The very nature of most autonomous systems in mining mean innovations and developments keep being implemented. Supporting technologies, such as collision avoidance, have to keep up with the hardware they support.
One of the biggest challenges with collision avoidance is identifying your high risk areas on the vehicle routes. With routes changing regularly, and operations changing also as different parts of the mine are under production, the biggest challenge is that your highest risk areas will never be the same two months (or even potentially two days!) running.
One key way of being able to understand your high risk areas from the very start is working closely with your mine design and mine planners. Collaboration between teams on haul route design and tunnel layout can mean minimising some of those risks from the offing. It is much harder to go into a already designed mine site and begin implementing autonomous truck systems than to plan a mine with that in mind from the start.
Another way of mitigating your risks is of course being very careful with your technology selection. There are many different options in the market for both autonomous truck solutions, but more specifically, collision avoidance systems. Industrea, SAFEmine, Becker NCS, Cat Minestar System, TerraVision, LSM Technologies and Acumine are just a few of the many solution providers in the market offering a collision avoidance product.
Ahead of his presentation at Mine Automation and Communication in Queensland, I recently caught up with Chris Doran at Anglo American to see how they’re addressing the challenge of matching technology up with safety.
Anglo American, like most mining houses have a well-established risk management process already in place which is aligned with the training for every employee.
Chris and his team are now focusing on taking that process and applying a more detailed look at technology selection to see how technology can address specific risks.
“A lot of people think risk is really just the 5 x 5 matrix as a fairly standard across pretty much all the mining houses.
“What we’ve started to see from the industry is a look to how new or advanced technologies, are actually changing that risk profile.
“We know there’s a new control being introduced as we’re putting technology in but we don’t necessarily have a really good feel for how it actually changes the risk profile; We’re doing a lot of work now to quantifying exactly how much it improves.”
As the use of technology to drive operations across mine sites looks set to continue, it’s becoming more important for functional safety to know how reliable your controls are so you can modify the profile and put something in place to manage that risk. Chris insists this can be achieved by making small tweaks in the current system:
“The whole point is that we’re not radically changing a well-established approach to managing risk, we’re just improving the processes we already have.
“The key is to focus your efforts on the areas where you know the risks are elevated, then determine what you would like them to be. Use that goal to guide the technology choices you need to make.
“For instance with proximity management, if we look at collisions, we’re starting to investigate beyond the collisions themselves and tackle the hazardous interactions that are occurring around that. It’s about anything where there are two things; that could be a person, a machine, or a piece of infrastructure. We’ll then map this out into anywhere that is causing a risk, based on prior incidents, industry reports and operational experience.
“We’ve been using a suite of tools go through that process, moving away from the subjectiveness of risk assessments. Mapping everything out into a hazardous interactions graph, rather like heat spots, allows us to clearly see where we should be focusing our efforts so we can find a solution to manage those risks.”
“We’ll always look if there’s an easy fix, a change in process for example, but once we’ve exhausted those options the risks that are left will guide our technology choices.
“At Anglo American, we’re really using that process to refine the requirements for our future collision avoidance needs for the business, no two risk profiles are the same, no-one’s got exactly the same equipment, you really need to manage according to how you’re operating, what equipment you’ve got and what your local conditions are. During Underground Mining Excellence I’ll share the tools we’ve used along the way and how we’ve applied that idea.”
Get the insight from Chris during Mine Site Automation and Communication QLD 2014 where he will be sharing his presentation Beyond Compliance – Taking a Structured Risk Reduction Approach to Collision Avoidance Underground. Call 02 9229 1000 or visit www.mineautomation.com.au/qld for more information.