are sharing the same space. The Act does not specify the exact nature of this warning only that it must be “effective”. While this means that the warning could originate from a vehicle itself (in the form of a horn or siren), a more elegant solution would necessitate a proximity detector on the individual’s personal protective equipment.
Automated Vehicle Response
Finally, to comply with the Act, the solution must be equipped with the necessary technology and logic to automatically slow vehicles down in instances where no human action has been taken to prevent a potential collision. The Act requires the device to slow the vehicle “to a safe speed where after the brakes…are automatically applied”.
Market Ready Technologies
There is good news for mining companies. It is possible for South African mines to achieve compliance using existing technologies as part of a practical and affordable solution purpose built to meet the proximity detection and collision avoidance challenges for hard-rock, underground mines.
The MineProx Proximity Warning system already meets the requirements of the amendment. The technology works beyond line-of-sight around corners, and does not require any underground network infrastructure. Instead it uses vehicle proximity transceivers and MineProx-enabled cap lamps, enabling both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian proximity detection. The system is also capable of alerting vehicle operators to fixed hazards by adding fixed hazard beacons to the ecosystem.
Warning operators of nearby pedestrians or vehicles is facilitated by an onboard ultra-rugged user interface. Pedestrians are warned of vehicles in their proximity by their cap lamp, thus eliminating the need for sirens or horns that can be distracting, confusing or result in false alarms for others in the mine. The warnings for both vehicle operators and pedestrians are easy to recognise and linked directly to the miner’s personal protective equipment making them simple to understand and practical for use underground.
MineProx can also be configured to relay signals to automated vehicle response devices provided by the vehicle OEMs or after-market third-party suppliers specialising in vehicle control – thereby fulfilling all three technology requirements of the amended Act.
RAMJACK Technology Solutions has already initiated discussions with several South African mines in order to assist them in developing compliant solutions tailored to their individual needs. As a leading provider of advanced technologies for mines throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, RAMJACK can guide your safety and compliance personnel through the details of the Mine Health & Safety Act in order to develop a practical and affordable proximity detection and collision avoidance system.
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